Wildcats Ride Blanton To 5-2 Win Over Arkansas
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. – Joseph Blanton struck out 14 and held Arkansas to two runs on four hits as the Wildcats evened the weekend series with a 5-2 victory over the Razorbacks Saturday night at Baum Stadium.
Arkansas fell to 25-20 overall and 8-12 in the Southeastern Conference with the loss, while Kentucky improved to 15-29 overall and 4-19 in the SEC. The win also snapped a 12-game losing skid for the Wildcats.
The loss puts the Razorbacks a game and a half behind Auburn for the final spot in the SEC Tournament. The Hogs entered Saturday trailing by only a half game, but lost ground as Auburn beat Vanderbilt Saturday night.
Blanton was perfect through four and two-thirds innings until Nick Pitts put the Hogs on the scoreboard with a solo home run in the fifth inning. Blanton upped his record to 4-6 after allowing two runs, both earned, on four hits in his third complete game of the season.
The 14 strikeouts were the second most for the Razorbacks this season. Arkansas had 15 go down on strikes against Southwest Missouri State on Feb. 16, earlier this season.
Jonathan Richmond took the loss for Arkansas after giving up three runs, two earned, on six hits in two and one-third innings of work. Richmond fell to 2-4 with the loss.
Josh Merryman went five and two-thirds in relief of Richmond. Merryman fanned six and gave up two runs, both earned, on seven hits in his longest outing of the year. Merryman’s six strikeouts tied his career best.
The Wildcats plated a run in the bottom of the first inning when Richmond balked with the bases loaded.
Kentucky added another more runs in the second inning. Spencer Graeter singled home Russ Rutherford (single) for the first run. Caleb Stewart then brought Brad Pickrell home with a sacrifice fly to right to give the Wildcats a 3-0 lead.
The Wildcats made it a 5-0 game with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth inning. Spencer Preston cranked his third home run of the year with Seth Morris (single) aboard to give the Cats a five-run advantage.
Arkansas broke up the perfect game bid in the bottom of the fifth inning. With two outs, Nick Pitts laced a solo home run over the right field wall to cut the Kentucky lead to 5-1. It was Pitts’ second home run of the year and it snapped a string of 14 consecutive batter set down by Blanton.
The Razorbacks would not get any closer over the next three innings as Blanton continued to control the game. Blanton allowed only two hits in the sixth, seventh and eighth, with only one runner reaching scoring position.
Arkansas added a run in the bottom of the ninth inning on Pitts’ RBI double that plated Andrew Wishy (walk) to make it a 5-2 game. Michael Conner (walk) moved to third on Pitts’ double, but both runners where stranded when Clay Goodwin grounded out to second to end the game.
The Razorbacks will send Gary Hogan, Jr., (3-5, 5.19 ERA) to the mound Sunday, while Kentucky counters with Rob Corrado (0-2, 6.30 ERA). Game time for Sunday is set for 11 a.m.
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