LEXINGTON, Ky. — Sophomore right-hander Kevin Gausman fired 11 strikeouts in seven innings Friday night, and shortstop Austin Nola drove in three runs to lead No. 5 LSU to a 5-4 win against No. 3 Kentucky in Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The Tigers improved to 32-7 overall and took sole possession of first place in the SEC standings with a 12-4 conference mark. Kentucky is 33-6 overall and 11-5 in league play.
With Friday’s win, LSU is now 8-2 this season in SEC games decided by one run.
“What a great game, and I’m extremely proud of our players for earning the win tonight,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “Kevin Gausman gave us another courageous effort, and our bullpen was tremendous as it has been all season. Austin Nola has been a clutch hitter for us throughout his career, and he demonstrated that tonight with two big two-out hits.
“Kentucky has an outstanding club, but I thought our players showed a lot of determination and heart in getting this victory.”
Gausman (7-1) threw 101 pitches in seven innings, allowing four runs on 10 hits with one walk and 11 strikeouts. Junior left-hander Chris Cotton pitched a perfect eighth inning and junior right-hander Nick Goody struck out the side in the ninth to secure his sixth save.
Kentucky starter Taylor Rogers (4-2) was charged with the loss as he surrendered five runs (three earned) on eight hits in six innings with two walks and four strikeouts.
LSU grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Rogers. Centerfielder Arby Fields walked and was caught in a rundown when attempting to steal second, but he advanced safely when first baseman A.J. Reed made an errant throw.
LSU leftfielder Raph Rhymes grounded to second, where UK second baseman J.T. Riddle committed a throwing error, allowing Fields to score and Rhymes to move to second. Nola singled to score Rhymes with the second run of the inning.
The Wildcats narrowed the gap to 2-1 in the second when leftfielder Zac Zellers delivered a one-out single and later scored on designated hitter Michael Williams’ grounder to first base.
LSU increased its lead to 3-1 in the fourth on a solo homer by first baseman Tyler Moore, his second dinger of the season.
Kentucky tied the game in the fourth on an RBI double by rightfielder Cameron Flynn and a run-scoring single by Zellers.
The Tigers regained the lead in the fifth on a two-out, two-run double by Nola, giving LSU a 5-3 advantage, but Kentucky reduced the margin to 5-4 in the sixth on Williams’ RBI single.
Gausman pitched a scoreless seventh before yielding the mound to Cotton to start the eighth inning. Cotton retired Flynn on a fly ball and Zellers on a groundout before fanning Riddle to end the frame.
Goody preserved the win in the ninth by striking out Williams, pinch hitter Jeff Boehm and centerfielder Austin Cousino to end the game.