LEXINGTON, Ky. -- In a battle of two of the top four run-scoring teams in the nation, Micheal Thomas hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning – the 10th home run hit between the two teams – lifting No. 17 Kentucky to a wild 15-13 win against Tennessee Tech, on Tuesday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
In a game that pitted Tennessee Tech (32-11) – the NCAA leader in runs scored – against Kentucky, which ranked No. 4 in the nation in runs – the two teams combined to hit 10 home runs, score 28 runs, collect 31 hits and total 18 extra-base knocks.
Kentucky (27-14) fell behind in an imposing 7-1 hole after the bottom of the fourth inning, with UK using a career day from senior shortstop Matt Reida in chipping away at the lead with 10 unanswered runs over the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to take a 11-7 lead. The Golden Eagles responded with a run in the seventh – with UK answering that run with one of its own in the bottom of the frame – before evening up the game at 12-12 with four runs in the top of the eighth inning.
Thomas then gave UK the lead with his two-run homer – the seventh of the year for the fifth-year senior – in the bottom of the eighth inning, with Reida adding a two-out RBI single for a three-run cushion. The Eagles plated a run in the top of the ninth on a passed ball but UK managed to keep the ball in the yard on an unprecedently windy day and close out the wild win.
A native of Russiaville, Ind., Reida went a career-high 4-for-4 at the plate with four runs and four RBI, with his two leadoff, full-count walks in the fourth and fifth inning setting the tone in UK’s comeback. Reida hit his first homer of the year and doubled twice, with his bomb marking his first since 2012, a span of 348 at bats.
A member of the Johnny Bench Catcher of the Year Midseason Watch List, Thomas finished 1-for-4 with three RBI, a walk and his seventh homer. UK got the fourth homer of the year from freshman second baseman JaVon Shelby, who was 2-for-4 with three RBI, one walk and two runs. A.J. Reed – the NCAA leader in homers – went 2-for-4 with two RBI and two walks, adding his 12th double of the year. Thomas Bernal, who leads the SEC in average in league games at .419, added a 2-for-5 game, cranking a double and getting hit by a pitch. Austin Cousino and Ka’ai Tom each added singles and a walk, with right fielder Kyle Barrett drawing a pair of walks and scoring twice.
UK freshman starter Zack Brown made his first career start and worked three innings, allowing five hits and three solo homers, not issuing a walk and striking out a career-high four. Freshman Robert Zeigler started the fourth inning, allowing a homer and walk, getting two outs. Sophomore Zach Strecker then came on, allowing a double and a homer, getting one out in the fourth. Strecker worked 2.1 innings, allowing three hits and two runs, walking one and striking out three, with his ability to throw shutout innings in the fifth and sixth changing the tone of the UK bullpen. Logan Salow got four outs, allowing four hits and four runs, with Spencer Jack (2-1) getting two outs, allowing one run and one hit. Sophomore Kyle Cody came on to work the ninth, allowing an unearned run while striking out one for his fifth save of the year.
Tennessee Tech starter Jacob Honea worked one-plus inning, allowing two hits and one run, walking two before loading the bases with no outs in the second inning, prompting Stanton Taylor to come on in relief. Taylor worked two innings, allowing two hits and three runs, walking two. Cain Sloan came on to allow a hit and walk without getting an out, before Ross Spurgeon got out of the fourth. Spurgeon worked two innings, allowing two runs. Kyle Keats got two outs, allowing five runs, with Jeb Scoggins getting one out and walking two. Austin Tolle (3-0) allowed three runs on three hits in 1.2 innings. Justin Alexander got the final out in the eighth.
The Golden Eagles got on the board first in the top of the second inning, as Dylan Bosheers led off with a first-pitch homer yanked over the left-field fence, his ninth of the year.
Kentucky evened up the game in the bottom of the second, as Barrett was hit by a 1-1 pitch to leadoff, taking third on Reida’s fourth double of the year down the left-field line. After Shelby drew a full-count walk to load the bases, Cousino lined a hard-hit sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Barrett.
TTU regained the lead with one out in the top of the third inning behind the 12th homer of the year from Zach Stephens, the NCAA leader with 55 homers in his career. The next hitter, Daniel Miles then hit his eighth homer of the year, a line-drive shot over the left-center field fence.
Jordan Parris gave TTU a 4-1 lead with his fourth homer of the year in the fourth inning, a solo shot over the left-field fence. Zeigler then walked the next hitter, Zach Zarzour, who took second and third on a wild pitch. After an out and then a pitching chance, Stephens greeted Strecker with a double into the gap. Miles followed with his second homer of the game, a two-run shot over the left-center field fence.
Kentucky took a patient approach in its rally in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Reida drew a full-count walk to leadoff and Shelby singled through the left side. Cousino then loaded the bases with a walk, with Kuhn scoring Reida on a single to left field. Reed followed with a full-count walk with the bases loaded, scoring another run. Thomas was then hit with the first pitch he faced with the bases loaded, driving in Cousino.
The Wildcats continued to chip away in the bottom of the fifth inning, as Reida once again led off with a full-count walk. Shelby then smashed a two-strike offering over the left-field fence for his fourth homer of the year, cutting the lead to 7-6.
UK rallied in the bottom of the sixth inning to gain the lead. Tom led off with a check-swing single to left field, taking third on Bernal’s double down the left-field line. After a Barrett walk loaded the bases, Reida doubled over the head of the center fielder, scoring Tom and Bernal and giving UK its first lead of the game. Shelby then forced in Barrett with a groundout up the middle, giving UK a 9-7 lead. Kuhn then notched a two-out, two-strike RBI single into left-center field, scoring Reida. Reed then lofted a double down the left-field line, scoring Kuhn for an 11-7 UK lead.
Tennessee Tech did some two-out damage in the top of the seventh inning, as Tyler Brazelton doubled home Jake Rowland, who reached first on a fielder’s choice.
Reida got the run back for UK with his first homer of the year, a blast over the 30-foot wall in right field. It marked Reida’s first homer since his sophomore season and his first in a span of 348 at bats.
Stephens got two runs back in the top of the eighth inning, as Zarzour drew a four-pitch walk to leadoff the inning. After Salow got Hopkins to strikeout, despite starting the at-bat in a 3-0 hole, Stephens belted his second homer of the game and his 13th of the year over the left-center field wall to cut the lead to 12-10. Miles then dropped a single into shallow center field as three UK defenders converged on the ball. Bosheers then poked his 10th homer of the year and second of the game over the right-field fence, tying up the game at 12-12.
Thomas gave UK the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, as he belted a two-run homer over the left-field fence, scoring Reed, who singled against the shift to the left side. It marked Thomas’ seventh homer of the year.
TTU scored a run in the top of the ninth inning, as Anthony El Chiban led off with a walk, scoring from third on a passed ball with two outs.