Top-ranked Vanderbilt rallied to take a lead with two runs in the third inning and got the 13th win in 13 starts in 2013 from sophomore star Tyler Beede to post a 5-3 series-clinching win over Kentucky, on Saturday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (28-21, 10-16 Southeastern Conference) jumped out to an early lead for the second consecutive game, before Vanderbilt (44-6, 23-2 SEC) rallied in the next half inning with two runs on four hits to take a 2-1 lead, adding a run in the sixth for the final margin.
The Commodores now sit just two wins shy, with four to play, of equaling the best record in the storied history of the SEC.
UK freshman starter Kyle Cody (3-3) suffered the hard-luck loss in his second career SEC start. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound right-hander allowed eight hits and three runs, walking two and striking out two against the SEC’s top offensive club. Cody allowed the two-run frame in the third and the run in the sixth in his third quality start of the year and his second consecutive.
Kentucky freshman Ryne Combs started the seventh inning in relief of Cody, allowing three straight hits to start the inning and worked 2.2 innings, allowing five hits and two runs, walking two and striking out one. Freshman right-hander Zach Strecker came on in the ninth to get the final out of the frame.
Beede (13-0) – regarded as the top sophomore in college baseball and as the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft – worked 5.1 innings, allowing only two UK singles, walking five and striking out five.
VU flame-throwing righty Carson Fulmer came on in a one-out jam with runners on the corners in a 3-2 game in the bottom of the sixth inning, getting a three-pitch strikeout and a groundout to end the best UK threat to jump back into the game. Fulmer worked 2.2 innings with five hits and two runs, walking two and striking out one. Lefty Jared Miller came on in a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the bottom of the ninth to face a left-handed hitter, getting the out for his first save of the year.
The Wildcats totaled four singles in the game, as Kyle Barrett, Zac Zellers, J.T. Riddle and Matt Reida each collected knocks. UK also got a two-walk game from Austin Cousino, with Micheal Thomas getting hit by two pitches. Barrett, a freshman out of Douglasville, Ga., extended his hitting streak to a club-high 13 games.
The series will conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will also be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, available on WLAP 630-AM in Lexington, WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville and online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky opened up with an early lead after scoring one run in the bottom of the second. Riddle reached first on a fielder’s choice and moved over to second on a ground out. A wild pitch advanced Riddle to third. With two outs, Reida hustled to beat out an infield singles, allowing Riddle to score.
Vanderbilt responded in the top of the third with two runs to grab the lead. Jack Lupo led off the inning with a double down the leftfield line and Tony Kemp brought him home with a single into leftfield. Following a double play, Mike Yastrzemski reached base on a single into centerfield and moved into scoring position when Connor Harrell was hit by a pitch. Conrad Gregor singled through the right side of the infield, scoring Yastrzemski from second.
The Commodores added one in the top of the sixth to gain a 3-1 lead. Gregor singled into rightfield and stole second to put himself in scoring position. Chris Harvey delivered with a single through the left side to score Gregor from second.
Kentucky pulled back within a run after scoring one in the bottom of the sixth. Cousino led off the inning with a walk and Riddle singled into rightfield to put two on for UK. Max Kuhn laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the two runners over and a passed ball allowed Riddle to score from third, lessening Vanderbilt’s lead to 3-2.
Vanderbilt extended its lead on a two-RBI double from Yastrzemski in the seventh inning. Kemp and Xavier Turner opened the inning with consecutive singles and Yastrzemski drove them home, hitting a double into the right-centerfield gap.
Trailing 5-2 entering the final half inning of play, Kentucky threatened, plating one run and leaving the tying run stranded on second. Pinch-hitter McConkey opened the inning with a walk and Barrett followed with a single through the right side. Following a pop out, Reed walked to load the bases with one out. A wild pitch scored McConkey from third and moved the runners to second and third. Kentucky wasn’t able to bring home the tying run as Vandy forced two strikeouts to end the game.