baseball Edit

Cats open series with walk-off win over No. 1 Tennessee

Tennessee's Chase Burns delivered a pitch during Thursday night's series opener at Kentucky Proud Park.
Tennessee's Chase Burns delivered a pitch during Thursday night's series opener at Kentucky Proud Park. (Jeff Drummond/Cats Illustrated)

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky managed only one hit with a runner in scoring position on Thursday night in the series opener against No. 1 Tennessee.

It was the one that mattered most.

Alonzo Rubalcaba lined a 2-2 fastball down the left-field line with two outs in the bottom of the 13th inning to drive home John Thrasher from third base in a thrilling 3-2 victory at Kentucky Proud Park.

Thrasher had tripled into the right-field corner with two outs to bring Rubalcaba, a senior catcher who had received 241 pitches behind the plate on the night, up with a chance to play hero. The California native came through with his third hit of the game, matching his career-high.

Kentucky (25-20, 8-14 SEC) came up empty in its previous 13 at-bats with a runner in scoring position, including game-winning opportunities in the ninth, 10th, 11th, and 12th innings. The Cats' only other runs came via solo homers by Oraj Anu and Hunter Jump in the fourth inning to erase an early 2-0 lead by the Vols.

A heroic bullpen performance gave UK an opportunity to notch its first win over a No. 1 opponent since the 2018 season. Wyatt Hudepohl, Daniel Harper, and Tyler Guilfoil combined to toss 10.2 innings of scoreless relief against a team averaging 9.5 runs per game and a lineup that boasted a nation-leading 108 home runs.

Guilfoil (1-1) earned the win by working the final six innings. The junior right-hander from Lexington allowed only one hit and two walks while striking out five.

The UK staff recorded 15 strikeouts to overcome a 12-walk night.

Mark McLaughlin (2-1) took the loss for Tennessee as the sixth and final pitcher to take the mound for the visitors. Chase Burns started for the Vols, but the star freshman lasted only four innings, allowing six hits, including a pair of home runs.

The Vols scored a run in the second inning and one in the third but left the bases loaded in each of the first three innings. That could come back to haunt UT, which stranded 16 runners on the night.

Tennessee (41-5, 19-3 SEC) suffered its first loss on the road this season in 10 games.

It marked Kentucky's seventh win over a Top 10 opponent this season.

The series resumes on Friday at 6:30 ET.