baseball Edit

Walk-off HR lifts Vandy over Cats

Vanderbilt's Kumar Rocker struck out 11 UK batters over seven innings on the mound Thursday.
Vanderbilt's Kumar Rocker struck out 11 UK batters over seven innings on the mound Thursday. (Caitie McMekin/USA Today Sports)

Troy LaNeve went 3-for-3 and hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday night in Nashville to give No. 3 Vanderbilt a 4-2 win over upset-minded Kentucky.

LaNeve went the opposite way and drove a 3-1 pitch from the Wildcats' Daniel Harper over the wall in left-center to give the Commodores a hard-fought victory.

Vanderbilt (38-12, 18-9 SEC) held a 2-0 lead behind the strong starting pitching of College World Series MVP Kumar Rocker, who struck out 11, but UK broke through for a pair of runs in the sixth inning on a two-run homer by John Rhodes.

It remained 2-2 until LaNeve's game-winning blast.

Kentucky (27-21, 11-17 SEC) had a golden opportunity in the top of the ninth, loading the bases with two outs, but Vanderbilt reliever Luke Murphy (1-1) retired the Cats' Cam Hill on a fly ball to left field to escape the jam.

Cole Stupp started for UK and turned in one of his best outings of the season. The sophomore right-hander matched the All-American Rocker nearly pitch for pitch during his time on the mound. He allowed just two runs on seven hits and one walk over seven innings of work.

Harper (3-1) worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning but was not as fortunate in the ninth, walking the lead-off batter before serving up LaNeve's home run.

Kentucky lost its sixth straight SEC game and fell to 3-9 against Top 10 clubs this season, further placing its NCAA hopes in danger.

The series resumes Friday with Game 2 at 7:30 ET. The Cats will likely need to win the next two games in Nashville and make a deep run at the SEC Tournament next week in Hoover, Ala., to make the NCAA Tournament.