LEXINGTON, Ky. – Luke Heyer hit a game-tying two-run home run and Zeke Lewis scored the winning run on a wild pitch as No. 6 Kentucky rallied for three runs in the ninth inning to walk-off No. 9 Auburn, 5-4, at Cliff Hagan Stadium on Friday night.
It is the second walk-off win of the season for the Wildcats (16-6, 1-3 SEC) and both have come with the winning run scampering home on a pitch that reached the backstop. In both walk-off victories the Cats have scored at least three runs, having also defeated Western Kentucky on Feb. 27 with a four-run rally.
“Last year we did not have a walk-off and this year we’ve got two,” UK coach Nick Mingione said. “And both times it took us scoring (at least) three runs. (Auburn) is the No. 9 team in the country and Butch Thompson is as good a coach as there is in the country. You have to earn it. Really proud of our team for not giving up.”
You never know what you’re going to see at the ballpark and the Cats’ ninth-inning rally had it all. Luke Becker, who also blasted a monstrous 427-foot home run over the deck in right-centerfield earlier off Auburn ace Casey Mize, led off the ninth with a flare to left. With one out, Heyer found a slider to his liking, stayed on the pitch and drove it out to the opposite field for his 11th homer of the season, tying the game.
Ryan Johnson followed Heyer’s blast with a single up the middle that hit the second base bag and ricocheted into the outfield, then moved to third on Kole Cottam’s single to right. Lewis pinch ran for Johnson and raced home on Auburn reliever Elliott Anderson’s wild pitch, setting off a wild celebration at home plate.
The duel between top pitching prospects Sean Hjelle and Casey Mize was all it was cracked up to be through six innings, with Auburn getting a run in the third and the Cats tying it in the bottom half of the inning on Squires’ two-out single. Becker’s bomb in the fourth to give the Cats a 2-1 lead that stood going into the seventh.
Auburn’s Conor Davis hit his team-leading sixth home run of the season to lead off the seventh, sneaking it just over the wall in right field to tie the game. After putting runners on first and third to chase Hjelle the Tigers ultimately scored two runs on a pair of wild pitches, each coming on a UK reliever’s first pitch of the game.
Game two of the series in scheduled for noon on Saturday, although the local forecast calls for storms all day. The two teams would play a doubleheader on Sunday if unable to play on Saturday.
Top 3rd – Luke Jarvis lined a single off the 2B glove and scored on Will Holland’s double to RCF. Auburn 1, UK 0.
Bottom 3rd – Trey Dawson reached on an infield single and advanced to second on Tristan Pompey’s single to LF. Troy Squires lined a single to CF, scoring Dawson from second. UK 1, Auburn 1.
Bottom 4th – Luke Becker homered to RCF. UK 2, Auburn 1.
Top 7th – Conor Davis homered to RCF. Jay Estes singled to LF, stole second and moved to third on Jarvis’ single. Estes scored on a wild pitch, Jarvis advanced to second. Holland grounded out, advancing Jarvis to third. Jarvis scored on a wild pitch. Auburn 4, UK 2.
Bottom 9th – Becker singled to LF and scored on Heyer’s home run to RCF. Ryan Johnson singled off the second base bag and moved to third on Kole Cottam’s single into RF. Zeke Lewis pinch ran for Johnson and scored on a wild pitch. UK 5, Auburn 4.
- The Cats now have two walk-off wins this season, scoring at least three runs in the ninth inning both times.
- The Cats are now 4-4 vs. ranked teams this season, including 3-4 vs. Top 10 teams.
- The offense has …
o Hit a home run in 21 of 22 games this season.
o Racked up 101 extra-base hits
- Several Cats extended impressive reached base safely streaks…
o Junior OF Tristan Pompey has reached in 52 of the last 54 games.
o Senior INF Luke Becker has reached in all 22 games.
o Senior C/1B Troy Squires has reached in 21 of 22 games this season.
- Senior IF/OF Luke Heyer went 2-for-4 with a run, two RBI, a double and a home run.
o Heyer now has a career-high 11 home runs on the season.
o He now has 10 multi-hit games this season and 14 for his career.
o He has eight multi-RBI games this season and 10 for his career.
o Heyer has 16 extra-base hits for the season.
- Senior IF Luke Becker went 2-for-4 with two runs, an RBI and a home run.
o Becker is the only UK player to have reached base safely in every game this season.
o Becker has six multi-hit games this season and 33 for his career.
o He began the ninth inning rally with a leadoff single.
- Freshman RHP Jimmy Ramsey pitched 2.1 scoreless innings, striking out two and allowing just one hit.
o Ramsey earned his first collegiate victory.