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Home run frenzy sees Kentucky remain undefeated in SEC series

Travis Fannon
Kentucky Wildcats infielder Grant Smith (12) rounds second base after hitting a homerun during the No. 18 Kentucky vs. No. 25 Missouri baseball game on Saturday, April 1, 2023, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 10-0. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff

Six “big blue bombs” fueled an offensive outburst in No. 8 Kentucky baseball’s (29-5 13-1 SEC) 9-1 series-clinching victory over Auburn (18-16 2-12 SEC).

The Wildcat offense tallied 14 hits on the game and scored in four separate innings.

After going scoreless in the first, Ryan Nicholson stepped up to the plate with one out in the second and, after taking a strike, worked the count in his favor by taking three straight balls before sending the fifth pitch of the at-bat over the centerfield fence for a solo home run that gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.

Kentucky Ryan Waldschmidt bunts during the Kentucky vs Lipscomb baseball game on Friday, Mar. 1, 2024, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky, Kentucky won 7-4. Photo by Sydney Yonker | Staff (Sydney Yonker)

In the top of the third, Grant Smith jumped the Tigers’ starter Chase Allsup by sending the first pitch of the inning over the left field wall for another solo home run.

On the very next pitch, Smith’s teammate, Ryan Waldschmidt, sent a solo home run of his own over the left field wall.

After two outs in the third, Nick Lopez and Mitchell Daly hit back-to-back doubles that extended the Cats’ lead to 4-0 and capped off a three-run frame.

Nolan McCarthy led off the top of the fourth with the fourth big blue bomb of the game as he sent the second pitch of his at-bat to the opposite field and over the right field wall.

Later in the inning, Waldschmidt singled to bring home Smith, which extended the Cats’ lead to 6-0 after four innings.

On the mound, Dominic Niman started the game and cruised through five scoreless innings before running into some trouble in the sixth as he hit the first two batters of the inning, ending his night.

Cameron O’Brien came on and faced one batter — which he walked — before Jackson Nove came on with the bases loaded. Nove gave up a sacrifice fly that scored a run, which was charged to Niman, his lone blemish on his ledger.

Nove did not allow anymore damage and the score stood at 6-1, still in favor of the Wildcats. 

After being held scoreless for four innings, Émilien Pitre led off the top of the ninth with a solo home run over the right field wall before, also in the ninth, Daly drew a two-out walk to bring Nicholson back up to the plate.

After fouling off one 3-2 pitch, Nicholson sent the payoff pitch over the centerfield wall for his second home run of the game and third of the series that extended the Bat Cats’ lead to 9-1. 

For the second consecutive game, Nicholson led the Wildcats with three RBIs, however Waldschmidt led the team with three hits in the game.

The win clinched Kentucky’s fifth straight SEC series victory in as many attempts.

The Bat Cats will play for the three-game sweep of Auburn in the series finale on Saturday, April 13, with first pitch scheduled for 3 p.m. ET. 

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Jonathon Bruner, Assistant Sports Editor

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