A.J. Reed pitched eight strong innings and smacked his NCAA-leading 21st home run Friday night as Kentucky topped Auburn 6-3 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Reed (8-3), a junior left-hander, worked eight innings of seven-hit ball, striking out five and walking two.
After a rain delay of 1 hour, 17 minutes in the bottom of the eighth, Logan Salow and Spencer Jack pitched in the ninth.
UK, opening its final three-game homestand of the season, improved to 29-19 overall, 11-14 in the Southeastern Conference.
Auburn dropped to 26-24 and 9-16.
Ka'ai Tom finished with three of the Wildcats' 12 hits. Austin Cousino had a pair of singles. Every UK starter had at least one hit.
UK struck first for a run in the second.
Thomas Bernal and Tom opened the inning with back-to-back singles to left. Two outs later, Matt Reida doubled home Bernal, but the Cats stranded Tom and Reida.
Auburn tied in the fourth inning. A single and two walks loaded the bases with nobody out.
Damek Tomscha came through with a sacrifice fly to center to tie, but Reed avoided further damage by striking out Ryan Tella and getting Jordan Ebert to line to second.
The Tigers took a 3-1 lead in the sixth, when Tella delivered a two-out, two-run double to the right-field corner.
Reed helped himself by leading off the bottom of the sixth with his homer, a shot over the wall that once was home to a right-field scoreboard.
The Cats then took a 6-3 lead with four runs in the seventh.
Max Kuhn, who leads the team with a .426 average when runners are in scoring position, singled in one run, and a second came in on the play when right fielder Anfernee Grier bobbled the ball.
Tom added a two-out, two-run single that caromed off the first-base bag.
Auburn used seven pitchers.
The series continues Saturday night at 7. The finale is set for Sunday at 1 p.m.
A pre-game ceremony honored Chuck Stivers, who is working his final weekend on the turf management team. Stivers also is credited with doing much to help develop the Henry Clay High School field, which is named in his honor.
As part of a Heroes Celebration — honoring military, police, fire and first responders — UK donned camouflage hats for the game.
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.