Kentucky and Western Kentucky played the longest game in college baseball this season on Tuesday night.
The 18-inning affair in Bowling Green lasted five hours and 57 minutes but came to an unfortunate end for the 24th-ranked Wildcats in mere seconds.
Western Kentucky's Trevor Lowe hit a line drive over the left-field fence and around the foul pole to lead off the bottom of the 18th, lifting the Hilltoppers to a 3-2 win in front of 3,571 fans at Bowling Green Ballpark.
The game ended just before 1 a.m. EDT.
“That was a tremendous college baseball game, just a war of attrition,” WKU Coach Matt Myers said. “It was really a game of the last man standing. You could tell guys were swinging the bats really slow and pitchers were starting to dominate. We started stretching at 3 (p.m. CDT), so we were out here nine hours. That’s pretty amazing, what our guys did. They kept fighting.”
In all, 553 pitches were thrown by 13 pitchers, with 122 total at-bats and 32 combined strikeouts. WKU pitchers struck out 12 Kentucky batters, while Kentucky pitchers fanned 20 WKU batters.
Kentucky (24-16) and Western Kentucky (22-19) engaged in a pitcher’s duel throughout, with WKU taking a 1-0 lead in the third and UK answering on Austin Cousino’s solo homer to lead off the sixth. UK took advantage of a three-base, two-out error in the top of the 13th to take a 2-1 lead before WKU took advantage of a two-out fielding error to score the game-tying run from third in the bottom of the 13th. In the bottom of the 14th, WKU got its first two runners on with a hit batsman and a walk, prompting UK to go to freshman right-hander Zach Strecker to face WKU first baseman Ryan Huck. After walking Huck, Strecker got out of the jam. Strecker (1-1) went on to work scoreless innings in the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th innings, before Lowe got to him with his homer in the 18th.
UK had its best chance to win the game in the top of the 17th, as Matt Reida — whose two-out error in the bottom of the 13th allowed the game-tying run to score from third base — tripled to lead off. After a pitching change due to injury, UK’s Jeff Boehm and Cousino struck out with the infield in and Max Kuhn grounded out with the bases loaded.
The marathon is the second UK game in the last two years that has stretched to historic proportions. UK and Kent State played a 21-inning game in the opener of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, the longest game in Southeastern Conference history.
A total of 33 runners were left on base between the two teams.
UK collected eight hits, with Cousino adding a homer and a double and Reed going 2-for-6 with a double and a pair of intentional walks in the extra innings. UK also got hits from Reida, J.T. Riddle, Micheal Thomas and Lucas Witt. UK freshman starter Kyle Cody pitched six strong innings on a career-high 97 pitches. The 6-foot-7, 230-pounder allowed four hits and one run, walking one and equaling his career-high with seven strikeouts. Western Kentucky starter Justin Hageman worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing four hits and one run, walking two and striking out four. Brennan Pearson (2-0) picked up the win in relief.
UK will return to action Thursday, traveling to No. 16 Ole Miss for a three-game series starting at 7:30 p.m. ET in a national telecast on ESPNU.