UK Baseball

Cats drop odd finale to Vandy

When's the last baseball game where you saw this:

■ A first-inning, delayed-action triple play?

■ An infield throw cut off by the pitcher, who relayed to catch a runner at the plate?

■ A catcher gut out nine innings and 131 pitches despite having a fractured thumb?

A sun-splashed Cliff Hagan Stadium crowd of 2,132 saw all that and more Sunday.

And they saw one more rarity as Vanderbilt rallied to hand Kentucky its first home loss of the season, 4-2.

Still, the Wildcats (15-5, 3-3 Southeastern Conference, 11-1 at home) won a three-game series from the Commodores for the third time in four years.

"Very competitive. Low scoring. Lots of opportunities," UK Coach Gary Henderson said in summarizing the series. "I thought our kids competed great."

Vandy (14-8, 2-4) rallied from a 2-1 deficit with two runs in the sixth and added a run in the ninth.

Sonny Gray, a freshman right-hander, blanked UK over the last three innings to pick up a save in relief of Nick Christiani (3-0).

UK scored once in the first inning.

Chris Bisson popped a bunt, a single by luck. Chris Wade followed with a swinging bunt single. Keenan Wiley then loaded the bases with a bunt, reaching as catcher Drew Fann threw too late for a force at third.

Everyone moved up on Braden Kapteyn's RBI single through the left side.

Marcus Nidiffer hit a sinking liner toward Brian Harris. The shortstop charged for a shoe-top catch — or was it?

Harris threw the ball home, where umpire Larry Short signaled a force-out of Wade. A throw to third forced Wiley. And, after the ball was returned to Christiani, the pitcher tossed the ball to second baseman Rickey Reynolds to force Kapteyn. Score it 6-2-5-1-4.

"We didn't get an accurate call from the field umpire (Rickey Armstrong) initially. That's the issue," said Henderson, who argued the call. "And because we didn't get an accurate call initially, the kids didn't know what to do. They assumed that it was a catch, so we don't run. And because there was not a 'safe' call, they stayed.

"Then the guy went 'no catch,' and they've got forces set up all the way around."

UK starter Alex Meyer labored through three-plus innings. The 6-foot-8 freshman gave up only a run and two hits, but walked five, hit a batter, threw two wild pitches and threw only 32 of 70 pitches for strikes.

The hit batsman and two wild pitches resulted in a third-inning run and a 1-1 tie.

Gunner Glad's fourth-inning single drove in Chad Wright for a 2-1 UK lead. Wright finished with two singles and two walks in four plate appearances, with two stolen bases.

Tyler Henry (0-1) came out of the bullpen to snuff a Vandy rally in the fourth.

Steven Liddle led off Vandy's sixth with a homer to right.

The Commodores later loaded the bases with two outs. Drew Fann lined an RBI single up the middle. Second baseman Bisson made a diving stop, though, and came up throwing to home as a second runner, Jason Esposito, tried to score.

The ball was heading straight at Henry, who instinctively cut the ball off, turned and fired to Nidiffer for a 4-1-2 putout.

Nidiffer played despite a fractured thumb on his left (catching) hand. The fracture happened Tuesday at New Orleans, when he "turned my glove wrong on a (Logan Darnell) fastball."

"It's pretty painful," he said. "But there's nothing I can really do."

Teammates take over for his duties in the bullpen and between innings, leaving him to catch only game pitches.

UK threatened in the seventh, loading the bases with one out, and put runners on the corners with two outs in the eighth. But Gray got Kapteyn to ground into a double play, and Andy Burns grounded out to end the eighth.

"We've been talking all year — it's just about basically executing pitches," Gray said. "There, where I got in a tight situation, I just tried to execute pitches like Coach (Tim Corbin) has been talking about all year."