Close though it was, Western Kentucky's 10-9 victory Wednesday at Kentucky was a balk in the park.
An eighth-inning balk forced in the deciding run as the Hilltoppers handed UK its fourth consecutive loss. That includes last weekend's Southeastern Conference sweep by Mississippi.
Next up, this weekend at Cliff Hagan Stadium, is a three-game set against SEC East leader Georgia. Can the Wildcats (18-13) recover?
"You have to," Coach Gary Henderson said. "It's certainly a disappointing loss today, but we've got to have a good practice (Thursday), and we've got to get ready for Georgia."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Western (22-9) outhit the Cats 14-10. Each of the last six in the Hilltoppers' batting order had two hits — Chad Cregar, Matt Rice, Matt Hightower, Terrence Dayleg, Jake Wells and Kes Carter. Rice, Hightower and Carter drove in two runs each.
Chris Bisson, Chris McClendon and Gunner Glad had two hits apiece for UK. Glad drove in three runs.
It took more than four hours to finish a game that saw 28 strikeouts, eight walks, nine hit batters, four wild pitches, a passed ball and an error.
UK rallied from a 6-3 deficit by scoring six runs in the sixth inning. The Cats had four hits, three hit batsmen, a walk and a wild pitch during the rally. Glad had the biggest hit, a two-run double to break a 6-6 tie.
Western won it with four runs in the eighth.
Matt Payton singled in the first run. After Wade Gaynor was hit by a pitch, Logan Darnell came out of the UK bullpen to replace Braden Kapteyn.
Darnell struck out Cregar, but Rice tied the game with a two-run double to the left-field corner. After another strikeout, Dayleg reached on an infield single, with Rice moving to third. Rice scored on the balk.
"I had the ball in the back of my hand, and as I was going up it hit the side of my glove," Darnell said. "I kind of bobbled it for a second. I should have just, I guess, paid more attention. But it's something that has never really happened (to me) before."
Five of the six outs Darnell got over the last two innings came on strikeouts, among 13 posted by Wildcat pitchers.
Western, which used 10 pitchers, turned to weekend starter Matt Ridings for two innings of one-hit ball and a save. The junior has only one other relief outing in his career.
"I thought we pressed pretty good there for about four innings, but I thought we loosened up offensively from the fifth inning on," Henderson said. "We did a much better job at the plate; much looser. (I) was pleased that we left some guys on base early on, coming out of the bullpen.
"Not happy with the location of our pitches, where we'd set guys up. We've got to do a better job of slowing the game down and really concentrating — playing the game a pitch at a time."
Western Kentucky. 031 002 040—10 14 1
Kentucky 010 026 000— 9 10 0
Teague, Hammonds (3), Krueger (5), Paxton (5), Stubel (5), Paxson (6), Adcock (6), Mayfield (6), Carter (7), Ridings (8) and Rice; Tilford, Kaczmarek (3), Henry (4), Kapteyn (6), Darnell (8) and Nidiffer. W—Carter (3-1). L—Darnell (3-2). 2B—Andreoli (W), Cregar 2 (W), Rice (W), Kapteyn (K), HR—Hightower (W).
Records—Western Ky. 22-9, Kentucky 18-13.