LEXINGTON, Ky. – Needing a rally in the bottom of the seventh inning to salvage the series, sophomore catcher Troy Squires laced a single in the right-center field gap, scoring Riley Mahan from second base in a dramatic come-from-behind, 5-4 walk-off win for the Kentucky baseball team on Saturday in the third game of its Southeastern Conference series against Arkansas.
The Wildcats trailed 4-3 heading to the bottom of the seventh and final inning. Junior designated hitter Gunnar McNeill led off the frame with a single to left field. Sophomore Riley Mahan followed with a walk to put the winning run on base. After junior JaVon Shelby struck out and sophomore Tyler Marshall flew out, senior Dorian Hairston reached on an infield single, scoring pinch runner Storm Wilson to tie the game at 4-4. Hairston hit a high chopper and Mahan motored down to second base to beat the Arkansas second baseman to the bag.
That set the stage for Squires, who accounted for the game-winning hit and RBI for the second time in the last week. In a Sunday win at Vanderbilt, Squires knocked in all three of Kentucky’s runs with a seventh-inning, bases-clearing double in a 3-0 win over the Commodores.
“The only thing I think has really changed in the last month is he’s become much, much more effective at the plate,” Kentucky head coach Gary Henderson said of Squires. “I think he’s finally gotten strong enough, enough experience and just enough at-bats that he can get a hit. So, obviously feel good for Troy.”
Said Squires: “I was just looking for something I could handle. A guy was in scoring position and I just had to get a pitch I could handle. That’s about it.”
With the win in Saturday’s second game, Kentucky moved to 24-15 overall and 10-8 in the SEC, avoiding the sweep at the hands of the Razorbacks, who won 1-0 in 10 innings on Friday night and 2-0 in Saturday’s first game. The win also gave Henderson his 250th win as the head coach of the Wildcats.
Things didn’t look good early for the Cats. Arkansas (24-15, 6-11 SEC) took the lead in the top of the first inning when leadoff hitter Clark Eagan singled and was doubled home by Carson Shaddy. Luke Bonfield grounded out, scoring Shaddy to make it 2-0 Razorbacks after one inning.
Kentucky got on the board in the bottom of the second inning, doing its damage with two outs. Squires walked, then scored on a double to the right-center field gap by Tristan Pompey. It was the first run in the three-game series for the Wildcats.
After giving up two runs early, Kentucky starting pitcher Kyle Cody settled in, retiring 10 straight batters before walking Cullen Gassaway in the fourth inning. That walk proved costly, as Gassaway advanced to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a fly ball out and came home on a single by Michael Bernal to make it 3-1 Hogs.
Kentucky answered in the bottom of the fourth when Hairston clubbed a two-run homer to center field to tie the game at 3-3. Hairston was 2-for-4 in the game with three runs batted in.
“We’re the same team when we’re down three, when we’re up three, which is what I really like about us,” Hairston said. “We always think that we can come back and win. We’re always – seventh, eighth, ninth inning – always there, right in the mix of it. Nothing changes in the dugout (after a home run like that). We’re the same team at all times.”
Arkansas took the lead back in the top of the fifth when Eagan hit a laser over the wall in right-center field off of Cody to give the Razorbacks a 4-3 lead.
Freshman right-hander Sean Hjelle threw just one pitch in the game but earned the win to move to 3-0 on the season. Arkansas closer Doug Willey (1-2) was saddled with the loss.
Kentucky is back in action on Tuesday, hosting Dayton on Tuesday at Cliff Hagan Stadium. First pitch is set for 6:30 ET and the game can be seen on SEC Network+.