(Photo by Sarah Caputi)
You couldn’t blame Kentucky coach Nick Mingione if he saw Enrique Bradfield, Jr., in his sleep following Vanderbilt’s series-clinching win over his Wildcats Sunday afternoon.
The sophomore outfielder homered on the first pitch of the game, helping the Commodores race off to a 3-0 lead after one inning. And thanks to his defensive heroics in centerfield, they were able to fight off the comeback-minded Wildcats for a 5-3 victory at Kentucky Proud Park.
With Vandy leading 5-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Wildcats had two men on with two men out when Jacob Plastiak, who had homered earlier in the game, launched what appeared to be another bomb to left-center. Bradfield, who had been shading Plastiak toward right-center, raced back and made a leaping catch atop the wall, stealing a potential three-run home run.
“You have to give them credit,” said UK coach Nick Mingione. “I thought they made some plays. They ended up getting the win.”
The Wildcats still managed to put up two runs with one out in the seventh on an RBI double by Ryan Ritter and a run-scoring single by Hunter Jump.
But the next man up, Daniel Harris IV, slapped a ground ball to Vandy shortstop Carter Young. The infielder stepped on second but his throw to first was too late to double up Harris, Kentucky keeping the inning alive with what would have been the tying run at the plate.
Unfortunately for the Cats, after a review of the play the umpires ruled that Jump, who went into second base standing, had interfered with the defensive player and Harris was ruled out as well, ending the inning. Per the college rule, the baserunner must slide in that situation.
The Wildcats put two men on in the ninth inning as well and with two out, Jump sent a line drive into the right-centerfield alley. Vandy rightfielder Spencer Jones made a sliding catch to end the game and give the series to the Commodores (28-11), their first road series victory in SEC play this season.
“We were down 5-0 and what do we do?” Mingione said. “We just kept battling back. We had a chance. We were one swing away. We were one swing away from winning the ballgame. Our guys fought and fought until the very end.”
Kentucky (22-18) five times has gone into the final game of an SEC series needing a win but now stands 1-4 in those matchups, including four straight losses in rubber-game contests.
The Cats host Dayton on Tuesday before heading to Gainesville for a series next weekend with the Florida Gators.