Knoxville, Tenn.--(UTSports) Tennessee managed just five hits and Kentucky's big-swinging offense hit four dingers to take the opening game of the rivalry series by a 15-1 margin at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Thursday night.
The Vols (26-17, 8-14) took the early lead with a run in the first inning, but the Wildcats (28-17, 10-12) tied it in the second and took control with a six-run third inning and never looked back.
Tennessee committed five costly errors, resulting in just four of Kentucky's 15 runs to be earned.
"That wasn't the Vol personality tonight," said head coach Dave Serrano. "I don't want to take anything away from Kentucky; they beat us down pretty good but I'm confused on our personality tonight and I think it led a little bit to the performance in the game.
"The good thing about it is that it's one loss. It doesn't count as five losses; it's one loss. We get an opportunity tomorrow when the scoreboard is clean, 0-0, but we're going to have to come out with a different mentality. Sometimes when you get beat down so bad you come out fighting a little bit more. I don't like saying that because I don't think you need to have a beat down like that for you to come out and compete. It's an opportunity you have to wear this uniform each and every day and it's a battle. Every team that comes in here is going to battle you. We just weren't up to the challenge tonight and that disappoints me."
Will Maddox was 2-for-4 at the plate for UT. Freshman starter Hunter Martin gave up seven runs - one earned - walked four and struck out a career-best eight for the Vols.
Golden Spikes Award candidate A.J. Reed gave up just three hits and one run while striking out nine on the hill for the Wildcats to improve to 8-2 on the season. At the plate, he smacked his 20th home run of the season, a towering three-run shot over the batter's eye in center field. Kentucky hit three three-run homers in the contest.
Martin had the changeup working in the top of the first, starting the game with back-to-back strikeouts. With the infield shift on, Martin got Reed to line directly out to Maddox in shallow right field.
Following the quick inning from Martin, the Vols got the leadoff man on with a bouncing single up the middle by Maddox and A.J. Simcox walked on four pitches to put two on with no outs. Maddox moved up 90 feet on a fly ball by Christin Stewart and then came home on a Nick Senzel sac fly to center. Senzel's team-leading 33rd RBI put the Vols in front 1-0.
Kentucky got the first two men on in the second inning and Storm Wilson ripped a one-out RBI double down the left field line to tie the game at 1-1.
The top-hitting home run team in the Southeastern Conference got it done with the longball in the top of the third, as UK's Ka'ai Tom hit a three-run dinger over the right field fence and Wilson added an inside the park homer to left field. Stewart dove on a line drive to left by Wilson, but came up short, allowing the ball to roll all the way to the wall and Wilson to come all the way around to score The Wildcats plated six runs total in the third off four hits and one UT error to take a 7-1 lead. All six runs by UK were unearned in the inning.
Kentucky extended its lead to 9-1 with two more runs in the top of the seventh inning. Wilson brought home his fourth RBI of the night with a sac fly to center in the frame.
Reed - the nation's home run leader - made UT pay at the plate in the eighth, blasting his 20th homer of the season over the batter's eye in dead center to put UK on top 12-1.
The Wildcats weren't finished, adding another three-run bomb in the top of the ninth to extend their lead to 15-1. This time it was shortstop Matt Reida who sent one deep to right.
The border battle continues with game two on Friday at 6 p.m. ET. Senior right-hander Nick Williams takes the mound for the Vols. He'll go up against southpaw Dylan Dwyer of UK.