NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Coltyn Kessler pummeled a hanging breaking ball with Kentucky down to its final strike, blasting a three-run, game-winning home run to secure a 7-5 victory over No. 2 Vanderbilt at Hawkins Field on Saturday.
The Wildcats (29-22, 12-18 SEC) finished the regular season on a momentum-building win and now head to the Southeastern Conference Tournament needing a win in Tuesday’s opener vs. Florida to extend the season. First pitch is at 10:30 a.m. ET in the first game of the tournament and will air on the SEC Network.
Competitive all weekend, the Cats finally got rewarded for their continued fight in the 27th and final inning of the series. Trailing 3-2 and facing one of the nation’s top closers in Nick Maldonado the winning rally started with Austin Schultz’s single to left and T.J. Collett’s liner to right, both with two outs. Kessler then worked the count to 2-2, fouled off a pitch and then clobbered a pitch deep into the right field bleachers to stun the home crowd.
True to form, Kessler never broke a smile rounding the bases or when his teammates greeted him just outside the dugout. It was just another professional at-bat for the breakout star of the Cats’ season, who has a compelling case as the nation’s top hitting backstop.
John Rhodes followed Kessler’s blast by wearing a pitch for the 17th time this season and then Jake Plastiak delivered insurance with a towering two-run home run to the opposite field to complete the Cats’ scoring.
Lost in the madness of the ending was the fact sophomore starter Zack Lee navigated six innings and allowed just three runs, all of which scored in an inning that had two infield hits. Wyatt Hudepohl, Cole Daniels and Daniel Harper kept the Commodores off the board and Sean Harney earned his sixth save of the season to close it.