HOOVER, Ala. | Chris McClendon went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and Aaron Lovett settled down after a shaky start to pitch a complete game as Kentucky defeated Alabama 9-3 in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament in a game that went into early Thursday morning.
The Crimson Tide (32-25) opened the game with four consecutive singles off Lovett (5-1) to jump out to a quick 2-0 lead.
The Wildcats (42-15) answered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the first inning, both unearned due to a two-out error by Alabama shortstop Josh Rutledge.
Tyler Odle's towering home run to right field in the second inning put Alabama back on top 3-2. Kentucky answered with a tying run in the fourth on an RBI double by Brian Spear.
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The Wildcats broke the game open over the next two innings, scoring two runs in the fifth and four in the sixth to take a 9-3 lead. Both of their fifth-inning runs came with two outs, while three of their runs in the sixth were unearned following another Alabama error.
Lovett struck out 12 Alabama batters in the game and surrendered only four hits after the first inning.
Jimmy Nelson (3-3) gave up five hits and five runs — three earned in 4 2/3 innings to take the loss for Alabama.
Kentucky will play Ole Miss in the second round in a game scheduled to start at 8 p.m. Thursday. Alabama will play top-seeded Georgia beginning at 1 p.m. Thursday in an elimination game.