MOBILE, Ala. – Behind eight extra-base hits - including home runs from Sawyer Carroll and Bryan Rose - the No. 20 Kentucky baseball team exploded for 10 runs in its season opener and got a stellar pitching performance from lefty Chris Rusin, downing the Xavier Musketeers 10-1, in the 2008 season opener, on Saturday afternoon at South Alabama’s Stanky Field.
Carroll totaled a 3-for-5 day with three RBI and a double, and first baseman Brian Spear finished with a 3-for-5 day with two doubles and an RBI. Preseason All-America outfielder Collin Cowgill, playing in his first game since the NCAA Lexington Regional in 2006, ripped a double in his first at bat of the year, while making several magnificent plays in centerfield, including a diving catch.
Rusin, a junior and UK’s Friday night starter in 2007, worked seven innings, allowing seven hits, striking out four, and allowing just one earned run, picking up the win and at one point retiring 10 consecutive batters. Freshman southpaw Logan Darnell finished out the contest, looking impressive in his collegiate debut, working two hitless innings, striking out two. Xavier starter Charlie Leesman took the loss after going four innings, allowing four hits and six runs, as well as committing two throwing errors.
After going down in order in its first inning of the season, Cowgill led off the top of the second with a deep double into the right-center field gap. Outfielder Troy Frazier followed with a walk and third baseman Chris McClendon laid down a sacrifice bunt. Xavier pitcher Charlie Leesman misfired on his attempt to throw to first, allowing Cowgill to come home and score, making it 1-0 UK. Leesman then attempted to pickoff McClendon at first, allowing Frazier - leading off at third - to steal home to make it 2-0 UK.
In the top half of the third, UK struck again for two runs, taking a 4-0 lead. Spear led off with a single to left field and advanced into scoring position after Leesman’s second throwing error. Carroll followed with a double down the left-field line, scoring Spear. After Carroll advanced to third on a passed ball, Troy Frazier delivered an RBI groundout, scoring Carroll.
Leading off the fifth inning, Spear, the UK record holder for walks in a season, drew a base on balls.
Carroll struck again after Spear’s walk, ripping a first-pitch offering well over the right-field fence, bringing the UK lead to 6-0. After third baseman Chris McClendon and Frazier drew walks, Tyler Howe got hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Chris Wade. Wade, a redshirt freshman shortstop, drew an RBI walk for the Wildcats third run of the frame.
In the seventh inning, Rose, who took over designated hitter responsibilities from Frazier in the fifth inning, sent a 3-2 offering - in his first collegiate at bat - soaring over the right-field fence, giving UK a 7-1 lead. McClendon followed with a triple into the right-center field gap, coming around to score on an error, forced by Howe’s at bat.
UK tacked on one run in the ninth inning, sparked by freshman Neiko Johnson’s leadoff single – his first collegiate hit. Spear ripped a double into the right-center field gap and the speedy Johnson floated around the bases for Kentucky’s 10th run of the contest.
Kentucky returns to action on Sunday with a twin-bill, starting with an 11 a.m. ET matchup (at Hank Aaron Field) with Fairfield before facing South Alabama at 3:30 p.m. ET, at USA’s Stanky Field. The games can be heard live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with Dick Gabriel calling the action.