LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The No. 17 Kentucky baseball team got multi-hit performances from four starters, including a 3-for-4, two-RBI day from third baseman Chris McClendon, as the Wildcats opened the game with 10 unanswered runs and got a solid pitching performance from starter James Paxton, blasting the Oakland Golden Grizzlies 12-2, on Thursday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
McClendon, a 2007 junior college first-team All-American, paced the Wildcats offensively with the team-best three hits. Outfielder Troy Frazier had the offensive highlight of the game, leading off the second inning with a home run over the left-field wall, part of a 1-for-2, two run, two RBI, two walk day. In Wednesday’s win over Oakland, Frazier was a perfect 3-for-3, with a career-best five RBI. Brian Spear, Collin Cowgill, and Sawyer Carroll each charted multi-hit games.
Second baseman Ryan Wilkes, making his first appearance of the season, finished 1-for-4, with a run, a RBI, and two walks. Chris Wade, Keenan Wiley, and Spencer Korus each tallied hits, with Wade reaching on his club-high fourth double of the year.
At this point in the season, the veteran UK pitching staff has toiled 43 innings, struck out 47 and walked just a staggering four batters – good for a stellar 2.09 ERA.
Offensively, UK has totaled 60 runs in just five games, on pace for 672 runs in the scheduled 56-game slate. That would shatter a school record set during the 2006 Southeastern Conference Championship that saw UK plate 500 runs. Just five games deep in 2008, UK is averaging 12 runs per game and 9.3 hits per game.
Dynamic sophomore southpaw James Paxton got his first career start, picking up the win after working four pre-determined innings. Paxton allowed only three hits and struck out six, before handing the ball over to a cast of relievers. Mike Kaczmarek and Clint Tilford toiled three combined hitless innings, with Tilford striking out four. Jesse Yano and senior Brock Baber closed out the contest, with Baber striking out two in 1 2/3 innings.
Taking the loss was Oakland starter Andrew Estes, who lasted only 1 2/3 innings, giving up six runs and three walks.
Kentucky (5-0) got the ball rolling in the first inning after Paxton set down the Oakland lineup in order. Spear reached on a one-out single and Cowgill, UK’s preseason All-America selection, followed with a line-drive single, unplayable by the Golden Grizzly third baseman. After Spear got gunned down trying to take third, Carroll promptly plated Cowgill with a RBI single to right field.
The massive damage came in the second inning, as UK got five runs on four hits. Frazier, facing a 2-2 count as the leadoff man in the frame, sent a line-drive shot into the jet stream in left-field, marking the first homer of his season and the fourth of his career. A year ago, Frazier led Western Kentucky with a .327 average and three home runs. McClendon followed with a single through the left side. A speedy infielder who stole 33 bags last season as a sophomore, McClendon stole second – his fourth in four attempts this year, and Wilkes drew a walk. Catcher Tyler Howe laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving the runners into scoring position and Wade loaded the bases with a walk. Wiley got under a sacrifice fly, scoring McClendon. Spear plated Wilkes with a single through the left side and Cowgill got on the RBI board with a base hit, scoring Wade. Carroll drew a walk, juicing the bases, and Frazier walked in another run, for the fifth run of the inning.
In the third, UK struck again, as Howe got hit by a pitch and Wade, who had just been called back to the box after the home-plate umpire ruled he had leaned into a pitch, ripped a RBI double down the left-field line. With Wade on second, Wiley drove him in with a single to center field.
UK mounted some two-out damage in the sixth inning, as Carroll singled on a 1-2 count to right center and Frazier drew a walk. After a passed ball put both runners in scoring position, McClendon came through with a two-RBI single into left field.
In the eighth inning, the Golden Grizzlies got on the board, plating two runs, courtesy of three hits and a Wildcat error. With Yano on mound and UK pitching shutout, Justin Wilson reached on a fielding error. D.J. Jarrad doubled to right, moving both runners in scoring position. Scott Sexton plated Wilson with an RBI ground out and Rob Merkle delivered an RBI groundout for OU’s final run.
UK answered the Oakland (0-2) two runs in the bottom half of the eighth, as Korus, making his first at bat in a UK uniform, singled through the right side and Neiko Johnson drew a walk. Wilkes battled a two-strike count with a double down the opposite-field foul line, scoring Korus’ pinch-runner, Chris Bisson. Wade plated Johnson with a sacrifice fly, for the final margin.
Kentucky returns to action on Friday, with a 4 p.m. ET first pitch with Butler. Fans can catch the action live on WXRA 1580-AM in Lexington, on the Big Blue Sports Network with Neil Price.
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