Cowgill homers twice, Cats roll

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Preseason All-American Collin Cowgill homered twice and Sawyer Carroll added his fourth homer of the season, as the No. 17 Kentucky baseball team put the finishing touches on a sweep of a doubleheader with Butler, routing the Bulldogs 21-2, on Saturday evening at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Cowgill, a former Kentucky High School Mr. Baseball, boosted a homer in his first at bat of the game, a two-RBI jack and later in the fifth inning, sending a solo shot soaring over the videoboard high atop the fence in left-center field. The junior centerfielder and Lexington native finished the second game 3-for-4 with four RBI and three runs.

In three games so far with Butler (0-3), UK has outscored the Bulldogs 49-3.

Carroll, one of three Wildcats on the Brooks Wallace National Player of the Year Watch List, also added a 3-for-4 day, with four RBI to complement his three-run homer in the fifth inning. In just eight games, Carroll has driven in a squad-best 20 RBI. Leadoff man Keenan Wiley continued a stellar pace this season, batting 3-for-5 with a team-best five RBI.

Brian Spear scored three runs on a 1-for-3 game, drawing a walk and Ryan Wilkes, Neiko Johnson and Chris Wade each tallied one hit. Freshman Chris Bisson got the start at third and had a career day at the plate, batting 2-for-4 with his first three career RBI. Wade, a freshman making his eighth consecutive start at shortstop, ripped his Southeastern Conference-leading seventh double in 11 hits, bringing his average up to .367 (11-for-30), with 13 RBI.

Catcher Tyler Howe, who in the first game launched homers in back-to-back at bats, added a double, as part of a 1-for-2, one RBI second game.

Andrew Albers, who started a team-best 15 games in 2007, got the start in the second game of the twin bill, working six innings, striking out seven and allowing just two hits. True freshman Logan Darnell and Mike Kaczmarek closed out the contest, with Kaczmarek working the final two innings of the game, not allowing a hit, while striking out three.

Kentucky (8-0) returns to action on Sunday, wrapping up the four-game set with Butler. First pitch at Cliff Hagan Stadium is slated for 1 p.m. ET and fans can catch the action live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with Neil Price (Lexington station WXRA 1580-AM).

Just eight games deep into the season, UK has proved to be the definition of an offensive juggernaut, while also displaying one of the best pitching staff’s in the country. Offensively, UK has scored double digit runs in each of its eight games, averaging nearly 14 runs per game while hitting for a .369 (104-for-282) average. On the bump, the UK staff has totaled a 1.54 ERA in 70 innings of action, striking out 79 and walking an SEC-low eight in eight games. Opponents are hitting for a .188 average vs. the Wildcat staff, pushing across only 12 earned runs on the year.

Cowgill got UK on the board first, ripping a 0-1 offering from Butler starter Jon Dages into the middle of the scoreboard in left-center field, for his second homer of the season. The round-tripper drove in Spear, who had reached first on a hit by pitch.

UK plated 18 runs over the next three innings, beginning with a five-run fourth inning. Catcher Marcus Nidiffer led off with a double into right-center and Wade moved the runner to third with a sacrifice bunt. Bisson notched his first career RBI with a single through the right side, scoring Nidiffer. Spear drew a walk and Carroll scored Bisson with a single through the right side, with Spear coming around to score during the play on a fielding error. Cowgill followed with a single, scoring Carroll and Howe ripped a two-strike RBI double off the fence in left-center.
Butler got on the board in the top of the fifth, tagging Albers for a solo home run off the bat of first baseman Ryan Neat.

In the fifth, UK struck for eight runs on six hits. Wade ripped his seventh double in eight games to lead off and after a Bisson ground out moved Wade to third, Wiley knocked in his first RBI of the game. Spear singled, putting runners on first and second for UK’s three-hole hitter and right fielder, Carroll. Carroll, who hit three home runs in 54 games in 2007, blasted a three-run shot to the opposite field, his fourth homer in eight games. For the first time in 2008, UK hit back-to-back homers, as Cowgill lifted his monstrous shot that cleared the videobard in left-center field, landing deep on the practice infielder behind center field. Howe and Wilkes got hit by pitches and Wade drew a walk. Bisson walked in a run and Wiley connected on a two-RBI single through the right side.

The sixth inning was more of the same for the Butler Bulldogs, as UK pounded out five hits, scoring five runs. Carroll led off with a single and Cowgill moved him into scoring position with a groundout. Freshman Bryan Rose got plunked by a pitch, one of six HBP’s on the day for the Wildcats, and Neiko Johnson scored him with a one-run double into the gap. Nidiffer added an RBI single and Bisson connected on his second-career double to score Johnson. Wiley finished off his five-RBI day with a two-RBI single into center field.

The Bulldogs pushed across its final run in the visiting half of the seventh, as Darnell issued two back-to-back walks and Neat doubled down the left-field line, scoring one run.

In the seventh inning, UK added one more run for the final margin, as Brock Wright led off with his first hit of the season, advancing to third on a wild pitch and a well-placed Troy Frazier groundout. Rose scored Wright with an RBI groundout for the final margin.