Bat Cats continue to roll, down Evansville 15-1

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Sawyer Carroll was one of four players to chart multi-hit games, as the No. 9 Kentucky baseball team rode 11 runs in the first two innings to a dominating 15-1 win over the visiting Evansville Purple Aces, improving to 10-0 on the campaign, on Wednesday evening at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Kentucky (10-0) got another three-hit performance from Carroll, the reigning Southeastern Conference and National Player of the Week. The senior 6-foot-4, 215-pound right fielder extended his hitting streak to seven games, and the 3-for-4 day at the plate marked the fourth consecutive three-hit game for the Henryetta, Okla., native. After his performance, Carroll has now batted 14-for-18, with four homers and 16 RBI in the past five games. Entering Wednesday’s contest, Carroll had homered in four consecutive games.

The Wildcats got multi-hit games from senior Brian Spear, preseason All-American Collin Cowgill, and Marcus Nidiffer, as UK rolled to 15 hits. Leadoff man Keenan Wiley extended his hit streak to eight games with a 1-for-2 day and freshman shortstop Chris Wade added a 1-for-4 evening to push his hit streak to eight games. Cowgill finished the day 2-for-4 with two runs scored, a double and an RBI, swiping his SEC-leading eighth base in eight attempts.

On the mound, UK worked seven total pitchers with starter James Paxton (2-0) picking up the win after working three predetermined innings. Paxton has worked in 10 innings on the season, striking out 15 and earning a 0.90 ERA. Clint Tilford, Mike Kaczmarek, Logan Darnell, Tyler Henry, Brock Baber and Andrew Albers each worked scoreless innings, allowing just two hits between the six relievers over the final six frames, striking out six combined.

The win marked a bit of redemption in what is becoming one of the top rivalries on the UK schedule, as the Wildcats atoned for a 5-4 walk-off win in 2007 at Evansville’s packed Braun Stadium - a game pitting two teams who were on the NCAA Tournament bubble entering that pivotal mid-week matchup. Kentucky still trails the all-time series with the Purple Aces, 6-8, improving to a 4-3 mark in Lexington.

UK has continued to dominate its opposition through 10 games, piling up a 136-22 overall scoring margin. The Wildcats have scored over 10 runs in each game this season, averaging over 13 runs per game. UK is batting an impressive .375 (133-for-355), with 36 doubles, five triples, 15 home runs, swiping 24-of-27 bags.

Evansville (0-8) entered the game in search of its first win of the season, after suffering heart-breaking defeats vs. No. 24 St. Johns and a walk-off loss to No. 5 Vanderbilt on Feb. 27 in Nashville. A year ago, Evansville won over 30 games and was in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament birth late in the season.

Pitching wise, the Wildcats have emerged as the top staff in the league, leading the SEC in nearly all pitching categories. UK has totaled a 1.74 ERA in 88 innings, striking out 101 and walking only 13.

On the season, Carroll leads the way for the Wildcats, batting .618 (21-for-34), with five doubles, one triple, five homers and 25 RBI, leading the league in nearly every offensive category. Cowgill ranks second on the club with a .421 (16-for-38) average, reaching on three doubles, a triple, three homers and 14 RBI. Along with Carroll and Cowgill – two national player of the year watch list members – Kentucky has four everyday players batting for an average above .340 (Spear, Frazier, Wiley, and Wade).

Wiley got hit by the first pitch of the game, his fifth hit by pitch of the season. Spear followed with a hard hit grounder to the shortstop - who misplayed it for an error. Cowgill followed and ripped a hard grounder at the third baseman, who missed on his attempt to tag Wiley out at third base, loading the bases. Carroll scored Wiley with a single through the right side and Frazier drew a bases loaded walk for the second run. Tyler Howe plated his sixth RBI of the season with a single through the right side. Korus hit into a grounded double play, allowing the fourth run of the inning to cross home. Wade completed the first-inning damage for the Wildcats, ripping an RBI single through the left side, allowing Frazier to score.

In the second inning, UK continued to add to its monstrous lead, tacking on six runs on three hits. Spear reached on a one-out single through the left side and Cowgill reached on a fielder’s choice. Carroll drove in Spear with a single through the right side. Frazier got hit by a pitch and Howe followed with his team-leading seventh hit by pitch of the season. Korus plated two runs with a two-RBI double down the right-field line. Wade followed, hanging up a fly ball into center field for a sacrifice fly.

Evansville tacked on its run in the third inning, as leadoff man Nate Smith drew a one-out walk off Paxton. After Paxton got the next batter to strike out swining, Andy Pascoe came through with a two-out double to score Smith and the Purple Aces’ lone run. In UK’s walk-off loss a year ago, Pascoe provide the difference, ripping a two-out, two-strike single through the infield for the winning RBI. Pascoe, who was pinch hitting at the time, had entered the game with six career hits and one career RBI.

The Wildcats added a run in the third inning, as Spear led of with a ground-rule double into the right field corner by the bullpen. Cowgill came through with a double of his own, a line-drive shot down the left-field line, scoring Spear from second.

In the fifth, UK added a run as Wiley led off with a single to right and Cowgill and Carroll loaded the bases with singles of their own. With UK up 12-1, coach John Cohen subbed in three pinch runners at the same time, and Frazier plated Brock Wright – running for Wiley – with an RBI groundout.

UK added one run in the bottom half of the seventh, as Nidiffer – pinch hitting for Spear - led off with his first double of the game. Bryan Rose singled up the middle, allowing Nidiffer to come racing around from second for a run.

The Wildcats tacked on its final run in the eighth inning, as Chris Bisson reached on a two-out single through the left side. Wright got plunked by a pitch and Niddifer scored Bisson with his second double in as many at bats.

The Wildcats return to action on Friday, kicking off a four-game set with the Purdue Boilermakers. First pitch on Friday is slated for 4 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.