LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Senior southpaw Chris Rusin hurled eight shutout innings with nine strike outs and freshman Andy Burns charted a 3-for-3, three-RBI game, to lead the No. 29 Kentucky Wildcats to a 5-0 win over the Indiana State Sycamores, on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Rusin (2-1) has now won his last two starts for the Wildcats, striking out 21 batters in a span of 13 innings. The Canton, Mich., native, allowed only six hits on the day, walking one batter and striking out nine. In his last start, Rusin struck out a career-high 12 in five innings of work. At one point in the game, Rusin retired nine straight batters, six of which by strikeout. Rusin now holds a 3.63 ERA and leads the Wildcats with 29 strikeouts.
“Chris did a great job for us,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “He showed that he is perfectly healthy and is in great shape. In our last 18 innings, we have walked only one batter, which is pretty impressive.”
Kentucky (8-2) was led offensively by a career day from freshman third baseman Andy Burns. The native of Fort Collins, Colo., got the Wildcats on the board in the second inning with a two-run triple into right center field. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound infielder, finished the game with three hits, a career high, and a game-best three RBI. Burns, a 2008 Aflac High School All-American, was rated as the 29th-best freshmen in college baseball before the season. In eight games, Burns has hit .261 with a triple, a homer and nine RBI.
“I thought Andy played really well, both defensively and offensively,” Henderson said. “He was real aggressive, he played loose and he played with confidence. He had a good game defensively and sometimes that defensive success will translate to the plate. We are really excited about Andy’s development and today was just a great game for him.”
Junior catcher Marcus Nidiffer, fresh off his first career grand slam the night before, had another multi-hit game to his record, ripping two singles. Kentucky’s other two RBI would come from sophomore infielder Chris Bisson and speedy utility player Neiko Johnson. Bisson, who went hitless in the game snapping a team best 10-game hitting streak, recorded an RBI on a fielder’s choice in the fourth inning. Johnson’s RBI, the first of the season, came in the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly center.
Kentucky will play game three of the series tomorrow at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with the Voice of the Wildcats Neil Price. Fans in Lexington can catch the action live on WLAP 630-AM. Kentucky has yet to determine a starting pitcher, while Indiana State (9-4) will run Joe Rodriguez (6.92 ERA, 1-0), a junior lefty out to the mound.
So far this season, the second inning has proved to be most fruitful for the Wildcats, who have scored a total of 19 runs. That proved true again, when UK posted two runs in the inning when Burns grabbed two RBI with his first career triple into the right-center field gap. Freshmen Chad Wright and Cory Farris started the inning, with Wright reaching on an error and Farris drawing a one-out walk. After a strikeout by sophomore Chris Wade, Burns drove a ball against the win into deep right center field just pass the glove of the diving center fielder.
The Wildcats gave Rusin a bigger cushion to work with in the fourth inning when they plated two runs. The inning started with back-to-back walks of Johnson and Farris. Wade then would place a perfect bunt single down the first base line, loading the bases for Burns. The freshman, who tripled and picked up two RBI in his first at bat, flied out to deep center field brining in Johnson, advancing Farris to third. Bisson brought in the other UK run when he grounded out to the shortstop scoring Farris from third and giving Kentucky a four run lead.
Kentucky plated their last run in the fifth inning after leadoff singles by both Keenan Wiley and Nidiffer. They advanced into scoring position when Wright hit a sac bunt back to the pitcher, putting Johnson in a position to grab an RBI on a sac fly to center field.
UK’s pitchers made sure that would be all the run support the Wildcats needed, pitching four scoreless innings after that. Tyler Henry came into the game in the ninth inning shutting the door, by getting three quick outs to end the game. Henry, who didn’t come in for a save opportunity, lowered his ERA to 0.90, a team low.