LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Senior Chris Rusin tossed his second consecutive complete-game win, going nine innings, allowing two runs and striking out 11, to lead the Kentucky Wildcats to a series-clinching 6-2 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores, on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Rusin, a 2008 first-team All-SEC selection, was in complete control of the game from the opening pitch, working both sides of the plate and displaying complete command of the strike zone. It was the second straight complete game for Rusin and sixth of his career. The lefty pitched seven innings last Saturday in Baton Rouge, La., at No. 3 LSU, giving up two earned runs on six hits and striking out six. On Saturday, Rusin didn’t allow a run until the eighth inning, giving up just seven hits, while striking out 11 and walking only two. Between the second and third inning Rusin retired five straight batters, two by strikeouts.
Kentucky (15-4, 3-2 SEC) made sure Rusin had plenty of run support, getting home runs from junior catcher Marcus Nidiffer and sophomore shortstop Chris Wade. Nidiffer started the Kentucky scoring with a deep homer to left field after battling during a 10-pitch at bat, one of two 10 or more pitch at bats the Bristol, Tenn., native worked in the game. The Kentucky catcher was leading the SEC in batting coming into the game and now holds a team leading .441 average on the season. Nidiffer led the Wildcats in home runs for only four innings as Wade sent his fourth round tripper of the season to left in the seventh inning. The homer was Wade’s only hit of the day but it came at a crucial time as the Wildcats had been held scoreless the previous three innings. The sophomore shortstop is now hitting .288 on the season with 17 RBI.
UK got multi-hit games from junior Gunner Glad and freshman Chad Wright. Glad, making his second career start, was 2-for-3 in the game with one RBI and one run scored, also gathering in his first career double as a Wildcat. Wright, a Paducah, Ky., native, was 2-for-4 in the game with a run scored, improving his batting average to .327 on the season.
Kentucky will hit the field again Sunday when they will play the final game of the series against the Commodores. The Wildcats will send touted freshman Alex Meyer to the hill for his second straight Sunday start. Last Sunday at LSU, the Aflac All-American went five innings allowing three earned runs on two hits, while striking out five batters. On the season, Meyer has a 5.06 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 21.1 innings pitched. Fans can catch the action on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), 1580 WGVN-AM in Lexington and WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville, with Dick Gabriel. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m. ET.
Kentucky’s first hit of the game got the Wildcats on the board, when Nidiffer hit a deep home run to left field. With one out and the bases empty, the SEC’s leading hitter fouled off three straight two-strike pitches in a 10-pitch at bat before sending his team tying fourth homer of the year to left.
The Wildcats scored another run in the third inning when freshman Cory Farris scored on a passed ball. Farris reached base on to start off the inning when he was hit by a pitch, later advancing to third when fellow freshman Andy Burns sent a screaming line drive up the middle. With no outs and two runners on, Bisson stepped to the plate and the first pitch he saw got under the glove of the catcher, allowing Farris to score from third and giving UK a 2-0 lead. After Bisson lined out, Wade flied out to deep left center for the second out and then Wiley grounded out to first to end the inning.
Kentucky plated three runs in the fourth inning. Glad plated UK’s third run of the game when he sent a shot up the middle plating his third RBI of the season. Kapteyn started the inning for Kentucky with a lead-off single into left field that bounced over the head of the left fielder, rolling all the way to the way and allowing Kapteyn to advance to second. Wright kept up his hot hitting by belting a single into right center field, putting runners on the corners with one out. Glad then ripped a single up the middle that easily scored Kapteyn and advanced Wright to third. Kentucky plated its second run of the inning when pitcher Caleb Cotham dropped the ball on the mound and was charged with a balk, advancing Wright to score and Glad to second. Farris then grounded a sharp ball up the middle but was robbed of a single and a RBI when second baseman Riley Reynolds dove to his right fielding the ball and hopping to his feet to get the out at first. Kentucky got its third run when Glad came home to score on a wild pitch by Cotham, giving Kentucky a five-run lead going into the fifth inning.
After retiring five straight batters through the third and fourth inning, Rusin had to work out of trouble in the fifth inning, when he gave up a leadoff single to acclaimed freshman infielder Jason Esposito, the first hit given up by Rusin since the second inning. Rusin then got two fly outs, one to Wade in foul ground and the other in fair territory to Burns. Catcher Drew Fann was the next batter and he hit a rope up the middle that went off the glove of Rusin and just past the diving effort of Bisson for a single, putting runners on first and third with two outs. Brian Harris was the next batter and after Rusin delivered two brilliant strikes to start the at bat, he got Harris to ground out to Wade to end the inning.
Vanderbilt (13-8, 1-4 SEC) changed pitchers heading into the fifth inning, bringing in right-hander Taylor Hill. Kentucky tried to get things going when Bisson hit his team leading eighth double of the season to right center field off of the green monster. He now has a nine-game hitting, the longest of his career. UK then sent two sharply hit balls to Harris at shortstop, but both were fielded nicely for outs. Kapteyn still had a chance to make the something happen from Bisson’s double, but the freshman hit a slow grounder to third to end the inning, with Kentucky still up 5-0.
Rusin, a 6-foot-2, 195-pounder, kept the Wildcat momentum going in the sixth inning when he got the first batter to hit a lazy fly ball to center field for the first out. After a rare walk from Rusin, who has only walked seven batters all year, Kentucky turned a smooth double play starting with Bisson who made a nice pitch to Wade at second and then throwing to first to end the inning.
UK used the momentum of the double play to start a rally in the sixth inning when Nidiffer started the inning getting hit by a pitch, his third in two games this weekend. Wright then reached safely at first on a bunt single, and after Glad sacrificed both runners into scoring position with a bunt, Farris was walked to load the bases with one out and Burns up. The freshman for Fort Collins, Colo., struck out on a pitch that just hit the outside corner, leaving the inning up to Bisson. After fouling a pitch just foul past third, the sophomore second baseman popped up to third to end the rally.
Kentucky got an insurance run in the seventh inning when Wade hit a homer to left field. On a 0-1 count, the sophomore from Lexington, Ky., sent a sharply hit ball that just got over the left field wall. The last homer for the shortstop was a game-winning shot against New Orleans in the 11th inning on Tuesday. Wade, who hit five long balls last year, is tied for the most dingers on the team with Nidiffer with four.
The Commodores got a rally started in the eighth inning when Matt Marquis led-off the inning with a single off the wall in right field, played nicely by Farris. After Rusin struck out the next batter, he gave up a single and then a double, scoring Marquis and putting runners on second and third with one out. Vanderbilt scored its second run of the game when Casali hit a slow grounder to Wade who threw to first to get the out, scoring Harris from third. The Kentucky southpaw got out of the inning by throwing three straight strikes to Aaron Westlake to end the inning, with Kentucky up 6-2.
Rusin came out in the ninth inning to finish the game for the Wildcats, making easy work of the Commodores. The first batter hit a slow chopper back to the mound for the first out, then striking out the next batter before Reynolds hit an infield single to second base. Marquis was the next batter and Rusin made sure no rally started for Vanderbilt striking out right fielder on three pitches.