LEXINGTON, Ky. - Tyler Howe drove in two runs and Chris Rusin struck out a career-high nine batters, as the No. 21 Kentucky baseball team edged the Wisconsin Milwaukee Panthers 7-3, on Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky improves to 11-0 on the season and is now just four wins shy of the best start in school history, as Keith Madison's 2000 club ran off 15 consecutive wins to start its season. The Wildcats have now won 21 consecutive regular-season games in the friendly confines of Cliff Hagan Stadium, dating back to the 2006 Southeastern Conference Championships season.
The Wildcats go for the series sweep Sunday with a 1 p.m. EST matchup at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Starting for UK will be preseason All-American Greg Dombrowski, a crafty right-hander who racked up 10 wins and a 2.83 ERA in 2006. Getting the nod for UWM will be Mike Rauwerdink, a senior right-hander who allowed 10 hits in five innings in a loss at Arkansas to start the season.
Rusin got the win for Kentucky, to improve to 2-0 on the season, hurling a season-high 6 2/3 innings and striking out a career-best nine Panther hitters. Three Wildcat relievers, Brock Baber, James Paxton, and Aaron Lovett combined to handcuff UWM through the final 2 1/3 innings.
Howe paced the Wildcats at the plate as he finished the day 2-for-2 with three RBI and two walks. The Clinton, Iowa native was reunited with a summer-ball teammate, Dan Luczak, who got the start for Wisconsin Milwaukee. Howe, who served as Luczak's catcher and golf partner during the summer, provided a clutch three-run double that gave UK the deciding runs. Freshman Jason Kipnis had an excellent day, going 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI.
Sean Coughlin provided the only other hit for the Wildcat lineup on the day, as UK was held hitless in all but two frames. For the second time in as many days, Kentucky was held hitless through the first three innings, before breaking it open with an five-run fourth.
Luczak took the loss for UWM, to fall to 0-2 on the season, allowing five runs, walking seven, and giving up three hits in 4 1/3 innings of action.
Wisconsin Milwaukee (0-4) plated the games first run, as Troy Vesling reached on a base on balls. A wild pitch moved Vesling into scoring position and the next batter Dan Buchholz, plated Vesling to give the Panthers an early 1-0 lead.
In the fourth, the Panthers plated another run on a solo home run from Nick Wichser, to give UWM an early 2-0 lead.
Kentucky plated five runs in the bottom of the fourth, beginning with a two-out single from Coughlin. Brian Spear walked and Matt McKinney plated Coughlin after he reached on a fielding error. Billy Grace walked to load the bases for Howe and the junior promptly cleared the bases with a three-run double. Kipnis dropped down a perfect bunt single, moving Howe to third base. Antone DeJesus plated Howe with a ground out to make it 5-2 UK.
UWM scored one more run in the seventh to narrow the UK lead to 5-3. Vesling doubled and advanced to third on an infield single. Grant Berkovitz scored Vesling on a single to left field for the Panthers final run.
UK tacked on two runs in the eighth, as McKinney walked and Howe singled. Kipnis plated the two with a double in the left-center field gap for the final margin 7-3.
Fans in Lexington can catch the action live on WXRA 1580-AM or online via the official website home for UK Athletics, UKathletics.com.