CONWAY, S.C. -- Preseason All-American second baseman Chris Bisson went 4-for-5 with a walk, two doubles and a stolen base and right-hander Alex Meyer struck out eight in five innings, as Kentucky posted a 15-6, season-opening win over Virginia Tech, Friday afternoon at Coastal Carolina’s Charles Watson Stadium and Vrooman Field.
“We feel great about getting the first win,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “It is hard to put it into words, you practice for five weeks, feel like you are ready about two weeks ago, then you get an opportunity to play. It is a huge win for us.”
Kentucky (1-0) got a near-perfect outing at the plate from its junior preseason All-America selection, as Bisson doubled twice, added two singles and a walk, swiping one base and making his first out of the season in his sixth plate appearance. A native of Orleans, Ontario, Bisson was a third-team preseason All-America selection by Baseball America entering the year and a 2009 first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection.
The Wildcats got an outstanding season-opening performance from Meyer (1-0), a sophomore right-hander, who is rated as one of the top prospects in college baseball. A 6-foot-9, 220-pound native of Greensburg, Ind., Meyer fanned eight in five innings, allowing just two earned runs and walking three. Meyer recorded five of his first six outs by strikeout, including recording his first three outs of the season via strikeout.
UK turned to freshman right-hander Sam Kidd, who tossed 2.2 innings with three-runs allowed to eat up the middle innings. Junior Matt Little closed out the contest for the Wildcats, going 1.1 perfect innings.
“I was really pleased that Alex Meyer got better as we went along,” Henderson said. “He grew up. Certainly not an efficient outing, with three walks over five innings, but not poor by any stretch. He was very competitive. He threw too many balls and too many pitches. He is obviously going to be pretty good as he starts throwing some more strikes.”
UK got two home runs in the game, one from senior Keenan Wiley in his first at bat of the season and a two-run shot from sophomore third baseman Andy Burns. Burns and Wiley each finished 2-for-5 with two runs and two RBI, part of eight position starters who charted at least one hit. The homer for Burns marked his eighth career roundtripper, a no-doubt jack over the left-centerfield fence.
Senior right-fielder Gunner Glad added a game-high three RBI, scoring two runs and totaling a 2-for-5 day with a double. Junior shortstop Taylor Black added a 2-for-5 day with his first double as a Wildcat. Sophomore first baseman Braden Kapteyn extended his team-high and career-best hitting streak to 10 games, after a 1-for-5 outing, with two runs scored. Senior Marcus Nidiffer extended his hitting streak to six games and Burns pushed his streak to four games, all dating back to the 2009 campaign.
The win extends UK’s season-opening winning streak to seven games, a school-record. The Wildcats have won each season-opening game since 2003, with UK going 7-0 with Henderson in the dugout, both as an assistant from 2004-08 and in his second year as UK’s head coach.
Kentucky returns to action Saturday, facing West Virginia at noon ET at Vrooman Field. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with Dick Gabriel calling the action. Fans can hear the game in Lexington on WGVN 1580-AM and online at UKathletics.com. Fans can also stay in touch with the game with a live interactive blog from the Vrooman Field press box.
Virginia Tech (0-1) got on the board in the top of the first inning, taking an early 1-0 lead. After Meyer struck out Sean Ryan, he forced Arkansas transfer Tim Smalling into a hard-hit grounder at Andy Burns at third base. Burns bobbled the ball for the first error of the year, with Smalling moving into scoring position after Austin Wates drew a full-count walk. After Meyer fanned Steve Domecus, catcher Anthony Sosnoskie singled through the left side, scoring Smalling. Meyer struck out Ronnie Shaban to get out of the inning.
Kentucky immediately answered with a run in the bottom half of the inning, as preseason Bisson belted a double into left field and Wright followed with a hit by pitch. After Braden Kapteyn’s deep fly out moved Bisson to third, Nidiffer ripped a fly out to left field. Virginia Tech left-fielder Steve Domecus bobbled the ball, with Bisson scoring on a sacrifice fly and Nidiffer reaching on an error and totaling an RBI.
Wiley led off the second inning, taking a strike to get the inning started before belting a no-doubt jack over the leftfield fence, his first homer of the year and the seventh of his 159-game career.
The Wildcats broke open the game in the third, playing eight runs to take a 10-1 lead. Wright led off with a single into centerfield and Kapteyn hit into a fielding error at third base. After Nidiffer singled into left to score Wright, Burns loaded the bases with a single into the right-centerfield gap. Glad followed and ripped a two-RBI double down the left-field line, scoring Wright and Kapteyn. Wiley added his second hit in as many at bats, singling into center field and scoring Glad. Black got his first career UK RBI, singling through the left side and after Neiko Johnson’s sacrifice bunt, Bisson ripped a two-RBI single up the middle.
Virginia Tech answered with two runs in the fifth inning, as Matt Blow led off with a single to right field, scoring after VT slugger Austin Wates tripled into deep centerfield, a ball almost corralled by Wiley, but the collision with the centerfield wall knocked the ball out of his glove. Catcher Anthony Sosnoskie singled Wates home with a base knock through the right side of the infield.
Burns lifted a 2-0 offering for a two-run homer that broke the game wide open for Kentucky in the sixth inning to give UK a 12-3 lead. The Wildcats would post three more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning after VT scored three runs in the top of the eighth to cut the UK lead to six.
In the top of the eighth inning, VT plated three runs on the UK bullpen, as Mike Kaminski singled with one out and pinch-hitter Andrew Rash drew a full-count walk. Ryan singled and Glad made an excellent defensive play in right field to keep the bags loaded. Smalling pushed a two-RBI single into left centerfield and Wates followed with an RBI single through the left side.
UK immediately responded with three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, as Kapteyn led off with a double down the leftfield line. Nidiffer drew a walk, the sixth consecutive plate appearance for the catcher to reach base safely, and Glad singled down the line to score Kapteyn. Black followed and hit into a fielding error, charged to the VT third baseman, scoring Nidiffer and Glad.
Head Coach Gary Henderson Post-Game Quotes
On the season-opening 15-6 win over Virginia Tech …
“We feel great about getting the first win. It is hard to put it into words, you practice for five weeks, feel like you are ready about two weeks ago, then you get an opportunity to play. It is a huge win for us.”
On the UK 15-hit, 15-run performance …
“I thought we had a lot of good swings. Not only did we get a lot of hits but we had some hard outs. We would have scored in two other innings pretty obviously if they hadn’t caught the balls that were hit, hard hit balls. I was really pleased with that.
On the five innings and eight strikeouts from sophomore Alex Meyer …
“I was really pleased that Alex Meyer got better as we went along. He grew up. Certainly not an efficient outing, with three walks over five innings, but not poor by any stretch. He was very competitive. He threw too many balls and too many pitches. He is obviously going to be pretty good as he starts throwing some more strikes.”
On the performance offensively …
“I think the quality of the at bats, from start to finish, was really good. We had good balance, not a lot of chasing pitches. We had lots of hard contact. With base runners on, we were hunting the ball up in the zone. We had some really good two-strike at bats. We really pushed the pitch count in at bats to seven, eight and nine at times. We had a really good bunt laid down from Neiko (Johnson). I told (assistant coach and offensive coordinator) Brian (Green) that we were going to bunt with no one out there and Bisson coming up (in the bottom third of the inning), thinking we might be able to get a seven-run inning, it turned into an eight-run inning. I was really pleased with the at bats.”
On the defensive outing and performances from Sam Kidd and Matt Little …
“Obviously, we had a little bit of those first-game jitters defensively. We will be better than that defensively. Virginia Tech dropped a fly ball, they kicked the ball once. That is almost to be expected at this point in the season. I am really pleased that Sam Kidd, a freshman, came out there and really filled up the strike zone, so I was pleased with that. And I couldn’t have been more pleased with Matt Little. Five guys, a lot of strikes, no walks and he got the huge punchout to get the guy he came in on the eighth inning.”