A.J. Reed makes history in UK win

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Junior first-team preseason All-American A.J. Reed belted a two-run home run and a grand slam in the fifth inning – becoming the first player in school history with two homers in one inning – and worked seven innings on the mound, leading Kentucky to a 16-2 win over St. Joseph’s on Friday afternoon at Bud Methany Complex on the campus of Old Dominion.

A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed had a historic game with his damage in the fifth inning marking a first in the over 100-year history of the program. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound southpaw belted a two-run homer with no outs in the fifth, before coming back up with the bases juiced later in the frame and ripping his second career grand slam over the centerfield fence.

“The most striking thing about it is that they were both hit to the center of the park,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “A.J. has hit three home runs now and they have all been centerfield or middle-opposite field. That has been great to see. His swing has been good. His at bats have been good. It is nice to see him get rewarded for what he was doing.”

With game-by-game box scores complete back to the 2002 season, Reed becomes the first Wildcat to homer twice in an inning, with his six RBI also a record for one frame. Since 2002, UK has had a player with two or three home runs in a game 38 times, with the last coming from Michael Williams and Cameron Flynn in 2012.

A first-team preseason All-America selection by Baseball America, Reed finished 2-for-4 with six RBI, a walk and three runs scored. On the year, Reed has hit .381 (8-for-21) with two doubles, three homers and 12 RBI, slugging .905.

Reed’s heroics were not limited to the batter’s box, as he worked a season-long seven innings, allowing six hits and one run, not issuing a walk and striking out four. He threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of the 26 hitters he faced, retiring nine consecutive from the third to sixth innings. The only damage allowed by Reed came on a pair of doubles in the seventh inning.

The quality start was the 10th of Reed’s three-year career, with the 2011 Indiana High School Player of the Year owning a 2-0 record and a 1.50 ERA through his first two starts of the year, which included a win over No. 1 Virginia in the season opener.

“A.J. was a little bit more efficient, he was better at the front (end of the count),” Henderson said. “Secondary stuff was a little crisper throughout the game. I really wanted to get him seven innings to get it set into his mind that when he is going to go out he is going to get seven innings, minimum. Sometimes you can’t determine that, the pitch count can get up and the rest but I wanted him to establish that in his mind that that is what he is going to do. Obviously we were in the dugout there in the fifth inning for about 55 minutes, it was a long time. He came back, got and got another six outs. He was clearly a little tired in the seventh but overall really pleased with A.J.”

Kentucky (3-2) pounded the Hawks in the opener of the Old Dominion Baseball Tournament, getting a three-run inning in the second, one run in the fourth and a nine-run frame in the fifth, with UK getting a run in the sixth and two runs in the seventh inning before rain halted the game heading into the top of the eighth inning.

After playing two hours and 32 minutes, a storm hit the Norfolk area, delaying the game until 4:46 p.m. ET, a total delay of three hours and 12 minutes.

Freshman Zack Brown took over to start the eighth inning after the delay, making his collegiate debut. Brown worked around a leadoff walk to toss a shutout eighth, with sophomore Taylor Martin taking over to pitch the ninth inning, allowing one run.

UK’s blistering offensive attack plated 16 runs on 16 hits, 10 walks, a hit batter and a stolen base. Senior shortstop Matt Reida went a career-best 4-for-4 with a walk and a double, with UK also getting two hits from Kyle Barrett and Micheal Thomas. Freshmen Connor Heady and Storm Wilson each notched hits, with Heady drawing two walks. Sophomore Dorian Hairston collected his first career triple, with first baseman Thomas Bernal going 1-for-4 with a walk.

St. Joseph’s (0-1) starter Jordan Carter (0-1) worked 4.1 innings, allowing eight hits and seven runs – six earned – walking three and striking out three. Jason Holcomb got one out, allowing three hits and six runs, walking five and striking out one. Tyler Pallante and Steve Powles also worked in relief for St. Joe’s.

UK will return to action on Saturday vs. host Old Dominion at 4 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with Dick Gabriel calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WWTF 1580-AM and online at UKathletics.com.

Kentucky got on the board in the second inning, as Reed drew a leadoff walk. After a fly out, Thomas smacked a two-strike single into rightfield. After Bernal flied out, Reida singled to rightfield to score Reed. Heady and Barrett followed with two-out RBI singles to centerfield, scoring Thomas and Reida.

UK added a run in the bottom of the third inning, as Tom drew a walk on a 3-1 count with one out. He then stole second base for his first career steal, taking third after the throw sailed into centerfield. Thomas then smashed a two-out, two-strike single into leftfield to score Tom and give UK a 4-0 lead.

The Wildcats added to their lead in the fifth inning, as Kuhn drew a full-count walk to bring up Reed. Reed belted a 1-1 offering off the top of the left-centerfield fence sailing high over the fence for his second homer of the year. Thomas then got hit by a full-count pitch to end the game for Carter and bring on the bullpen. Bernal greeted the reliever with a walk and Reida then doubled into the left-centerfield gap, scoring Thomas. Heady then drew a walk to load the bases and Barrett singled through the right side, scoring Bernal and Reida. Cousino then followed with a walk to load the bases for Kuhn. After Kuhn fanned for the second out, Reed drilled a grand slam out to centerfield, his second homer of the inning and his second career grand slam, giving UK a 13-0 lead.

UK got a run in the sixth inning, as Heady drew a walk, scoring on Kuhn’s two-out RBI up the middle.

St. Joe’s got on the board in the top of the seventh, as Stefan Kancylarz doubled off the wall in leftfield to leadoff, scoring on John Brue’s double into the gap.

In the seventh inning, UK unloaded the bench and got two runs. Wilson led off the inning with his first career hit, moving to second when Reida drew a walk. Hairston then smacked an opposite-field double down the rightfield line, scoring the duo and giving UK a 16-1 lead.

After the delay, St. Joe’s got a run back off Martin in the ninth, as Kancylarz doubled and scored on Tommy Cunningham’s RBI single.

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