LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Kansas broke open a tie game in the seventh inning and posted a 10-6 win over No. 22 Kentucky in the opener of the NCAA Louisville Regional, on a sticky Friday afternoon at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Kentucky (35-24) fell behind early to the Jayhawks after allowing three runs in the top of the first inning, ending the start for UK’s sophomore Kyle Cody after just one out. After the two teams sat through a 60 minute rain delay, the Wildcats answered with a game-tying, three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning from Ka’ai Tom. After getting two quick outs in the second inning, KU got two, two-out walks and three straight singles to plate the go-ahead runs.
UK answered with a run in the third and two in the fourth inning, before a nearly two hour rain delay halted the game in the bottom of the fifth. After the teams traded a shutout frame in the sixth, Kansas got two hits to start the seventh inning, plating two in the frame and adding two in the eighth.
The Wildcats will now face off with the loser of the Louisville-Kent State matchup, currently in progress at press time. The elimination game is slated for 1 p.m. ET at Jim Patterson Stadium and will be televised live on ESPN3. The game will also be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky totaled eight hits in the game, including two-hit games from Austin Cousino and Max Kuhn. Tom, a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection, hit his third homer of the year, a game-tying three-run job. UK also got hits from Micheal Thomas, Storm Wilson, Matt Reida and Thomas Bernal, with Bernal driving in two runs to tie the game in the fourth. A.J. Reed drew a pair of walks and has reached base safely in 55 of 59 games in 2014.
Cody made his first career NCAA Tournament start and got one out in the first inning, before the rain delay ended his outing. Cody finished allowing two hits and three runs – one earned – walking one. Andrew Nelson (2-5) came on with a runner on third and one out in the first inning with a 3-2 count, with Nelson getting the strikeout, which is credited to Cody, for the first out. Nelson went on to work 4.1 innings, allowing four hits and three runs, walking three and striking out three. After the last delay, Kentucky turned to Chandler Shepherd to start the sixth inning. Shepherd (5-5) – who entered the postseason with 10.2 NCAA Tournament inning pitched and just two runs allowed – suffered the loss, allowing seven hits and four runs in four innings of work.
Kansas (35-24) starter Jordan Piche worked four innings, allowing seven hits and six runs, walking two and striking out four. After the third delay, Kansas turned to righty Drew Morovick (10-4) who picked up the win with 3.1 shutout innings, allowing just one hit and two walks, striking out one. KU then used right-handed closer Stephen Villines, who worked the final five outs for his ninth save of the year.
Kansas jumped out to an early lead in the first inning, as Justin Protacio led off with a full-count walk. Colby Wright then laid down a sacrifice bunt, with the throw from Cody to first sailing down the rightfield line, allowing Protacio to take third with no outs. Michael Suiter then laid down a squeeze bunt to score Protacio, with Wright moving to third on a wild pitch with Dakota Smith at the plate. Smith then laced a double into the left-centerfield gap, scoring Wright and giving KU a 2-0 lead. Tucker Tharp followed with a single to the left side, putting runners on the corners and one out. With a downpour coming, Tharp stole second, with the throw from Thomas slipping out of his hands and sailing into centerfield, allowing Smith to score.
After the rain delay and Nelson’s clutch work to get out of the top of the first inning, UK rallied with one out to even up the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the frame. Kuhn singled up the middle with two strikes to bring up Reed. Reed worked into a 3-0 count, taking a strike and swinging at a 3-1 breaking ball, before drawing a walk. That brought up Tom, who smashed a 0-2 pitch over the rightfield fence, his third homer of the year.
The Jayhawks immediately got the three runs back in the top of the second inning, as Nelson walked Protacio and Wright with two outs. Suiter then singled to leftfield to score the go-ahead run, with Joven Faenir loading the bases with a single through the left side. Tucker Tharp then singled through the hole on the right side, scoring Wright and Suiter for a 6-3 KU lead.
UK got a run back in the bottom of the third inning, as Cousino led off the inning with a ground ball up the middle, taking second on a hustle double. He then took third on a wild pitch and scored on a second wild pitch, cutting the KU lead to 6-4.
Kansas took the lead in the top of the seventh inning, as Afenir singled to left-centerfield to leadoff the frame, scoring on Tharp’s RBI double off the wall in left-centerfield. After a single from McKay on a bunt, Ka’iana Eldredge hit into a double play, to score Afenir.
Kansas got a leadoff triple in the eighth inning and an RBI single from Pratacio to take a 9-6 lead. Wright then doubled into the right centerfield gap to put two runners in scoring position. Pratacio then scored on a wild pitch to stretch the lead to 10-6.