LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Freshman Zack Brown earned his first career win and Spencer Jack picked up his fourth save, lifting No. 22 Kentucky to an 8-6 elimination-game win over Kansas, on Sunday in the NCAA Tournament, hosted by Louisville, in front of 2,275 at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Kentucky (37-24) will now advance to the NCAA Louisville Regional final to face host UofL at 4:20 p.m. ET at Jim Patterson Stadium. The game will be televised live on ESPNU, with Clay Matvick and Gabe Gross calling the action. 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.
The Wildcats used an explosive offensive attack to post the win, with UK getting two runs in the first, one in the second, four in the fourth and one in the sixth for an early 8-0 lead. UK then fought off a furious Kansas rally that saw the Jayhawks plate six over the sixth and eighth innings.
A native of Seymour, Ind., Brown (1-1) worked a career-long five innings, allowing six hits and four runs, walking one and striking out three. He exited with the bases loaded, an 8-1 lead, and no outs in the bottom of the sixth inning in favor of Taylor Martin. Martin allowed all three inherited runners to score in the frame, working a career-high three innings, allowing two hits and two runs, walking one, giving UK a 8-6 lead entering the ninth. Spencer Jack took over to start the bottom of the ninth, getting a pair of strikeouts and working around a walk for his fourth save of the year.
UK was led at the plate by three-hit games from Austin Cousino and Micheal Thomas, with Cousino going 3-for-3 with three runs, two walks and two steals. UK also got two hits from Max Kuhn, including a three-run triple. A.J. Reed notched a pair of sacrifice flies and has now reached base safely in 57 of 61 games in 2014. Ka’ai Tom, Matt Reida and JaVon Shelby each notched hits, with Shelby scoring twice and UK also getting walks from Thomas Bernal and Storm Wilson.
Kansas (35-26) starter Robert Kahana (4-6) worked three innings, allowing five hits and five runs, walking two and striking out one. Drew Morovick tossed three innings in relief, allowing four hits and three runs. Jon Hander started the seventh inning, getting two outs and allowing a pair of hits and walk. Closer Stephen Villines came on with two outs in the seventh, escaping the jam. Villines worked 2.1 shutout innings, walking two.
The Wildcats got on the board in the top of the first inning, as Cousino drew a five-pitch walk to open the game. Kuhn then worked the count full, fouling off a pair of pitches, before singling through the left side, with Cousino taking third with no outs. Reed then laced a line drive to leftfield, scoring Cousino with the sacrifice fly. Thomas then doubled down the leftfield line with two outs, putting a pair of runners in scoring position for Wilson. Kuhn came around to score on a wild pitch on the second pitch of the at-bat to Wilson.
UK added a run in the top of the second inning, as Shelby dropped a fly ball into shallow rightfield, with the ball skidding off the sliding glove of the rightfielder for an error. Cousino then smacked a single up the middle with one out. After a pop up, Shelby motored home to score on a wild pitch, during the at-bat to Reed, giving UK a 3-0 lead after two frames.
The Wildcats plated four runs in the top of the fourth inning to stretch their lead to 7-0. Reida was hit by a 1-1 pitch to leadoff and Shelby and Cousino loaded the bases with two perfect bunt singles. Kuhn then cleared the bags with a triple into the right-centerfield gap, scoring on Reed’s second opposite-field sacrifice fly of the game.
Kansas mounted a rally in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Micheal Suiter led off with a single in front of Cousino in centerfield. Michael Tinsley then dropped a bloop single into shallow leftfield and Tucker Tharp loaded the bases with a ground ball through the left side. Conor McKay followed with an RBI single to leftfield, scoring Suiter and ending the game for Brown. UK turned to Martin to face Jacob Boylan, who poked a double down the leftfield line, scoring two and putting a pair of runners in scoring position. Ka’iana Eldredge then lined out to Tom in leftfield for a sacrifice fly, pushing Boylan to third base with one out. After No. 9 hitter, Tommy Mirabelli, a .168 hitter, drew a walk off Martin, Justin Protacio grounded out to force in Boylan and cut the UK lead to 8-5.
Eldredge got a run back for the Jayhawks in the eighth inning, belted a solo homer into the wind in leftfield, his first of the year.