LEXINGTON, Ky. -- A.J. Reed belted his 10th home run of the year and worked seven shutout innings on the mound, Austin Cousino hit a grand slam and Max Kuhn and Micheal Thomas each smacked three-run homers, leading No. 19 Kentucky to a 17-1 series-opening rout over No. 12 Florida, on Friday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (21-9, 5-5 Southeastern Conference) equaled its largest margin of victory in SEC play in program history, done last in 16-run wins over Vanderbilt in 1993 and Tennessee in 1990.
A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed (6-1) worked seven shutout innings, scattering five hits and two walks, striking out three. On the year, Reed – a 6-foot-4, 240-pound southpaw – has hit .358 at the plate with seven doubles, one triple, 10 homers and 34 RBI, while owning a 6-1 record and a 1.93 ERA on the mound. In his career, Reed has hit .304 in 140 games, with 27 homers, owning a 13-12 record with a 3.00 ERA on the mound.
“A.J Reed has been good on the mound for us and has really been steady,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “Even in the games where he doesn't have his best stuff he is able to compete and get us in the eighth or ninth inning. He has been good deep in the count and has been really competitive in his at bats. He has done a really good job of hitting the ball in the gaps and producing RBI for us.”
The midseason national player of the year by Perfect Game, Reed worked his seventh consecutive quality start and now owns a 4-0 record in wins over No. 1 Virginia, No. 1 South Carolina, No. 5 Vanderbilt and No. 12 Florida.
“It is a tremendous honor just to get that recognition,” Reed said about being named midseason player of the year in college baseball. “I just can’t let that get to my head. I had a good first half of the season but there is room for improvement. I know that there are areas where I need get better. This is a good start for the second half and hopefully I will get back on the pace that I started at hitting, as well as pitching. I didn't have my good stuff today and just battled through it. They didn't score through seven and we got the win. That is all that matters.”
The Wildcats collected 17 runs on 20 hits, career-high games from a bevy of hitters. UK mounted four-running innings in the second, third and fourth, adding a five-run frame in the fifth.
All nine UK hitters collected hits, with eight starters getting RBI. UK got a grand slam from Cousino – his second career grand slam – and three-run homers from Kuhn and Thomas, marking Kuhn’s third homer of the year and Thomas’ sixth of 2014. Kuhn went 3-for-5 with three RBI, with Thomas Bernal going a career-high 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles. Reed cranked his SEC-leading 10th home run of the year, going 3-for-4 with his first career two double game, also getting hit by a 3-2 pitch. UK also got two each hits from Ka’ai Tom and Matt Reida, with JaVon Shelby adding a hit. Kyle Barrett set a new career high with four runs scored, going 1-for-3 with two walks and an RBI. Zach Arnold and Greg Fettes each came off the bench with pinch-hit singles.
“It showed our depth hitting,” Reed said. “All our starters were able to get a hit today. We also had three or four guys that came in off the bench and got hits as well. There are two spots that five or six guys are competing for. It is a toss-up each day. It is a good problem to have. It is nice for our pitching staff and defense to know that our offense is going to give us run support.”
Reed was replaced to start the eighth inning by sophomore southpaw Ryne Combs, who worked the final two innings, allowing three hits and one run.
Florida (19-11, 6-4 SEC) starter Eric Hanhold (3-3) worked over three innings, allowing eight hits and 10 runs – nine earned – walking three and striking out two. Hanhold was coming off an impressive Friday-night win over No. 4 LSU last week, where he allowed just one run in 7.1 innings. Dane Dunning came on with no outs and runners on in the fourth inning, working one inning, allowing six hits and five runs. Frank Rubio saved the pen by working the final four innings, allowing six hits and two runs, striking out three.
The series will resume on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be televised live on FSN, with Tom Werme and former UK great Larry Conley voicing the action. Fans can also hear the game 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 UKathletics.com.
Kentucky got on the board first in the bottom of the second inning, as Barrett drew a four-pitch walk to lead off and Bernal singled up the middle. After a strikeout, Shelby replaced Bernal at first base on a fielder’s choice, pushing Barrett to third. On a 1-1 offering to Cousino, Barrett motored home from third base to score the first run of the game on a wild pitch. Florida then elected to intentionally walk Cousino to face Kuhn with two outs. Kuhn worked the count full and smashed the seventh pitch of the at-bat over the left-centerfield fence for his third homer of the year, giving UK a 4-0 lead.
UK plated four runs on three hits in the bottom of the second inning to take an 8-0 lead. After a hard-hit lineout opened the frame, Barrett drew his second walk of the game and Bernal singled off the limb of Hanhold on the mound. Reida then singled to rightfield to load the bases with one out for Shelby. After Shelby struck out, Cousino smashed the first pitch of the at-bat over the rightfield wall for a grand slam, his third homer of the year.
The Wildcats continued to apply pressure in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Reed led off with a no-doubt solo homer over the centerfield fence, bouncing high off the 50-foot batter’s eye for his SEC-leading 10th homer of the year. Thomas then chopped a ball to the third baseman, with the throw popping out of the glove of the first baseman for an error. Tom then singled through the right side to push Thomas to third base. After Barrett beat out the back end of a double play to force in Thomas, Bernal doubled down the leftfield line. Reida followed with a line-drive single off the pitcher to put runners on the corners and one out for Shelby. Shelby lined out to leftfield for a sacrifice fly, scoring Bernal.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, UK plated its fourth consecutive four-run inning to take a 16-0 lead. Kuhn led off with a single to centerfield and Reed doubled over the head of the leftfield. Thomas then smashed his sixth homer of the year over the leftfield fence, a three-run job. After a diving snag of a Tom lineout, Barrett singled to centerfield and Bernal scored him with his career-high fourth hit of the game, a double down the leftfield line. After a groundout, Shelby scored Bernal with a full-count single up the middle.