LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Corey Littrell fired seven innings, allowing only one hit and striking out a career-best eight and No. 8 Kentucky got three-RBI games from preseason All-America selections Austin Cousino and A.J. Reed, leading the Wildcats to a 9-2 sweep-clinching win over Akron, on Sunday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (10-1) won its seventh consecutive game behind the pitching of Littrell and the three-RBI games from Cousino and Reed. The Wildcats completed the series sweep over the Zips by a combined 37-4 score, winning the opener, 21-2 on Friday night and posting a 7-0 win on Saturday behind senior starter Jerad Grundy. Akron has opened its season with consecutive three-game series at No. 16 Georgia Tech and at No. 4 Louisville, with the Yellow Jackets owning an 18-6 aggregate total vs. the Zips and the Cardinals posting a 17-1 total score vs. Akron.
A native of Louisville, Ky., Littrell worked seven innings, allowing five hits and one run, not issuing a walk and striking out a career-high eight. The preseason All-America honoree only faced two hitters over the minimum, retiring the first 10 hitters he faced and sitting down seven consecutive hitters by strikeout in the middle innings.
“I thought Corey (Littrell) was a lot better today,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “I was really glad to see him make some adjustments. He had command, the ball was down, he worked ahead in the count and he had secondary command. It was a much more efficient and poised outing, and he will keep getting better.”
“The first two (starts) I struggled with my rhythm and mechanically but today I was able to focus on a certain things and maximize my performance,” Littrell said postgame.
Freshman Zach Strecker got two outs on a great play by Jeff Boehm in rightfield in the eighth, before Walter Wijas got out of the jam with the final out of the frame, with a run scoring. Chandler Shepherd got two outs in the ninth, before Trevor Gott closed out the sweep with a strikeout of the final batter.
Cousino and Reed each tallied three RBI to lead UK at the plate, with Cousino launching his second homer of the year as part of a 1-for-4 game with two runs and a walk. Reed, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound two-way standout, went 1-for-3 with three RBI coming on his bases-clearing double off the centerfield wall.
Reed had a monster week in leading the Wildcats to five wins, batting .526 (10-for-19) with a double, three homers and 15 RBI, collecting 20 total bases, a 1.053 slugging percentage and a .609 on-base clip. On the year, Reed is batting .409 (18-for-44) with a double, triple, four homers and 22 RBI.
UK got a season-high three-hit game from senior leftfielder Zac Zellers, who went 3-for-4 with a walk and a steal. Catcher Micheal Thomas set a new career-high with his 3-for-3 game with an RBI and a pair of runs scored. UK also got the first hit of the year from rightfielder Jeff Boehm, with Max Kuhn drawing two walks and stealing his fifth base of the year.
The Wildcats showed consistent stick-to-itiveness, as all five home games were impacted by weather during the home-opening week. The home lidlifter was delayed three hours due to rain and the win over Eastern Kentucky saw a delay over an hour. Tireless work was done by the UK sports turf department to make the field playable for the three-game series, battling heavy winds and precipitation throughout the week.
Akron (0-9) starter JT Brubaker (0-3) worked 3.2 innings, allowing seven hits and nine runs – seven earned – walking four and striking out two. He was relieved by Andrew Fanning, Joe Cochran and Matt Larocca worked in relief for the Zips.
UK will return to action on Tuesday, hosting Cincinnati at 4 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The Wildcats took the lead in the second inning, plating a run on a hit and an error. Max Kuhn led off the inning with a grounder up the middle that went as a throwing error, with Paul McConkey drawing a full-count walk. Boehm then blooped a single into left-centerfield to score Kuhn and allow both runners to advance into scoring position. Thomas followed with a single into shallow right-centerfield to score McConkey and push Boehm to third base. Cousino then belted a towering homer over the rightfield 30-foot wall, giving UK a 5-0 lead.
UK added to its lead in the fourth inning, as Thomas singled with one out and Cousino and Zellers drew walks to load the bases with one out for Reed. With a dramatic shift towards the rightfield line, Reed pelted a double off the wall in deep centerfield to clear the bases and give UK an 8-0 lead. After Kuhn drew a walk and stole second base, McConkey struck out swinging but reached base safely on a throwing error by the catcher on a dropped third strike, allowing Reed to score.
Akron got a run in the top of the sixth inning, as Tyler Begun led off with a single through the left side. After a sacrifice bunt, Devin Ahart singled to leftfield to score Begun.
The Zips got a run in the top of the eighth inning as James Sheltron singled to leadoff and Anthony Bova laid down a bunt single. After a single from Begun loaded the bases, Rembielak drove a fly ball to rightfield that was caught by Boehm. Boehm threw a laser to the plate to nab Sheltron trying to tag up. After a pitching change, Ahart singled to leftfield to score Bova.