LEXINGTON, Ky. -- In his first career start, freshman southpaw A.J. Reed turned in a quality outing, allowing only one run in six innings and Kentucky got two-hit games from freshmen Thomas Bernal and Austin Cousino and a two-RBI outing from Luke Maile, to lead the Wildcats to a 3-2 win over Morehead State, on a gorgeous Tuesday evening at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (7-0) used the strong start from Reed (1-0) in his first collegiate starting assignment, as the 6-foot-4, 235-pound lefty and first baseman tossed six innings, allowing four hits and one run, not issuing a walk and striking out two.
The Wildcats were led by two-hit games from Bernal and Cousino, with Cousino launched his Southeastern Conference leading fifth double of the season. Maile, starting behind the plate Tuesday, added a hit and a clutch, two-RBI single in the third inning to give UK a lead it wouldn’t surrender.
After the strong start from Reed, UK turned to senior southpaw Alex Phillips, who tossed two innings, allowing three hits and one run, striking out two. For the save, sophomore right-hander Trevor Gott appeared out of the bullpen, working a shutout ninth inning with two strikeouts for his first save of the year.
UK was helped during the game by its defensive effort, as shortstop Matt Reida made several sparkling plays on ground balls in the infield. In addition, UK recorded two throw from the outfield wall that gunned down runners attempting to score at home plate, as Lucas Witt and Reida teamed up to throw out a runner at the dish in the third inning and Cousino and J.T. Riddle combined on a gorgeous throw to the plate to throw out the would-be tying run attempting to score in the top of the eighth inning.
Kentucky also got a hit from Witt in leftfield, with Reida, Zac Zellers and Cameron Flynn each drawing two walks. Thomas McCarthy, UK’s All-SEC third baseman, was kept off base for the first time in a 19-game span on Tuesday, and has now been kept off base only twice in his 61 career starting assignments.
The Wildcats also stole a season-best six bases, with all three bags coming in a three-run third inning. Maile and Cousino each stole two bases, with Maile stealing home on a delayed play. Zellers, the reigning SEC Player of the Week, also recorded his first steal of the year.
Morehead State (4-5) starter Matt Robertson (0-1) took the loss with three hits and three runs in three innings, walking three and striking out one. Morehead State used two of its three starting weekend pitchers in the midweek game with the Wildcats, including Noah Smallwood and Aaron Goe, in addition to sidearm reliever Morgan Cirbo.
UK returns to action on Wednesday, hosting Xavier at 4 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. UK will send freshman right-hander Chandler Shepherd (0-0, 18.00 ERA) against Xavier freshman left-hander Alex Westrick (0-0, 1.59 ERA). The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WGVN 1580-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Reed took the hill for Kentucky and began the first start of his career with a strikeout of leadoff hitter Taylor Pickens. Reed held Morehead State scoreless in his first inning of work.
Cousino opened the game with a bang for the Wildcats, drilling a double to deep left-centerfield to get Kentucky going in the bottom of the first. Zellers did his job in advancing Cousino to third with a groundball to the right side of the infield, leaving Cousino at third with one out. Morehead State Robertson’s worked his way out of the first inning jam, keeping the Wildcats scoreless through one.
Reed continued to breeze his way through the Morehead State lineup with a quick second inning, helped by Reida producing all three outs in the top of the second.
Kentucky would threaten again in the bottom of the second. Flynn got the Wildcats started with a walk. Witt followed Flynn with a hard hit ground ball to third and after an over throw of first base Flynn would end up on third with Witt on second and just one out. Robertson managed to work out of the jam again and leave Kentucky scoreless after two.
Morehead got going in the third as Reed surrendered his first hit of the day when Morehead second basemen Jeff Birkofer singled up the middle. Pickens reached first on a hit by pitch, leaving runners on first and second for Luke Bainer. Bainer hit a double off the leftfield wall that scored Birkofer and left Pickens attempting to score from first. Witt fielded the ball off the wall, hit cut-off in Reida, who gunned Pickens at the plate.
Going down 1-0 in the top of the third, Kentucky wasn’t to be outdone. Cousino led off the inning with an infield single in the six-hole in the third, before stealing second to get in scoring position. Zellers reached first on a walk. Cousino and Zellers would both swipe a bag to put runners at third and second. Kentucky catcher Luke Maile got the Wildcats on the board with a single to center field, scoring Cousino and Zellers. Maile would make his way to third due to wild pitches by Thompson and a Flynn walk left Kentucky with runners on first and third. With Witt at the plate, Flynn would take second while Maile scored on a double steal. Kentucky left the third up 3-1. Overall in the third inning, UK stole an eye-popping six bases.
Reed got back on track in the fourth, keeping Morehead scoreless in the top half of the inning. Smallwood replaced Morehead starter Robertson in the bottom of the fourth. Bernal led off the Wildcats in the bottom of the fourth with his first career hit at Cliff Hagan Stadium, a single to left center. Bernal advanced to second on a well executed sacrifice bunt from Reida and then moved to third on a groundball to the right side by Cousino. Bernal was stranded at third as Kentucky was up 3-1 through four.
Zellers began the top of the fifth with a diving catch on a shallow line drive in right field. Birkofer reached first on a single to left but Reed would get out of the inning with a strike out of Pickens.
Witt led off the bottom of the sixth for Kentucky with a hard hit line-drive single to right field. Witt was caught stealing at second before Bernal reached base on a single to center. Reida and Zellers walked consecutively to load the bases but Kentucky would leave them stranded.
After six innings pitched with just one run allowed, Phillips took the mound for Reed in the top of the seventh. Greenwell reached base on an error by Reida, the first of the season. Maile threw Greenwell out trying to steal second before a double down the right field line by Cole Cleveland. Phillips worked his way out of the top of the seventh, surrendering no runs and with the Wildcats leading 3-1.
Morehead wasn’t finished as it surged in the top of the eighth to attempt a comeback. With one out in the top of the eighth, Pickens hit a solo home run to right, putting the Eagles down 3-2. Luke Bainer walked for the Eagles with one out and as Deeds hit a double to deep right center and a relay from Zellers to Riddle to Maile gunned Bainer trying to score the tying run. Kentucky maintained a 3-2 lead leaving the eighth.
GAME NOTES: Thomas Bernal (1B) made his first career start in the field, starting the season opener at Wofford as the DH … A.J. Reed made his first career start on the mound … Lucas Witt recorded his fifth career outfield assist, teaming up to nail a runner out at the plate … Luke Maile recorded his team-high third stolen base of the year, finishing with two bags … Austin Cousino stole his first career bases, also stealing third in the same inning … Cameron Flynn recorded a career high two walks … Bernal notched his first career hit at Cliff Hagan Stadium to lead off the fourth inning … Matt Reida laid down his first sacrifice bunt of the year and the sixth of his career … Cousino recorded his third outfield assist of the year in just six career collegiate games … Trevor Gott notched his first save of the season and the third of his career … Thomas McCarthy saw his streak of reaching base safely snapped at 19 consecutive games … For just the second time in his 61 career starts, McCarthy didn’t reach base safely … Bernal notched a career-high two hits.
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