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Freshman relievers shine in No. 19 Kentucky's sweep of No. 9 Louisville

LOUISVILLE -- Freshmen Zack Brown and Logan Salow combined to work six shutout innings in relief and Kyle Cody came on to earn his third save of the year with a shutout ninth, as No. 19 Kentucky posted a 4-2 win at No. 9 Louisville to sweep the two-game series, on a bitterly cold Tuesday night in front of 2,597 at Jim Patterson Stadium.

Kentucky (24-13) and Louisville battled in the finale of the two-game, home-and-home midweek series, after UK won the opener on April 1, 8-3 at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The win for the Wildcats marks the first UK sweep of Louisville since the 2011 season, with the Cardinals entering the game on a five-game winning streak that included a sweep at No. 7 Houston last weekend.

“Well it’s good to win,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “It’s a game we want to win every year, just like they do. It’s a rivalry game. It’s not more important than a league game. I get that every year, twice a year. But we’re very glad to win, just like we are every other midweek or in-state team. But Louisville’s a good club, Dan (McDonnell) does a great job and it’s a good win for us. It’s always good win a tight game on the road because it gives your kids confidence going forward.”

The Wildcats jumped out to a one-run lead after getting a tally in the second inning. The Cardinals bounced back to chase UK starter Ryne Combs from the game in the bottom of the third inning after loading the bases with no outs, taking a 2-1 lead. UK then plated two runs in the top of the fourth inning, spearheaded by a leadoff walk from All-American A.J. Reed. UK got valuable innings in the middle of the game from Salow (2-1) who worked 3.2 shutout innings, striking out three.

UK added an insurance run in the top of the ninth inning, with Brown coming out to start the ninth having worked 2.1 shutout innings in relief of Combs and Salow. Brown walked the leadoff hitter on four pitches, with UK turning to Cody to try and lock down the save. Cody got a key strikeout of the No. 1 hitter Sutton Whiting, before allowing a hard-hit single down the rightfield line, with Kyle Barrett making a nice play, to put runners on the corners and one out for a pinch hitter. Cody got Danny Rosenbaum to hit into a game-ending double play up the middle, with UK senior shortstop Matt Reida stepping on the bag and firing to first to end the game. It marked the second UK win in Louisville that ended on a double play, as the Wildcats posted a win in 2011 that concluded on a strikeout, caught stealing double play.

“That’s six innings of freshman pitching,” Henderson said about his bullpen effort. “That’s significant on the road, there’s question about that. So those kids are getting better. Zack Brown is getting better, I’ve mentioned that a couple of times. But great job by Salow, outstanding by Zack Brown and then obviously bring Kyle Cody in there, the matchup was good for us at that point but he’s still got to come through and he’s still got to do it and he did.”

A sophomore southpaw, Combs worked over two innings, with his outing ending after loading the bases with no outs in the third and walking in a run. Combs finished with one hit and two runs allowed in his two innings, walking three and striking out two.

A native of Ashland, Ky., Salow came on a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the third, allowing an RBI fielder’s choice before getting out of the jam with a strikeout-throw-out double play.

“It’s the same as it always is,” Salow said about his mindset entering the game. “Just come in, throw strikes and keep the ball low. Make sure we get ground balls and keep getting guys out and keep runs off the board.”

Salow worked 3.2 shutout innings, allowing five singles and striking out three.

“All Logan did was throw strikes and that was it and that’s all we needed to do,” Henderson said. “We needed to throw strikes and if we did that we were going to play enough defense behind him to make it work.”

Brown came on with two on and two outs in the sixth, escaping the jam. Brown finished with 2.1 shutout innings, allowing just one hit and two walks, striking out a career-high three.

“It was big,” Brown said. “It’s a big rivalry for the state kids and coming from Indiana you always know the rivalry exists but you really don’t know how it feels. Definitely being on the mound I got that feeling. (It’s) Pretty significant. Definitely with Louisville coming off that sweep of Houston and coming over here and winning 4-2, it was a good team win. We didn’t really swing the bats well but we found four runs and our ‘pen came in and shut them down.”

“I thought they both did a pretty good job,” Thomas said after catching the strong relief performance from the freshmen. “They didn’t let the pressure of who we are playing or what the game was, or the situation get after them too much. Zack Brown had a little rough patch with his fastball where he couldn’t keep it off the ground but he fought through it which was the big thing. It’s progress for us and for him to go as many innings as he did was even bigger.”

The Wildcats were limited to five hits in the game against a stingy Louisville pitching staff, with Austin Cousino, Max Kuhn, Thomas Bernal, Kyle Barrett and JaVon Shelby each notching singles. UK got a run from Reed, Micheal Thomas and Ka’ai Tom, with Tom and Shelby each driving in runs.

Louisville (27-9) starter Josh Rogers (0-2) worked 3.1 innings, allowing two hits and three runs, walking two and striking out a career-high six. Jake Sparger came on in a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fourth, escaping the jam. Sparger worked 2.1 strong innings, allowing two singles and one walk, striking out one. UL then used lefty Drew Harrington and Jonah Philley to get out of the sixth inning, with Philley getting a huge out to escape the jam. Kyle McGrath started the seventh, getting an out before leaving with an injury. Cole Sturgeon took over to get out of the frame, working 1.2 hitless innings, walking one and striking out three. Robert Strader and Zack Brudi worked the ninth inning for the Cards.

UK will return to action with a three-game series at Texas A&M, starting on Friday in College Station at 7:35 p.m. ET.

The Wildcats got on the board in the top of the second inning, as Thomas was plunked by a pitch to lead off the frame. After a fly out, Bernal lofted a single into shallow centerfield, to extend his hitting streak to nine games. Louisville centerfielder Logan Thomas trapped the ball on the turf with a diving attempt, before throwing the ball into the first base dugout to allow Thomas to score and Bernal to take second.

Louisville answered in the bottom of the third inning, as Alex Chittenden drew a full-count walk to start the inning. Taylor then laid down a bunt on the third-base line for a single and Sutton Whiting loaded the bases after getting hit by a pitch. Combs then walked Sturgeon on four pitches to force in the first UL run of the game. Nick Solak then blooped a would-be single into shallow centerfield, with Cousino fielded the one hop and fired to third base to get Whiting for the first out, with Chittenden scoring from third on the fielder’s choice. Thomas and Salow combined to get out of the jam, as Salow struck out Jeff Gardner on a 3-2 pitch and Thomas threw to get the trail runner trying to steal on a double steal out at second.

UK took a lead in the top of the fourth inning, as Reed drew a 3-1 walk to lead off the game, taking second on a passed ball and moving to third on a well-placed grounder from Thomas. Tom then chopped a grounder to the right side, with Reed scoring and Tom just beating the throw after it was bobbled for an error on Zach Lucas. Barrett then loaded the bases with a full-count single to leftfield, with Shelby forcing in the go-ahead run with a walk on a 3-1 count.

Louisville had a great chance in the bottom of the fifth inning, as the Cards got runners on first and second with two outs, with Brown getting a strikeout of UL slugger Jeff Gardner to end the inning.

“It was key in my inning, I know, because he came up with a guy on third and one out and I threw him a breaker and got him to strike out,” Brown said about facing Gardner in the fifth. “Keeping him out of the hit column, that was definitely big.”

Louisville rallied in the bottom of the seventh as Sturgeon doubled down the rightfield line to lead off the inning, his ninth double of the year. After Colin Lyman’s sacrifice bunt moved Sturgeon to third base with one out, Jeff Gardner went down swinging for the fourth time in the game. Brown then got a deep fly out to the track in leftfield from Zach Lucas to end the threat unscathed.

UK got an insurance run in the top of the ninth inning as Reed lofted a fly ball into the infield, taking second on an error after the ball dropped on the infield turf without hitting the glove of the third baseman. Micheal Thomas then drew a walk to bring up Tom. With Tom at the plate, pinch runner Marcus Carson and Thomas took a pair of bases on two passed balls, with Carson scoring the fourth UK run of the game on a passed ball.


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