LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Senior Jerad Grundy worked eight shutout, two-hit innings and struck out a career-high 12, not allowing a runner to get past first base, leading No. 8 Kentucky to a 7-0 series-clinching win over Akron, on Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (9-1) rode the strike-throwing left arm of its senior Grundy (3-0), who worked eight dominating innings. The Johnsburg, Ill., native allowed only a pair of singles, striking out a new career-high 12, not issuing a walk and not allowing a base runner to advance past first base. Grundy’s pitching prowess was in full effect throughout the game, retiring the first eight hitters he faced – including seven by strikeout – before allowing an infield single that was grabbed by UK’s junior shortstop, Matt Reida.
“Jerad (Grundy) did a great job,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “He had eight innings of no walks, two hits and 12 punch-outs. I thought he was on top of it the entire day and I was really glad to see him improve.”
After the third-inning single, Grundy retired the next 13 hitters he faced, needing only 86 pitches and 68 strikes to cruise through eight frames. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound transfer from Miami (Fla.) and Heartland College, has put up staggering numbers in his first three starts of the year, owning a 3-0 record and a 0.43 ERA. He has worked 21 innings and allowed only nine hits, one earned run and three walks, striking out 24 and holding foes to a .125 average.
“I worked ahead for the most part,” Grundy said. “I got a lot of contact early. I also had a lot of three and five-count at bats. We made all the plays that we needed to and didn’t give them any extra outs.”
Rated as the seventh-best senior in college baseball in the preseason by Baseball America, Grundy got seven runs of support for his pitching gem, with UK busting up the scoreless duel with an A.J. Reed solo homer in the fourth inning, his fourth homer of the year and his second straight game with a blast. UK then added three-run frames in the fifth and sixth innings, with Reed finishing with a 3-for-4 game with three RBI and a walk.
“(Jerad) Grundy just commanded the fastball and the change-up,” Freshman catcher Greg Fettes said. “When you have those two working, it is really hard to hit. He was hitting his spots and that is all you can ask.”
Fettes had a career-high 3-for-4 game with two RBI and two runs scored in his second career start. UK also got a two-hit game from leftfielder Lucas Witt, who went 2-for-3 with two steals. Austin Cousino, Zac Zellers and J.T. Riddle each added hits, with Riddle extending his hitting streak to a club-best 13 games. A native of Frankfort, Ky., Riddle has reached base safely in 30 of 52 trips to the plate in 2013.
UK also got walks from Max Kuhn and Thomas Bernal, with Reida laying down a sacrifice bunt and stealing a base and pinch runner Kyle Barrett also seeing action.
In just his third start of the year, with UK holding a seven-run lead, needing to get some pitchers work and playing in inclement weather, Grundy’s outing was finished after eight innings. Freshman southpaw Dylan Dwyer tossed a shutout frame in the ninth to complete the win, his sixth straight shutout inning to open his collegiate career.
The win gives UK its sixth straight victory and its 10th consecutive win at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The Wildcats six-game winning streak is their longest since a school-record 22-game win streak to open the 2012 season, the second-longest winning streak in Southeastern Conference history.
Akron (0-8) starter John Valek (0-2) worked 5.2 innings, allowing seven hits and seven runs – five earned – walking two and striking out two. Zach Beaver, Andrew Fanning and Daulton Mosbarger each worked an inning in relief.
UK and Akron will conclude the series on Sunday, with first pitch slated for 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with Dick Gabriel voicing the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the game live on WWTF 1580-AM and online at UKathletics.com. UK will send junior lefty Corey Littrell (0-0, 6.52 ERA) vs. Akron junior right-hander J.T. Brubaker (0-2, 5.25 ERA).
The Wildcats took an early lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Reed smashed a no-doubt missle over the rightfield fence. The blast was Reed’s fourth of the year, equaling his career high, and marked the third homer of the week and the second straight game with a home run.
In the fifth inning, UK stretched its lead to 4-0 with three runs on three hits and an Akron error. Witt led off with a single up the middle, taking second on Reida’s sacrifice bunt. Fettes then poked a double down the rightfield line to score Witt. After a Cousino groundout pushed Fettes to third base, a throwing error allowed Zellers to reach first and Fettes to score. Akron then intentionally walked Reed to face Riddle, who entered the at bat with a .500 average. Riddle hung a single into shallow centerfield to score Reed with UK’s fourth run of the game.
UK added three runs in the sixth frame for the final margin, 7-0. Bernal led off with a walk, taking second on Witt’s sacrifice bunt. After a hard-hit out by Reida, Fettes singled to leftfield to score Bernal from second base. Cousino then singled up the middle and Zellers drew a walk to load the bags for Reed. The left-handed hitter delivered a rope to rightfield to score a pair and extend UK’s lead to seven runs.