CINCINNATI -- Behind a career-high four hits from Thomas McCarthy, three hits from Luke Maile, including his sixth homer of the year, and 5.2 shutout innings from freshman Chandler Shepherd, No. 2 Kentucky posted a 10-7 win over Cincinnati – to extend its school-record winning streak to 22 games to open 2012 – on a gorgeous Wednesday night at Marge Schott Stadium.
Kentucky (22-0) won its school-record 22nd consecutive game to open the season, as the Wildcats lead the NCAA in wins and longest winning streak. UK has now equaled the second-best winning streak in the storied history of the Southeastern Conference, tying the 22-game winning streak set by the 2000 South Carolina Gamecocks. LSU owns the SEC record – a 23-game winning streak – with a 23-game streak that began on April 22, 2008 vs. Tulane and ended on June 1, 2008 against UC Irvine in the NCAA Super Regional.
The Wildcats were paced at the plate by one of the hottest hitters in college baseball, Maile, UK’s star catcher and first baseman. After belting two homers, including a Friday-night walk-off homer in a series sweep of No. 2 South Carolina over the weekend, Maile launched his sixth homer of the year in the win over UC, reaching base safely in all six plate appearances. Maile finished 3-for-3 with two RBI, a double, a homer, two walks and a 3-2 count hit by pitch. UK also got a career-best four hits from McCarthy, who added his fifth double of 2012.
UK got hits from all nine members of the starting lineup, as A.J. Reed, Cameron Flynn and Michael Williams each recorded multiple-hit games. J.T. Riddle, Matt Reida, Austin Cousino and Zac Zellers each added hits.
UK starter Chandler Shepherd (2-0) worked a career-long 5.2 innings, allowing five hits and two runs, not issuing a walk and striking out two. Shepherd faced only two three-ball counts in the game, finishing just one out shy of his first career quality start. Walter Wijas came on to replace him with two outs and a runner at third base in the sixth inning, getting out of the inning and getting an out in the seventh. Wijas allowed two runs without surrendering a hit, walking one and striking out one. Tim Peterson replaced him with one out and two on in the seventh, allowing two hits and two runs, and getting two outs. Senior lefty Alex Phillips took over in the eighth inning, and tossed the final two innings for his first save of the year and the third of his two-year career, allowing three hits and one run.
Cincinnati (8-11) starter Grant Walker (1-1) worked 3.2 innings, allowing seven hits and five runs, walking two and striking out two. Jason Pascuzzi replaced him in the fourth, getting out of the jam and working one inning, allowing four hits and one run. He was relieved by Matthew Lathuras, who tossed 1.1 frames with two this and one run allowed. Thomas Gentile replaced Lathuras, working a shutout inning, with Ryan Atkinson taking over in the eighth and allowing one run on one hit and one walk in an inning. Zach Isler took over for Atkinson in the ninth, allowing two hits and two runs in 0.2 innings, with Evan Hills ending the ninth with one out.
UK will return to action with its second Southeastern Conference series of the year, traveling to face Tennessee for a three-game series in Knoxville, starting Friday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. All three games will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with Dick Gabriel on the call.
The Wildcats jumped on the board in the top of the first inning, as Cousino led off the inning with a full-count walk, taking second after a balk was called during Zellers’ at bat. Zellers then grounded out to the right side, to move Cousino to third with one out for Maile. Maile then lofted a single to leftfield over the drawn in infield, scoring Cousino. Reed followed and extended his hitting streak to a club-high 13 games with a liner into the gap, allowing Maile to motor to third base. Flynn then hung a sacrifice fly to rightfield – his SEC-leading fifth of the year – to score Maile from third base. McCarthy then delivered some clutch hitting with a double to deep centerfield, scoring Reed from first base.
UK added a run in the top of the third inning, as Maile smashed his sixth homer of the year as a no-doubt blast as the first pitch over the left-centerfield fence, giving UK a 4-0 lead.
The Wildcats added to its lead in the top of the fourth inning, as Riddle led off by chopping a grounder into the hole on the right side, forcing an off balance throw to first that sailed wide, allowing Riddle to take second on the two-base error. Williams then scored Riddle with a hard-hit single ripped to leftfield. After a pair of fielder’s choices, Zellers singled into the gap in left-centerfield, pushing Cousino to third base, with Zellers taking second on the throw. Maile was then intentionally walked to load the bases for Reed, brining on a left-handed reliever to end Walker’s day. Reed narrowly missed the grand slam on the left-on-left matchup, as his two-out fly ball was caught against the wall in rightfield for the final out.
In the fifth inning, UK added a run to make it 6-0. After a leadoff out, McCarthy singled through the left side, with Riddle replacing him at first base after a fielder’s choice. Riddle then moved to second after Williams singled to the opposite field. Reida then notched his eighth two-out RBI of the year with a single through the right side, allowing Riddle to score his second run of the contest.
The Wildcats added a run in the top of the sixth frame, as Reed replaced Maile at first base after an unorthodox fielder’s choice on a dropped fly in the outfield. McCarthy then ripped a single up the middle and Riddle scored Reed with a single into the right-centerfield gap for a 7-0 UK lead.
Cincinnati got on the board for the first time in the sixth inning with some two-out hitting, cutting the UK lead to 7-2. After a leadoff out, Jake Proctor snapped Shepherd’s streak of 15 consecutive hitters retired with a single through the left side and Taylor Schmidt followed with a single to rightfield. After a line-out, Braden Kline tripled off the diving glove of Cousino in right-centerfield, scoring Proctor and Schmidt.
The Bearcats plated four runs on two hits in the bottom of the seventh to cut the UK lead to 7-6. After a leadoff out, Wijas hit Kiley Jones on the first pitch and walked J.P. Jackson. Pinch hitter T.J. Jones then singled up the middle and Proctor scored two with a triple into the gap. Schmidt then scored another with a sacrifice fly to leftfield.
UK immediately answered with a run in the top of the eighth, as Flynn led off with a single to centerfield and McCarthy drew a four-pitch walk. After a fielder’s choice on an attempted sacrifice bunt got McCarthy out at second base and put runners on the corners with one out, Williams was struck out to bring up Reida. With two strikes on Reida, Flynn motored home to score on a wild pitch, making it 8-6 UK.
The Wildcats added two runs with some two-out hitting in the ninth inning, as Zellers led off with a laser down the leftfield line, taking second on an error. Maile then drew another walk and after a Reed strikeout, Flynn smacked a single through the left side to score Zellers from second. McCarthy then notched his fourth hit of the game with a single up the middle to give UK a 10-6 lead and chase Isler.
UC got on the board in the bottom of the ninth inning, as Jackson reached on a fielder’s choice, scoring on Proctor’s RBI single.
GAME NOTES: Freshman A.J. Reed extended his hitting streak to a club-high and career-long 13 games with a single in the first … Cameron Flynn hung his SEC-leading fifth sacrifice fly of the year in the first inning … Thomas McCarthy had a two-out, RBI double in the first inning, his fifth double of the year and his fourth two-out RBI of the season … Chandler Shepherd made his first career road start … Maile hit his team-leading sixth homer of the year and has now homered in three of his last four games … Maile was intentionally walked for the second time in 2012 … Zac Zellers’ single in the fourth inning was his eighth two-out hit of the year … Matt Reida recorded his ninth hit of the year with two outs, driving in his eighth two-out RBI, with eight of his 12 RBI in 2012 coming with two outs … Maile was hit by his eighth pitch of the year, reaching in his fourth consecutive plate appearance in the sixth … McCarthy had a career-high four hits … Shepherd had his career-long streak of 15 consecutive hitters snapped with a pair of back-to-back singles in the sixth … Shepherd faced only two three-ball counts in his outing, which lasted a career-long 5.2 innings, one out shy of his first career quality start … Maile launched his sixth double of the year in the seventh inning … Tim Peterson made his staff-leading 12th relief outing of the year … Riddle was hit by his sixth pitch of the year … UK’s 22-game winning streak extends a school record, equaling South Carolina’s 22-game streak in 2000 for the second-longest winning streak in SEC baseball history … Alex Phillips recorded his first save of the year and the third of his two-year career.