LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Junior outfielder Zac Zellers recorded a career-high four hits and newcomers Cameron Flynn and A.J. Reed each charted two hits to lead No. 23 Kentucky from behind for a 10-6 win, extending the nation’s longest winning streak, on a pleasant Tuesday evening at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (12-0) found itself down by three runs twice in the game with Tennessee Tech, coached by former UK star Matt Bragga. The Wildcats fell behind in a 3-0 hole after the top of the fourth and after rallying to even up the game, allowed TTU to take a 6-3 lead after the top of the seventh inning. UK mounted a furious rally in the bottom of the seventh to plate six runs and secure the win, adding an insurance tally in the eighth inning.
With the win, UK improved on its NCAA-leading 12-0 record, with the Wildcats checking in as one of only two undefeated teams remaining in college baseball, joining 10-0 Gonzaga. UK leads the Southeastern Conference in batting average, on-base percentage and fielding percentage entering Tuesday. In the latest NCAA stats, UK ranks ninth in average, eighth in runs scored and eighth in home runs.
The Wildcats were led offensively by Zellers, who collected a career-best four hits and three runs scored, launching a pair of doubles. Flynn and Reed each had two hits, with Reed delivering a pair of clutch RBI hits and Flynn two RBI on his two knocks. Reed, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound freshman, leads the SEC with 20 RBI through his first 12 college games.
Freshman centerfielder Austin Cousino extended his hitting streak to a club-best 11 games – every game of his college career – while UK junior catcher Luke Maile snapped his 10-game hitting streak with a pair of sacrifice flies. UK also got hits from J.T. Riddle and Matt Reida, with Reida driving in two, two-out runs in the seventh inning. UK senior catcher Michael Williams returned to the lineup after missing the last five games due to an injury precaution, drawing two walks and delivering a clutch RBI single in the seventh-inning rally.
UK freshman starter Chandler Shepherd – making his second career start – worked over three innings, allowing six hits and three runs, walking two and striking out one. Senior Alex Phillips relieved Shepherd with a runner in scoring position and no outs in the fourth inning, getting UK out of the jam. Phillips tossed a career-high 3.2 innings with a career-best four strikeouts, allowing one hit and two runs, walking two – one intentionally. Tim Peterson (1-0) picked up his first career win with 1.1 innings in relief, allowing his first career run. Sam Mahar and Trevor Gott finished off the game for the Wildcats in the ninth.
Tennessee Tech (4-7) starter Cullen Park – the Golden Eagles closer – worked four innings, allowing three hits and one run, walking three without recording a strikeout. Josh Bryant took over for Park to start the fifth, with Andy Williams, Jacob McWhirter and Seth Lucio also pitching in relief.
UK returns to action on Wednesday, hosting Marshall at 4 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. 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. UK will send Reed (1-0, 1.35 ERA) to the mound for his second career start against Marshall freshman righty John McGillicuddy (0-0, 16.20 ERA).
Shepherd took the hill for the Wildcats in just the second start of his career. Shepherd retired the leadoff hitter before Michael Morris reached base on a line drive to left center with one out. After a deep out to right, Zach Stephens singled through the left side of the infield. Shepherd worked out of the two out jam, forcing an Evan Frazier groundout to shortstop Matt Reida to end the inning.
The Eagles would threaten in the top of the second as Tennessee Tech leftfielder Josh Abraham led off the inning with a double down the third-base line. Abraham stole third with no outs before a ground out to third by Dylan Bosheers. Shepherd kept battling as he forced Chad Hayes to fly out the first baseman Reed in foul territory. With two outs and a runner still on third, Shepherd struck out Robert Roach to get out of the jam, stranding Abraham on third and keeping the Eagles scoreless.
Park continued his scoreless work in the second as he forced a Maile ground out to shortstop. Reed reached base for the Wildcats via walk and advanced to second on a Park balk. With two outs, Williams reached first on a walk but both would be stranded.
Tennessee Tech was the first on the scoreboard as Morris nailed a home run over the rightfield fence with one out in the top of the third.
Hayes stepped up and drove both base runners in with a double off the leftfield wall, putting the Eagles up 3-0 with Philips replacing Shepherd on the hill. Attempting to sacrifice Hayes over to third, Roach struck out swinging on a failed bunt attempt. Wulf grounded out to first, advancing Hayes to third with two outs. Morris walked, putting runners on first and third before Phillips forced Burgess to ground out to third, ending the top of the fourth with Tennessee Tech leading 3-0.
Kentucky found the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth thanks to a two-out rally started by an infield hit from second basemen Riddle. Williams followed with a walk to put runners on first and second. Lexington native Flynn stepped up to the occasion with a base hit to leftfield, knocking in Riddle from second.
Phillips kept it going in the fifth, retiring the side as Kentucky entered the bottom of the fifth ready to make a move. Cousino led Kentucky off with a walk and moved in to scoring position on a base hit up the middle by a Zellers. McCarthy sacrificed bunt, moving Cousino to third and Zellers to second. Maile drilled a deep fly ball to left, scoring Cousino on the sacrifice fly. Reed then drilled a double off the left-center wall, scoring Zellers and leaving the game tied through five.
With one out in the top of the seventh, Morris stayed hot with a double to right center for the Eagles. Phillips retired Burgess and with two outs made the decision to intentionally walk Burgess. With runners on first and second and two outs, Phillips was replaced by right-handed reliever Peterson. Peterson’s appearance started rough as the first pitch from Peterson, Frazier cleared the bases with a home run to right center. Peterson finished out the top of the seventh with the Wildcats trailing 6-3.
Kentucky rallied after Tennessee Tech’s three-run seventh inning as Cousino led off the Wildcats with a double down the leftfield line. Zellers matched Cousino with a double down the line, scoring Cousino and leaving the Wildcats down two. Zellers moved to third on a ground ball to the right side by Maile. With two outs Reed singled to right, scoring Zellers and tying the game at 6-6. Riddle reached base on a hit by pitch and Williams singled through the right side of the infield to score Reed. Lucio replaced McWhirter on the mound for the Eagles but the Wildcats weren’t done as Flynn singled to center, scoring Riddle, advancing Williams to third and Flynn to second on the throw. Reida nailed a line-drive single to right, scoring Flynn and Williams.
In the bottom of the eighth, Kentucky wasn’t finished scoring as Zellers led off Kentucky with a hit to the left side of the infield. McCarthy walked and the base runners advanced to second and third with no outs. Maile produced his second RBI of the night with sacrifice fly to left field that scored Zellers and gave Kentucky a 10-6 lead through eight.