LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Behind a three-run homer from freshman centerfielder Austin Cousino and a three-RBI game from senior catcher Michael Williams, No. 2 Kentucky extended its home winning streak to a school-record 19 games, with a 7-4 win over Western Kentucky, on a pleasant Tuesday night in front of 2,385 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (25-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) won its school-record 19th consecutive home game, eclipsing the previous record of 16 straight home wins in 2007 and 2008. UK’s 19-game home winning streak ranks second in the NCAA, behind the 24-game home winning streak of Dartmouth.
The Wildcats improved its nation-leading win total, owning the best record in the nation. UK fell behind after a two-run first inning for the Hilltoppers but answered with a run in the second to narrow the lead before taking the advantage on a two-RBI single from Williams in the fourth. UK added four runs in the sixth, before WKU made it a contest with two runs in the eighth.
UK was led offensively by Cousino and Williams, with Cousino batting 2-for-5 with his third homer of the year, a three-run job in the sixth inning. Williams picked up where he left off during his hot weekend at Tennessee, batting 2-for-3 with three RBI and a walk. UK also got two hits from senior third sacker Thomas McCarthy and sophomore leftfielder Lucas Witt, with Witt drawing a walk, getting hit by a pitch and stealing a career-high two bases, reaching base safely in all four plate appearances. The Wildcats also got hits from J.T. Riddle – who added a jaw-dropping defensive play early in the game in shallow centerfield – and Matt Reida.
UK starter Chandler Shepherd worked 4.1 innings, allowing five hits and two runs, walking two and striking out a career-high equaling five. Freshman Sam Mahar (1-0) took over in the fifth inning with two runners in scoring position and one out, getting consecutive strikeouts to get out of the jam. Mahar worked a career-long three innings, allowing two hits and two runs – one earned – walking one and striking out a career-best five. Tim Peterson took over for Mahar with two on and one out in the eighth inning, getting out of the jam with two outs and getting an out to start the ninth. Trevor Gott finished off the game with the final two outs.
Western Kentucky (10-14) starter Austin Clay (3-3) worked 3.2 innings, allowing six hits and three runs, walking one and striking out four. Colton Satterlee replaced him in the fourth, going 1.1 innings without allowing a hit, allowing two runs on one walk with one strikeout. Tate Glasscock worked two innings, allowing four hits and two runs. Ross Hammonds pitched the bottom of the eighth inning without a base runner.
UK returns to action with a three-game road series at No. 18 Georgia, starting Friday at 7 p.m. ET at Foley Field. The three-game series will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK baseball, Neil Price, calling the action.
Western Kentucky took an early lead with two runs in the top of the first inning. After Ivan Hartle drew a full-count walk and Shepherd struck out Jared Andreoli, Ryan Hutchison connected on a two-run homer off the videoboard in left centerfield, putting the Toppers up 2-0.
UK answered with a run in the bottom of the second inning, as McCarthy ripped a leadoff single up the middle and Witt drew a one-out walk. Williams then drilled a hard-hit single through the left side to score McCarthy from second base and cut the WKU lead in half.
The Wildcats gained the lead with two runs on three hits in the bottom of the fourth inning. Riddle led off with a double into the right-centerfield gap, taking third after Witt smacked a single to leftfield, stealing second base to put a pair of runners in scoring position for Williams. Williams delivered again, ripping a single up the middle to score the duo and give UK a 3-2 lead.
Kentucky stretched its lead with four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Witt led off by getting hit by a pitch, stealing second base for the second time in the game. Williams then drew a walk to bring up Reida. Reida laid down a perfect bunt single down the third base line, with the throw going wide for an error that allowed Witt to score and Williams to take third. Cousino followed and ripped a first-pitch bomb over the rightfield fence, his third homer of the year.
The Hilltoppers rallied for two runs on two hits and a UK error in the eighth inning, as Hartle led off with a single and Andreoli drew a walk. After Mahar struck out Hutchison for the first out, Dykes hit a grounder at first base, with UK trying to get the runner at second on the fielder’s choice, with the ball sailing into leftfield for an error and allowing Hartle to score, Dykes to move up to second and Andreoli to take third. Scott Wilcox then singled through the right side, scoring Andreoli.
GAME NOTES: With a single to leadoff the second inning, Thomas McCarthy has now reached base safely in 17 consecutive games … A.J. Reed was hit by his second pitch of 2012 … Zac Zellers was plunked by his SEC-leading 14th pitch of the year in the fourth inning … J.T. Riddle recorded his sixth double of 2012 … Chandler Shepherd tied a career high with five strikeouts … Lucas Witt stole his third base of the year, equaling his 2011 freshman stolen base total … After stranding two runners in the fifth inning, freshman Sam Mahar has allowed only two of his seven total inherited runners to score in 2012 … Witt was plunked by his third pitch of the year to lead off the sixth inning … Witt stole another base in the sixth, his second of the game and his career-high fourth of the year … The two-steal game for Witt was a career-high … Austin Cousino hit his third homer of the season in the sixth inning, his second consecutive game with a homer … Cousino is the second Wildcat to homer in consecutive games in 2012, joining Cameron Flynn’s homers in consecutive games vs. Canisius … Cousino’s three RBI game ties a career high … Mahar worked a career-high three innings, striking out a career-best five … Michael Williams tied a career-high with his three RBI … Reed had his 16-game hitting streak snapped, ranking as the longest hitting streak since Sawyer Carroll ended his career with a 16-game streak in 2008.