LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Sophomore All-America A.J. Reed worked six innings and went 4-for-5 at the plate with a homer and five RBI, leading No. 8 Kentucky to a 21-2 rout of Akron in the series opener on Friday evening at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (8-1) pounded out 18 hits, drew nine walks and was hit by two pitches en route to its highest scoring output since hanging 22 runs on Mississippi State in 2009 in Starkville, Miss. UK plated five runs in the first and then exploded for an 11-run inning in the second, adding a single run in the third and four in the fifth, before emptying the bench with a 21-0 lead.
The Wildcats were led by Reed’s do-everything game, as the southpaw worked six innings and allowed only two runs. At dish, Reed equaled his career high with a 4-for-5 game with five RBI, belting his third homer of the year. He is hitting .378 (14-for-37) on the year with 16 RBI.
“Overall, it was good to get some runs early and see A.J. (Reed) pitch better than he has in his last two outings,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said postgame. “It was really nice to see some of our guys get on track offensively, as well as allowing Jeff Boehm and Tyler Cox to throw a couple of innings.”
UK’s explosive offensive attack was led by Reed’s four hits and five RBI, with junior third baseman Paul McConkey going 2-for-4 with a career-high four RBI, adding a triple and a double. All-America centerfielder Austin Cousino – who has now reached base safely in 67 of his 71 career games – went 3-for-3 with a team-high four runs scored, two walks and an RBI.
“Everyone was seeing the ball well and starting off hot in the early innings really helped,” Cousino said. “It was great for our offense to get back in rhythm.”
Junior second baseman J.T. Riddle continued his torrid pace to the year, extending his hitting streak to 12 games with a 2-for-4 day, adding a pair of walks and RBI, stealing his third bag. The Frankfort, Ky., native has come to the plate 47 times this season and has reached base safely 29 times (62-percent). Riddle leads the team with a .526 average (20-for-38) with 14 runs, three doubles, one triple, one homer and 10 RBI.
The Wildcats also got multiple-hit games from Max Kuhn, who went 2-for-3 with two walks and three RBI, and shortstop Matt Reida, who set a new career high with three runs scored in a 2-for-3 game with a walk. Lucas Witt, Micheal Thomas and Zac Zellers each added hits, with Thomas drawing a walk and Zellers driving in two runs and scoring twice.
Reed (2-1) worked six innings, allowing six hits and two runs, walking two and striking out four. It marked Reed’s first quality start of the year and the third of his two-year UK career. Sophomore lefty Jeff Boehm then worked two shutout innings, before freshman righty Tyler Cox took over to finish the game with a shutout ninth.
“A.J.’s performance on the mound was better than it has been,” Henderson said. “It hasn’t been bad, but it hasn’t been as good as he is going to be. It was a real step forward with his velocity, command and his secondary command. All of it was good. Obviously, his at bats were outstanding and he seems to be seeing it really well.”
“I felt pretty good on the mound today,” Reed said. “I was just trying to throw strikes, keep the ball down and make my pitches, which I did for the most part. I was seeing the ball well today at the plate, and I just did what I could to try to get some hits.”
Akron (0-7) starter Jon Pusateri (0-3) worked an inning, allowing seven hits and nine runs, walking one and striking out one. Michael Steensen, Pay Dyer, Joe Cochran and Joe Vazquez worked in relief, with Cochran saving the bullpen with three shutout innings over the fifth, sixth and seventh.
UK will return to action on Saturday, hosting the Zips at 1 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 WWTF 1580-AM and online at UKathletics.com. UK will send senior southpaw Jerad Grundy (2-0, 0.69 ERA) to the mound to face off with Akron freshman southpaw John Valek (0-1, 5.87 ERA).
The Wildcats jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the bottom half of the first, with Cousino sparking the rally with an infield single to the shortstop. Zellers stood in and was hit by a pitch to give Kentucky runners on first and second for Reed. The sophomore grounded out to the right side but enabled Cousino and Zellers to advance to second and third. A wild pitch ball four brought Cousino in from third, putting Riddle on first from the walk and Zellers advancing to third. Kuhn delivered a single into leftfield and McConkey knocked his first career triple into left center to bring home Kuhn and Riddle and give UK a 4-0 lead. A sac fly into deep leftfield from Witt brought McConkey home and wrapped up Kentucky’s five-run rally.
Reed sat down the side in the top of the second to prepare Kentucky for another run-filled inning.
Kentucky continued to pour on the Zips in the bottom half of the second, adding an 11 spot on the scoreboard. Thomas led off the inning with a nice bunt down the third-base line and Cousino followed up with a single through the right side. With runners on first and second, Zellers dropped down a bunt and a throwing error allowed Thomas to score from second, Cousino to advance to third and Zellers to take second. Reed gave himself some additional run support with a three-run blast over the rightfield fence, scoring Cousino and Zellers.
After the starting pitcher surrendered nine runs in 1.0+ innings of work, Akron brought in Steensen. Steensen started out slow, allowing Riddle and Kuhn to reach on balls. McConkey added an additional two RBI to his stat line with a line-drive double down the rightfield line.
A native of Knoxville, Tenn., McConkey moved over to third on an infield single from Witt and after a stolen base from Witt, Reida walked to load the bases for the inning’s leadoff hitter, Thomas, with no outs. The catcher notched an RBI with a sac fly into leftfield, bringing McConkey across the plate.
With one out, Cousino walked to load the bases again for the Wildcats. Zellers knocked a sacrifice fly into center field, scoring Witt and increasing Kentucky’s lead to 13-0. Akron was forced to make another call to the bullpen in the second, bringing in Dyer.
Reed welcomed Dyer with an RBI single into rightfield, scoring Matt Reida and moving Cousino to third. Riddle delivered another RBI single for Kentucky, this time into left center and Kuhn capped off the inning with Kentucky’s third consecutive RBI single. The 11-run second inning increased Kentucky’s lead to 16-0.
Kentucky added another run in the bottom of the third as Reida singled into right center with one out. Reida moved to second on a ground out and advanced to third on a passed ball. Cousino brought Reida home with a single up the middle, extending the Wildcats’ lead to 17-0 through three.
The Wildcats added another four runs in the bottom of the fifth to move into a 21-0 lead through five. A Reida single followed by two walks loaded the bases for Zellers. Zellers’ second hit by pitch brought across Reida and left the bases loaded. Jacob Russell pinch ran for Zellers and Reed notched another RBI with a single to centerfield, scoring Thomas. Riddle singled to left to score Cousino and Kuhn brought Russell home with a sacrifice fly to left.
The Zips used the top of the sixth to add two on the scoreboard. Begun led off the inning with a single through the left side before Matt Rembielak doubled down the right field line to give Akron runners on second and third with no outs. Devan Ahart drove in the Zips’ first run of the evening with a single through the right side, scoring Begun from third and advancing Rembielak to third. Matt Larocca knocked a sac fly to left to bring Rembielak home and leave the Zips trailing 21-2 through six.