SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Sophomore All-America southpaw A.J. Reed worked five innings on the mound and went a career-best 4-for-5 at the plate with three RBI, leading No. 8 Kentucky to a 9-2 season-opening win over UNC Asheville, on a gorgeous Friday afternoon at Wofford’s Russell C. King Field.
A 6-foot-4, 245-pound native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed highlighted the win for the Wildcats, working five innings with two runs allowed on the mound and equaling his career-best with a 4-for-5 game and three RBI at the dish, including his first career triple.
“It was a lot of fun,” Reed said about his opening game. “It is always good to get a win in your first game. I was just going out there to try and do what I could to help the team get the win. Getting the start on the first game, there is a little bit of pressure and you are a little bit fired up, your adrenaline is going a little bit. You just got to settle down and make a pitch when you needed to and I was able to for the most part.”
Junior second baseman J.T. Riddle also starred in UK’s season-opening win, going a career-high equaling 3-for-4 in his first career start at the cleanup hitter. A native of Frankfort, Ky., Riddle pounded doubles off the left and rightfield walls, marking his first career multiple-double game.
“My approach was just to get the foot down, that is what I have been working on for the last month or so,” Riddle said about his mindset entering the opener. “Just see the ball and hit it where it is pitched. I knew they were going pitch me away all day and I got that first double down the leftfield line, which felt great to get. Later on they came inside and I just went with the ball, focused on the middle and hit it where it was pitched.”
Kentucky (1-0) also got multiple-hit games from All-America centerfielder Austin Cousino, who went 2-for-4 with two walks and reached on an error, also stealing two bases. Rightfielder Zac Zellers went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a walk, while leftfielder Lucas Witt added a 2-for-5 game with an RBI. Max Kuhn – making his first career start – Paul McConkey and Matt Reida each added hits.
The Wildcats will play their second game of the 2013 season on Saturday, facing USC Upstate at 4 p.m. ET at Harley Park. UK will send preseason All-American Corey Littrell to the mound to face off with USC Upstate ace lefty David Roseboom. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, available in Lexington on WWTF 1580-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Reed (1-0) tossed five innings, allowing six hits and two runs, not issuing a walk and striking out four. He was relieved to start the sixth by senior Walter Wijas, who worked 1.2 innings, allowing two hits and walking one, striking out one. Freshman Dylan Dwyer took over for Wijas in a two-out, two-on jam in the bottom of the seventh, getting a groundout to escape the threat. Freshman Kyle Cody worked a perfect ninth inning, striking out one in his collegiate debut.
UNC Asheville (0-1) starter Dean Roland (0-1) worked five innings, allowing eight hits and four runs, walking two and striking out two. Ethan Steible, Nick Schavone and Brian Connolly, Evan Joura and Andrew Kirkland pitched in relief of Roland.
Kentucky got on the board in the top of the first as Cousino laced a two-strike single into right-centerfield. With Cousino bluffing a steal, Zellers drove a single into the gap on the right side of the infield to set the stage for Reed. Reed pounded an RBI single into centerfield to score Cousino from centerfield. After another hit and run by Riddle pushed two runners into scoring position, Kuhn grounded out to score Zellers and Witt ripped a 1-0 single into centerfield to score Reed and give UK a 3-0 lead.
“I was pumped up,” Riddle said about his first at bat. “I was ready to get out there and ready to play. That first at bat, I felt like I had a good at bat and got to see a lot of pitches. My thought was when I got two strikes to just to something to get those runners over. I did my job and was happy with that and kept a good mindset going into the next at bats.”
UNC Asheville cut the UK lead to 3-1 with a two-out run in the bottom of the second. Ian Graham reached on a two-out single and after an extensive battle, Phillip Treadway doubled down the rightfield line, allowing Graham to score.
Kentucky got the run back in the top of the third, as Riddle led off with a laser off the 15-foot tall wall in leftfield, taking second on a double. Kuhn then pushed Riddle to third base with a groundout to the right side and McConkey scored Riddle with a groundout to first base for a 4-1 UK lead.
UNC Asheville got a run back in the bottom of the fifth inning, as Eli Miller led off getting hit by a pitch, scoring on Robert McIntosh’s one-out triple into right-centerfield.
UK notched two runs in the top of the sixth to stretched its lead to 6-2. Reida singled to centerfield to lead, taking second on a Micheal Thomas sacrifice bunt. Cousino drew a walk and Zellers poked a single to leftfield to score Reida, with Cousino hustling to third base. After sliding safely into third, Cousino was called out after separating from the base for the first out, with Zellers moving to third on the throw. Reed then laced a single to left-centerfield to score Zellers from second base.
In the eighth inning, Cousino led off with a hard-hit chopper back to the mound, bouncing off the glove of the pitcher and going as an error. After a strikeout, Reed pounded a triple off the 15-foot high wall in centerfield – his first career triple – scoring Cousino. Reed’s blast sailed over the head of the centerfielder, bouncing off the wall, with Reed having a hankering for a triple with a full-extension slide into third base. Riddle then followed with a double off the rightfield wall, scoring Reed from third. McConkey then smashed a single to centerfield to plate Riddle from second base.
“When I first hit it, I thought it was a fly out to centerfield and I just put my head down and started running,” Reed said about his triple. “When I rounded first I looked up and he was still going back. I thought ‘this might even get out of here or it might fall.’ I saw it kick off the fence and I was coming up to second base and thought ‘I am going to try and get a triple out of this’. I got in the dugout and my teammates said they were just as surprised as I was. It was a good time. It got everyone fired up, got me fired up. It kind of just turned the game around and got the momentum back on our side.”