LEXINGTON, Ky. – Behind a dominating first career start from freshman right-hander Chandler Shepherd and a three-hit game from catcher Luke Maile, the Kentucky baseball team pounded out 12 hits and posted a 9-2 win over Xavier, on a pleasant Wednesday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (8-0) – the Southeastern Conference leader in batting average and slugging percentage – continued its 2012 offensive explosion with nine runs on 12 hits, including six walks and three hits batters. The Wildcats were led offensively by Maile, who batted 3-for-3 with a walk and a career-high three runs scored, launching his third homer of the year. Senior Thomas McCarthy drilled his second homer of the year and despite not reaching base safely in Tuesday’s win over Morehead State, has reached base safely in 60 of his 62 career UK starts.
UK also got two hits from freshmen Austin Cousino and Thomas Bernal, with J.T. Riddle, Paul McConkey, Brian Adams and Matt Reida each recording hits. Freshman A.J. Reed drew a game-high two walks and scored a run, with sophomore leftfielder Lucas Witt also drawing a walk. Cousino led UK with three RBI, with both his hits coming as RBI knocks.
UK starter Chandler Shepherd (1-0) turned in a dynamic start in his first career starting assignment. The 6-foot-3 righty tossed five shutout innings, allowing only two hits and one walk, striking out five.
UK then turned to freshman southpaw Sam Mahar relieved Shepherd in the sixth and tossed a shutout inning, before right-hander Chris Garrison took over in the seventh, tossing one inning with two hits and two runs allowed. Junior right-hander Tim Peterson tossed a shutout eighth inning with a strikeout and freshman Jeff Boehm got two outs in his first career pitching appearance, one by strikeout, and Walter Wijas came on to get the final out of the game on one pitch.
Xavier (1-6) starter Alex Westrick (0-1) went three innings, allowing three hits and two runs, walking three and striking out two. XU also used Jacob Bodner, Scott Klever, Nathan Mutsch, Alex Vice and Seth Willoughby relieved Westrick and tossed the remainder of the game.
Kentucky returns to action with a three-game series on the weekend with Illinois-Chicago, starting on Friday at 4 p.m. ET.
The Kentucky offense jumped into the hit column and also plated the first run of the game in the bottom of the second when Maile laced a line drive into short left field. After a walk to designated hitter Reed, Riddle laid down a sacrifice bunt to move over Maile and Reed. Following the sacrifice, Witt walked to load them up for Bernal. Bernal laced a rocket to the shortstop that had no play to get an out, which led to Maile crossing home.
In the bottom of the third, Zellers took a pitch to the midsection, and after a Maile double down the line moved him to third, Reed scored him home on a RBI groundout.
In the bottom of the fourth, Bernal came up with one out and singled up the box, followed by a Reida double which snuck in just to the right of the third-base line and advanced Bernal to third. Cousino then knocked a base hit through the box, scoring both Bernal and Reida and giving the Wildcats a 4-0 lead heading into the fifth.
After a scoreless top half, the Kentucky bats come alive again when Maile hits a gargantuan shot over the leftfield fence. Reed then followed with a walk and Riddle moved him over with a single through the right side. Adams then hits a fly ball to the right-center allowing Reed to tag and advance to third. The throw got cut off back to first from the shortstop which scooted away from the first baseman and allowed Reed to score and move Riddle to second. With Riddle on second, Cousino then hit a hard liner up the middle, scoring Riddle.
McCarthy led off the inning by depositing a 1-0 pitch into the night sky and carrying over the wall in left. Maile’s walk followed the blast and he would advance to second on a passed ball and tag up on a fly ball to right-centerfield by Reed. McConkey then was inserted to pinch hit for Riddle and scored Maile with another hit up the middle, McConkey’s first hit of the year and his second career RBI.
Xavier got on the board in the top of the seventh when Nittoli hit a leadoff single. He then was moved to second on a passed ball. Noble then laced a hard line drive that just landed in front of Cousino, which held Nittoli at second. Forney then walked, setting up Moore who grounded slow enough to Reida that his only play was to second, which allowed Nittoli to score and Noble move up to third. After a successful pickoff by Garrison, a balk was issued and allowed the Musketeers to add one more when Noble touches home.