CINCINNATI — Behind a career-high four hits from Thomas McCarthy, three hits from Luke Maile, including his sixth homer of the year, and 5.2 shutout innings from freshman Chandler Shepherd, No. 2 Kentucky posted a 10-7 victory against Cincinnati to extend its school-record winning streak to 22 games to open 2012.
UK has now equaled the second-best winning streak in the storied history of the Southeastern Conference, tying the 22-game winning streak set by the 2000 South Carolina Gamecocks. LSU owns the SEC record – a 23-game winning streak – with a 23-game streak that began on April 22, 2008 vs. Tulane and ended on June 1, 2008 against UC Irvine in the NCAA Super Regional.
The Wildcats were paced at the plate by one of the hottest hitters in college baseball, Maile. After belting two homers, including a Friday-night walk-off homer in a series sweep of No. 2 South Carolina over the weekend, Maile launched his sixth homer of the year in the victory against UC, reaching base safely in all six plate appearances. Maile finished 3-for-3 with two RBI, a double, a homer, two walks and a 3-2 count hit by pitch. UK also got a career-best four hits from McCarthy, who added his fifth double of 2012.
UK got hits from all nine members of the starting lineup, as A.J. Reed, Cameron Flynn and Michael Williams each recorded multiple-hit games. J.T. Riddle, Matt Reida, Austin Cousino and Zac Zellers each added hits.
UK starter Chandler Shepherd (2-0) worked a career-long 5.2 innings, allowing five hits and two runs with no walks and two strikeouts. Shepherd faced only two three-ball counts in the game, finishing just one out shy of his first career quality start. Walter Wijas came on to replace him with two outs and a runner at third in the sixth inning, getting out of the inning and getting an out in the seventh. Wijas allowed two runs without surrendering a hit, walking one and striking out one. Tim Peterson replaced him with one out and two on in the seventh and allowed two runs on two hits before closing out the inning. Senior lefty Alex Phillips took over in the eighth inning and got his first save of the year, allowing three hits and one run.
Cincinnati starter Grant Walker (1-1) worked 3.2 innings, allowing seven hits and five runs, walking two and striking out two. Jason Pascuzzi replaced him in the fourth, getting out of the jam and working one inning, allowing four hits and one run. He was relieved by Matthew Lathuras, who tossed 1.1 innings, allowing a run on two hits. Thomas Gentile replaced Lathuras, working a shutout inning, with Ryan Atkinson taking over in the eighth and allowing one run on one hit and one walk in an inning. Zach Isler took over for Atkinson in the ninth, allowing two hits and two runs in 0.2 innings, with Evan Hills ending the ninth with one out.
The Wildcats jumped on the board in the top of the first inning, as Cousino led off the inning with a walk. Cosino then took second after a balk was called during Zellers’ at bat. Zellers then grounded out to the right side to move Cousino to third with one out for Maile. Maile then lofted a single to leftfield over the drawn in infield, scoring Cousino. Reed followed and extended his hitting streak to a club-high 13 games with a liner into the gap, allowing Maile to reach third. Flynn then hung a sacrifice fly to right – his SEC-leading fifth of the year – to score Maile from third. McCarthy then roped a double to deep centerfield, scoring Reed from first.
UK added a run in the top of the third inning, as Maile smashed his sixth homer of the year over the left-centerfield fence, giving UK a 4-0 lead.
The Wildcats added to its lead in the top of the fourth inning. Riddle led off by chopping a grounder into the hole on the right side, forcing an off balance throw to first that sailed wide, allowing Riddle to take second on the two-base error. Williams then scored Riddle with a hard-hit single to left. After a pair of fielder’s choices, Zellers singled into the gap in left-centerfield, pushing Cousino to third base, with Zellers taking second on the throw. Maile was then intentionally walked to load the bases for Reed, bringing on a left-handed reliever for Walker. Reed narrowly missed the grand slam, as his two-out fly ball was caught against the wall in rightfield for the final out.
In the fifth inning, UK added a run to make it 6-0. After a leadoff out, McCarthy singled through the left side, with Riddle replacing him at first base after a fielder’s choice. Riddle then moved to second after Williams singled to the opposite field. Reida then notched his eighth two-out RBI of the year with a single through the right side, allowing Riddle to score his second run of the contest.
The Wildcats added a run in the top of the sixth, as Reed replaced Maile at first base after an unorthodox fielder’s choice on a dropped fly in the outfield. McCarthy then ripped a single up the middle and Riddle scored Reed with a single into the right-centerfield gap for a 7-0 UK lead.
Cincinnati got on the board for the first time in the sixth inning with some two-out hitting, cutting the UK lead to 7-2. After a leadoff out, Jake Proctor snapped Shepherd’s streak of 15 consecutive hitters retired with a single through the left side and Taylor Schmidt followed with a single to rightfield. After a line-out, Braden Kline tripled off the diving glove of Cousino in right-centerfield, scoring Proctor and Schmidt.
The Bearcats plated four runs on two hits in the bottom of the seventh to cut the UK lead to 7-6. After a leadoff out, Wijas hit Kiley Jones on the first pitch and walked J.P. Jackson. Pinch hitter T.J. Jones then singled up the middle and Proctor scored two with a triple into the gap. Schmidt then scored another with a sacrifice fly to leftfield.
UK immediately answered with a run in the top of the eighth, as Flynn led off with a single to centerfield and McCarthy drew a four-pitch walk. After a fielder’s choice on an attempted sacrifice bunt got McCarthy out at second base and put runners on the corners with one out, Williams was struck out to bring up Reida. With two strikes on Reida, Flynn motored home to score on a wild pitch, making it 8-6 UK.
The Wildcats added two runs with some two-out hitting in the ninth inning, as Zellers led off with a laser down the leftfield line, taking second on an error. Maile then drew another walk and after a Reed strikeout, Flynn smacked a single through the left side to score Zellers from second. McCarthy then notched his fourth hit of the game with a single up the middle to give UK a 10-6 lead and chase Isler.
UC got on the board in the bottom of the ninth inning, as Jackson reached on a fielder’s choice, scoring on Proctor’s RBI single.