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Freshmen Salow, Brown step up on big stage vs. U of L

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Logan Salow picked up the win against Louisville, tossing 3.2 shutout innings. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Logan Salow picked up the win against Louisville, tossing 3.2 shutout innings. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
LOUISVILLE -- Gary Henderson stepped into a horde of media members waiting to talk about UK's season sweep of Louisville.

First, he was asked to reflect on the importance of the midweek win. Naturally, the next question about his two freshman hurlers, Logan Salow and Zack Brown.

Henderson had to look to the scoreboard before he could get into his answer.

"That's six and--what is it, five? No, six innings of freshman pitching," Henderson said. "That's significant on the road, there's question about that.

Not just six innings, but six innings of shutout ball as No. 19 UK (24-13) took down archrival and ninth-ranked Louisville (27-9), 4-2, on Tuesday.

"It's a game we want to win every year, just like they do," Henderson said. "It's a rivalry game. It's not more important than a league game. I get that every year, twice a year. ... It's always good win a tight game on the road because it gives your kids confidence going forward."

No one's confidence will benefit more than Salow and Brown's.

Salow had an idea he was going to be appearing against Louisville, given how shorthanded the Wildcats are in the bullpen at present, but it happened earlier than expected.

Starter Ryne Combs departed after allowing the first four Cardinals to reach in the bottom of the third, the last of which via run-scoring walk. The score then tied at 1-all and Louisville threatening to take command, Henderson turned to Salow with a simple directive to pound the strike zone.

He did just that.

"All Logan did was throw strikes and that was it and that's all we needed to do," Henderson said. "We needed to throw strikes and if we did that we were going to play enough defense behind it to make it work."

Salow, picking up the win in just the 14th appearance of his young career, admitted he felt some pressure to eat innings given the circumstances.

"But not too much because I know the guys behind me are going to do a great job playing defense," Salow said. "I know we are going to score runs when I get in the dugout. There is a little pressure, but not as much as you'd think."

Salow showed no signs of that pressure, needing just two batters to retire the side on a fielder's choice and a strikeout-caught stealing double play.

UK down just 2-1 when it could have been much worse, the Cats quickly retook the lead by taking advantage of a couple Cardinal miscues with Ka'ai  Tom RBI grounder that was misplayed and a walk by JaVon Shelby that scored the go-ahead and game-winning run.

From there, Salow went to work. He lasted a career-long 3.2 innings, allowing five hits and no walks. He struck out three and 36 of his 63 pitches were strikes.

He departed with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, giving way to Brown with runners on first and second. After issuing a walk to Logan Taylor, Brown coaxed a Sutton Whiting foul out down the left-field line.

Combined, Brown and Salow stranded five Cardinals in scoring position for the game.

"That's baseball for you," catcher Micheal Thomas said. "It's a situation you want to be in and a situation you want to succeed in, which they both did very well tonight. For them two to come out here and pitch the way they did, it's a huge step forward for our bullpen."

Brown has been making his share of steps in the right direction of late, with his third consecutive scoreless appearance coming on Tuesday before Kyle Cody replaced him in the ninth and finished off the save.

"Zack Brown is getting better, I've mentioned that a couple of times," Henderson said.

It isn't some complex mechanical fix driving that improvement either.

"I think just a mindset," Brown said. "Just coming in and being confident and thinking that I'm going to succeed. And that's exactly what I've done."

Given the quality of the opponent, Tuesday felt like the kind of game that will be played in June. Salow and Brown, if they pitch the way they did against U of L, will be very valuable if UK reaches that point, but the Cats aren't thinking that way just yet.

"I think we are right where we want to be," Thomas said. "I don't think we want to get too far ahead of ourselves at this point in the season. ... We definitely have some areas we can tighten up and get better, but for the most part I think we are doing a good job of getting better every day."

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