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Patience paves way for slugfest win, Reida's slump-busting night

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It was never going to be a pitchers' duel on Tuesday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

With the nation's top offense in town and a brisk wind blowing out to left field, Kentucky would have to put up some crooked numbers to take down Tennessee Tech.

"You could tell in BP the wind was blowing out pretty good to all fields, really," Matt Reida said. "Both teams in BP, you could really tell it was going to be an offensive night. It was going to be a challenge for the pitchers."

It certainly was, as No. 17 UK (27-14) won a 15-13 slugfest.

"I am a guy that's in tune with which way the wind's blowing when we're playing," UK head coach Gary Henderson said. "So, yes, I knew which way the wind was blowing and I knew we had a chance for this. I wouldn't have dreamed it would be quite like this."

Looking to sustain the momentum built last week in three road wins in four tries, UK turned to its offense to get the job done after facing a 7-1 deficit. Rather than fall into the trap of swinging for the fences, the Cats kept their disciplined approach and the runs followed.

"I thought we stayed very positive in the dugout," Henderson said. "I thought we stayed very patient in the box. A couple of times it got tight where we really needed a hit to get back into it and we got it."

UK chipped away with three in the bottom of the fourth, using three walks, two hits and a hit-by-pitch. The Cats would then pull to within one in the fifth with a two-run shot by JaVon Shelby. In the sixth, UK took its first lead with five runs an evening that featured 31 hits and 10 home runs.

"A great win by us," Henderson said. "Not a great game to watch, but a great win by our kids."

In the middle of everything was Reida.

The senior shortstop entered Tuesday night mired in an 0-for-11 slump, his batting average falling to .207 in the process. The lefty found his stroke early, doubling to left in the second inning, but it was his patience that got UK's rally started.

He walked to lead off the fourth and fifth innings, coming around to score both times. In a spot where pressing for extra bases would have understandable, Reida stayed within himself.

"They were throwing a lot of off speed to all of our guys," Reida said. "So it's tough to be patient, but we have such a good offense any type of lead for another team isn't a big concern for us, especially early."

If triggering the UK offense wasn't enough, Reida was rewarded in the sixth. With the bases loaded, Reida smoked his second double over the head over Tech centerfielder Jake Rowland to score the game-tying and go-ahead runs. An inning later, he added his first home run in 348 at-bats -- a stretch that dates back to his sophomore season -- on a solo shot.

"We always kind of give Matt a hard time about hitting home runs because he thinks he's a big power hitter," said a smiling A.J. Reed, the nation's leading home-run hitter. "So we were happy for him to get one. Finally he can back up a little bit of what he says."

The homer gave UK a 12-8 lead, but by no means was it safe. Tennessee Tech scored four in the top of the eighth to tie it on two-run blasts by Zach Stephens and Dylan Bosheers.

The Cats would answer in the bottom of the inning as Micheal Thomas hit a two-run homer. Later, Reida would add an important insurance run on a single to finish off his 4-for-4, four-RBI night before Kyle Cody closed it out with his fifth save.

"It's funny; baseball's a crazy game," Reida said. "Two days ago I feel lost and today everything coming off my bat's dropping.

"It's just a back-and-forth game. You try to stay positive and keep grinding away and the game will reward you."

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