Lefties Lift Kentucky in Xavier Victory

It took the Kentucky offense a while to get going on Wednesday night at against Xavier at Cliff Hagan Stadium. But while the bats were quiet, a pair of left-handed pitchers kept the Wildcats in a game that Kentucky would eventually win 6-2.

Kentucky starting pitcher Zach Logue went three innings, holding the Musketeers to a single hit, while walking one and striking out three.

After facing just 11 batters, Logue was replaced by junior lefty Logan Salow. And while the pitcher changed, the results stayed the same.

Salow pitched three innings of his own and did not allow a hit. The Ashland native walked two and struck out two while also facing just 11 batters. Salow dropped his ERA to 1.98 on the season with his effort on Wednesday.

“Come in, throw strikes right out of the gate,” Salow said of his mindset going into the game. “Early on, I was trying to press a little bit. Now, I’ve slowed the game down. I was more on the attack tonight.”

“Really nice to see Zach and Logan continue to get better as the season progresses,” Kentucky head coach Gary Henderson said of his lefties. “I thought they did a really nice job. For the most part, they were able to stay down, use both sides of the plate and stay ahead in the count.”

After seeing its pitchers put up zeroes for six straight innings, the Kentucky hitters finally came alive in the bottom of the sixth. JaVon Shelby drew a leadoff walk and was doubled home by the scorching hot Gunnar McNeill to give the Cats a 1-0 lead. With the hit, McNeill extended his hitting streak to 20 games.

After a Xavier pitching change, Kentucky second baseman Luke Becker singled to move McNeill to third. Pinch hitter Riley Mahan then singled, chasing home McNeill to make it 2-0 Kentucky.

Zach Reks, another pinch hitter, then laid down a perfect bunt single to load the bases for Tristan Pompey. And Pompey didn’t disappoint, as he rapped a double down the right field line, scoring Mahan and Becker, making it 4-0 Cats.

Kole Cottam then grounded to short to score Reks, and Storm Wilson hit a sacrifice fly to score Pompey and give Kentucky a 6-0 cushion.

Daniel Tillo started the seventh inning on the mound for Kentucky, but he didn’t have the success that his teammates before him experienced. Tillo faced only two batters, striking out one and walking one before giving way to Zach Strecker.

Strecker promptly gave up a double to Xavier’s Rylan Bannon, plating David Morton and cutting the UK lead to 6-1. But Strecker bounced back with a strikeout and a ground ball to get out of the inning. 

Strecker pitched the eighth, allowing a hit, but no further damage. Dylan Dwyer started the ninth, allowing a home run to Xavier’s Blaine Griffiths before getting Morton to ground out.

Bo Wilson came on to finish things off for Kentucky, getting the final two outs of the game.

With the win, Kentucky erased the memory of a 5-4 loss to Northern Kentucky on Tuesday night and prepared themselves for another tough SEC series.

“It’s always important,” Salow said of winning after losing on Tuesday night. “One of our goals this year was to come out and play these games (weekday games) and play them well.”

“I thought it was really important,” Henderson said of the win. “It certainly took us some time. I thought our kids did a really good job keeping their poise. We had a crack in the door there in the sixth and we have about four or five guys square it up and we put a big number up.”

Kentucky returns to SEC action this weekend with a road trip to Knoxville, where they fill face Tennessee in a three-game series at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. First pitch for Friday’s game is 6 p.m. ET, followed by a 4 p.m. ET game on Saturday and a 2 p.m. ET start on Sunday.