No. 22 Baseball Bludgeons Ball State in Finale, 26-3
March 9, 2014
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- No. 22 Kentucky got home runs from Max Kuhn and Micheal Thomas to claim the series over Ball State with a 26-3 win, as UK's 58 runs scored in a three-game series marked the most in the 105-year history of the program, on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (13-3) scored 58 runs over the three-game weekend, shattering the previous record of 47 runs scored in a three-game series with Tennessee Martin in 2007.
"We've had a couple of good days at the plate," UK head coach Gary Henderson said. "We did a good job swinging at strikes and knowing what we could hit. We were able to collect some extra-base-hits and run the bases hard. We had a great couple of days offensively and really a great weekend. We took advantage of advantage counts and we put good swings on them. We did not hit many soft fly balls this weekend. There have been a lot of hard grounds balls and hard line drives, which is exactly what you need to do."
After surrendering a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning in the series opener on Friday, resulting in a 10-8, 10-inning loss, Kentucky responded with a 24-1 shellacking of the Cardinals on Saturday. UK then plated 26 runs on 21 hits, six walks and eight hit batters in the finale to win the series and shatter the school record for runs in a series.
"How you respond from the Friday night game is encouraging," Henderson said. "We showed up with a lot of energy and concentrated at a high level. I'm hoping that we have some close games and are able to have our defense and pitching get us through the late innings."
The Wildcats plated 76 runs during their five-game week, with a .385 average, 24 extra-base hits, nine steals, 17 hit batters and a .504 on-base percentage.
"I'm really pleased where we are offensively," Henderson said. "The pitching will get better when we get into conference and then it will get better when we get three weeks into conference, it always does. We have to continue to work hard to get better on the mound and defensively."
Kentucky was led at the plate by Kuhn's 4-for-6 game, with the Zionsville, Ind., native driving in three runs, scoring three times and drawing one walk. Kuhn hit his sixth career homer and his first of the year, also doubling for the seventh time.
A native of Elizabethtown, Ky., Thomas homered for the second consecutive game, belting his fifth career bomb as part of a 1-for-3, four-RBI day that ended after the sixth inning. On the year, Thomas - fifth-year senior catcher - has hit .391 with five doubles, two triples and 20 RBI. During the three-game series, Thomas hit .615 (8-for-13), with two doubles, two homers and 13 RBI.
"Micheal (Thomas) is being really aggressive and competing at a really high level. He is managing the pitchers well and is battling with two-strikes. He is performing at a high level and he needs to continue to do so."
Freshman Marcus Carson came off the bench to go 3-for-3 with three runs and four RBI. UK got hits from every player who had an official at bat, with freshman Storm Wilson coming off the bench to score three runs with a walk and two hit by pitches. UK got multi-hit games from Kyle Barrett, Austin Cousino, Dorian Hairston and JaVon Shelby, with Shelby going for a double and a triple. Cousino went 2-for-4 with his eighth double.
Barrett - who has reached base safely in 35 consecutive games - and A.J. Reed extended their hitting streaks to 18 games, with Reed going 1-for-2 with three runs scored, one walk and getting hit by two pitches with a three-ball count. Reed leads the nation in homers (eight) and RBI (28) through 16 games.
Sophomore Zach Arnold, Greg Fettes, Thomas Bernal and Connor Heady each tallied hits, with Bernal and Heady each drawing walks.
On the year, Kentucky's offensive attack leads the Southeastern Conference in nearly every category, ranking among the league's top three teams in 12 of 13 offensive categories. UK has hit .345 as a team, with 45 doubles, four triples, 14 homers and 182 runs scored in 16 games, stealing 36 bases. On the mound, UK has a 2.51 ERA as a team, holding opponents to a .220 average.
UK starter Andrew Nelson (1-0) - making his first career weekend start - worked 6.2 innings, allowing five hits and one run, walking one and striking out four. A native of Omaha, Neb., Nelson exited with two outs in the seventh inning after allowing a baserunner, with the run coming around off the UK bullpen to score to keep him from a shutout outing. Nelson, who also started the finale of a twinbill on Wednesday with Cincinnati, worked 10.2 innings during the week, allowing just one run.
"I just stuck with the plan, kept the ball low and threw first-pitch strikes," Nelson said. "I just let them hit the ball and let the defense work. I was able to stay loose and focused. It was easy with the amount of runs we scored. The key was to keep it low and relax."
UK sophomore Sam Mahar took over with one runner base and two outs in the top of the seventh inning, allowing a two-run homer before escaping the frame. Lefty Matt Snyder started the eighth, allowing one run, before junior righty Spencer Jack worked a perfect ninth inning.
Kentucky will return to action on Tuesday, traveling to No. 11 Indiana for a 4:05 p.m. ET first pitch.
Ball State (10-4) starter Cody Manering (1-2) worked 2.2 innings, allowing five hits and five runs, walking one and striking out three. Tyler Jordan, Chris Lovejoy, Jacob Brewer and B.J. Butler each worked in relief.
In the bottom of the second inning, Hairston singled to rightfield to bring in Bernal after he reached on a fielder's choice to put the Wildcats on the board. Shelby followed by spanking a double bringing home Hairston and giving Kentucky a two-run lead.
Kentucky continued its scoring in the third inning after Thomas stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded. Thomas advanced to first after being hit by a pitch, sending Barrett to score for the Wildcats. Bernal then hit a line drive caught by the centerfielder, which allowed Kuhn to tag up and advance to home giving the Wildcats a 4-0 lead over the Cardinals. Reed advanced to score again for Kentucky after a single up the middle by Hairston for his second RBI of the game.
After a two-out double by Cousino in the bottom of the fourth, Kuhn followed by hitting his first home run of the season to advance Kentucky to a 7-0 lead scoring.
UK added to its total after Cousino singled to the right side in the bottom of the sixth, scoring Shelby, who reached base after being hit by a pitch. Kuhn followed with a single, putting runners on the corners for UK. To continue his 18-game hitting streak, Reed singled advancing Cousino home. Thomas then homered to bring in Kuhn and Reed for his 20th RBI of the season and 13th of the weekend. The Cats led 12-0 after six innings.
Ball State got on the board in the top of the seventh inning with a two run homer hit to leftfield by T.J. Weir scoring Kyle Raleigh.
After loading the bases in the bottom of the eighth, Fettes singled to left to bring home Wilson. With Shelby at the plate, Reed advanced home after a wild pitch. Later in his at bat, Shelby advanced Fettes to home plate after a fielding error from Ball State's shortstop. Heady then singled to the left side allowing Hairston to score and extend the Wildcats lead to 17-2. Shelby and Heady added two to the scoreboard after a single to rightfield by Carson. With the bases loaded, Arnold stepped up to the plate for Reed hitting a double to leftfield scoring Carson and Wilson.
In the top of the eighth, Godfrey singled to score Maloney, giving Ball State its third and final run.
Kentucky continued scoring in the bottom of the eighth as Shelby brought in another RBI sending Bernal across home plate with a triple extending Kentucky's lead to 22-3. Carson doubled down the leftfield line brining in Heady and Shelby. A double from Kuhn to right field scored Carson and Wilson. Another quick run came for Kentucky after Arnold singled to third sending Carson home. The Wildcats defeated Ball State 26-3.