Ka'ai Tom's Cycle Powers Baseball to 9-1 Win at Cincinnati
CINCINNATI -- Ka'ai Tom hit for the second cycle in the history of Kentucky baseball and the first since 1994, leading the Wildcats to a 9-1 win over Cincinnati, on a gorgeous Wednesday evening at Marge Schott Stadium.
Kentucky (13-3) extended its winning streak to 11 games with the midweek result, UK's final non-conference test before opening Southeastern Conference play at No. 6 South Carolina on Friday. UK's 11 game winning streak is tied for the sixth-longest in program history, equaling the run by the 1959-60 teams. It is UK's longest winning streak since the Wildcats won a program best 22 games in 2012.
The Wildcats were led at the plate by Tom, who went 4-for-5 with a double, triple and two-run homer, scoring a career-high four runs. He completed his cycle with a single in the eighth inning, collecting in order, a double, triple, homer and single. A first-team All-SEC outfielder by the league coaches in 2014, Tom has hit .450 (27-for-60) with 17 runs, five doubles, one triple, one homer and 19 RBI in 16 games in 2015, stealing four bases.
It marks the first cycle for a UK hitter since All-America slugger Jeff Abbott completed the feat in a 1994 win over Western Kentucky.
UK scored a single run in each of the first three innings, also adding a run in the fifth, before Tom's two-run blast lifted the Wildcats to a six-run lead in the sixth, adding a two-run frame in the eighth. UC got a run in the second inning, taking advantage of a pair of wild pitches and a delayed steal on a first-and-third play, scoring a run without a hit in the frame.
The Wildcats have now won seven consecutive meetings with the Bearcats, with UK coach Gary Henderson going 7-1 in his career vs. UC.
Tom, afirst-team All-SEC outfielder by the league coaches in 2014, Tom has hit .441 (26-for-59) with 17 runs, five doubles, one triple, one homer and 19 RBI in 16 games in 2015, stealing four bases.
UK also got a two-hit game from Cincinnati native Riley Mahan and sophomore JaVon Shelby, with Kyle Barrett, Evan White, Thomas Bernal, Storm Wilson and Connor Heady. Heady extended his hitting streak to a team-high nine games, with Mahan owning an eight-game streak.
UK sophomore starter Robert Zeigler made his second career start and worked 3.1 innings, allowing just one run, surrendering two this and two walks, striking out five. With a runner in scoring position and one out in the fourth inning, UK turned to lefty Dylan Dwyer (2-0), who escaped the jam. Dwyer picked up the win, his second of the year, with 2.2 shutout innings in relief, allowing just two singles and a walk. Zach Strecker made his team-high 41st career relief appearance to start the seventh inning, getting a pair of outs and allowing a hit. Freshman Zach Logue - a native of Cincinnati - came on to get the final out of the seventh inning. Logue worked 1.1 shutout innings with two strikeouts. Senior Spencer Jack took over to finish the ninth inning.
Cincinnati (4-10) starter Mitch Patishall (0-1) worked 2.1 innings, allowing four hits and three runs, walking four and not recording a strikeout. UC also used David Orndorff and Tanner Schimmoeller in relief.
UK will return to action with its SEC opener on Friday at No. 6 South Carolina, with first pitch at Carolina Stadium slated for 7 p.m. with the game broadcast live on SEC Network+ and the UK Radio Network.
The Wildcats got on the board with a two-out rally in the top of the first, starting with Tom's fifth double of the year. After a 10-pitch walk to Shelby, Mahan smacked a single to leftfield, scoring Tom for a 1-0 lead.
UK added a run in the top of the second inning as Wilson tripled off the base of the wall in rightfield with one out. After Heady drew a full-count walk, Barrett chopped a grounder back to the mound that was bobbled by Patishall, allowing Wilson to score from third base for a 2-0 UK lead.
The Bearcats rallied in the bottom of the second inning, as Kyle Mottice reached first on a dropped third strike, took second on a sacrifice bunt and advanced to third on a wild pitch. After Joey Thomas drew a walk, Mottice and Thomas executed the delayed double steal, with Mottice scoring on the throw to second base.
UK stretched its lead in the top of the third inning, as Tom ripped a one-out triple to centerfield, scoring on ball four, thrown to the backstop, in a one-out at-bat to Shelby, who drew a walk and took second on an additional wild pitch.
The Wildcats rallied in the fifth inning, loading the bases with singles from White, Shelby and Mahan, with Tom replacing White to start the inning on a fielder's choice. With one out and the bases loaded, Bernal grounded up the middle, forcing Tom home for a 4-1 UK lead.
UK plated three runs on four hits in the top of the sixth inning, stretching its lead to 7-1. Heady and Barrett each singled with one out, with Heady scoring on a sacrifice fly from White. Tom then belted his first homer of the year, a no-doubt two-run blast over the rightfield fence.
The Wildcats scored two in the eighth inning, as Barrett drew a walk and White and Tom each singled. Shelby forced in a run with a double play ball and Mahan forced in a second run with a run scoring error.
GAME NOTES: Sophomore right-hander Robert Zeigler made his second career start in his 10th career outing ... Junior centerfielder Kyle Barrett started his team-best 92nd career game and played in his team-leading 108th career game ... Sophomore second baseman JaVon Shelby made his team-leading 68th consecutive start ... Junior leftfielder Ka'ai Tom smoked his fifth double of the year and the 18th of his two-year career ... Tom has a team-high 10 two-out hits ... Freshman third baseman Riley Mahan has an eight-game hitting streak ...Mahan notched his first career two-out RBI ... Sophomore rightfielder Storm Wilson notched his first career triple ... Tom charted his first career triple ... Tom notched his ninth two-hit game of the year and the 10th multi-hit game of the season ... Freshman first baseman Evan White has had a hit in 12 of 13 career games, with the only game he didn't get a hit coming when he was removed due to minor injury ... Tom scored a new career high four runs ... Sophomore shortstop Connor Heady has a team-leading and career-long nine-game hitting streak ... Tom belted his first homer of the year and the fourth of his two-year career ... Junior lefty Dylan Dwyer won his second game of the year and the eighth of his career ... Dwyer appeared in his fourth game and the 32nd of his career ... Junior righty Zach Strecker appeared in his team-leading seventh game of 2015 and the team-high 41st of his career ... Heady was hit by the third pitch of the year and the fifth of his career ... UK leads the all-time series with Cincinnati, 59-29-2, including a 17-15-1 mark in games played in Cincinnati ... UK has won seven consecutive meetings in the series, with the last loss at UC coming in 2005 ... UK coach Gary Henderson in 7-1 in his career vs. Cincinnati ... In the Henderson era, UK is 184-7 (96%) when staked to an eighth-inning lead ... In Henderson's 12 previous years directing the UK pitching staff, the Wildcats are 336-14 (96%) when owning a lead after the eighth inning ... Tom hit for the first cycle for UK since Jeff Abbott did the feat in a 1994 win over Western Kentucky, believed be the only two cycle in UK history ... UK's 11-game winning streak is tied for the sixth-longest in program history and the longest since UK won a record 22 straight in 2012.