Clutch Ninth-Inning Hitting Lift No. 19 Baseball to Opener at A&M
April 19, 2014
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Ka'ai Tom and Thomas Bernal delivered two-out, two-strike RBI hits in the ninth inning to break open a 3-3 game, lifting No. 19 Kentucky to a thrilling 6-3 win at Texas A&M to open the series, in front of 4,439 on a gorgeous Friday night at Blue Bell Park.
Kentucky (25-13, 8-8 Southeastern Conference) and Texas A&M battled in a thriller, with UK getting three runs in the first inning and the Aggies evening up the game in the second with three runs. UK then rode a strong starting pitching effort from Reed, who worked shutout frames through eight innings in a 3-3 game.
UK mounted a furious rally in the ninth, staring with JaVon Shelby's leadoff single to leftfield. After a great sacrifice bunt from Austin Cousino, UK loaded the bases after Kuhn was hit by a pitch and Reed was intentionally walked. Texas A&M ace reliever Parker Ray then got the biggest out of the game with a strikeout for the second out, bringing up Tom. Tom smashed a two-strike single to rightfield, scoring Shelby and giving UK its first lead since the second inning. Bernal followed with his own two-strike hit, bouncing a grounder into rightfield to score Kuhn and Reed and give UK a 6-3 lead. Reed came back out to the mound in the ninth and after a leadoff single, the Wildcats turned to Kyle Cody in relief.
Cody threw seven pitches - all strikes - getting three ground balls, including two nice play from Shelby, with the final out coming after freshman shortstop Connor Heady ranged to his right, with Bernal making a great pick at the bag to end the game and clinch the win.
The midseason national player of the year by Perfect Game, Reed (7-1) worked his eighth quality start of the year and the 17th of his career in the win. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound southpaw allowed nine hits - eight singles - walking one and striking out four, with his three runs surrendered coming in the second frame. Cody, a 6-foot-7, 230-pounder, came on to work the ninth with a runner on first and no outs, firing seven pitches for his fourth save of the year.
Bernal led UK at the plate with a 3-for-5 game, equaling his career high with four RBI, including a double that was lined off the leftfield wall in the first inning. UK got two hits from Shelby, with Tom, Reed, Kuhn and Cousino each notching hits.
Texas A&M (23-16, 7-9 SEC) starter Jason Jester got one out in the game, allowing four hits and three runs, walking two and throwing 28 pitches, with the only out he recorded coming on UK's attempt to score on a bases-loaded wild pitch. Ty Schlottmann came on with one out in the first, working a gem in relief. Schlottmann worked 6.2 shutout, two-hit innings, walking one and striking out five. Parker Ray suffered the loss, allowing three hits and three runs in 1.2 innings, walking two and striking out two. The Aggies also used A.J. Minter in the ninth, throwing 12 pitches to get out of the inning.
The series will resume on Saturday at 3:05 p.m. ET at Blue Bell Park. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. Kentucky will turn to sophomore southpaw Dylan Dwyer (4-1, 3.76 ERA) to face off with TAMU junior ace righty Daniel Mengden (2-5, 4.05 ERA).
The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead in the first inning, as Cousino led off with a single up the middle and Kuhn followed with a single through the left side. Reed then loaded the bases with a single through the right side, to bring up Thomas. Cousino attempted to score on a wild pitch, with his head-first slide not in time to score for the first out. Thomas then drew a seven-pitch walk to load the bases and Tom drew a 10-pitch walk to force in Kuhn for the first run. Bernal followed with a one-out single, ripped off the wall in leftfield, scoring Thomas and Reed. That ended the night for Jester, with the Aggies turning to Ty Schlottmann in relief.
Texas A&M got on the board in the bottom of the second inning, as Logan Nottebrok chopped a grounder off the glove of Kuhn at third base, with it scored as a one-out hit. Reed then jammed catcher Troy Stein with a fastball, with Stein fisting the ball over the head of Bernal at first base to put runners on first and second. Jonathan Moroney then singled hard to centerfield, scoring Nottebrok for the first TAMU run of the game. Ronnie Gideon then pulled a double down the leftfield line, scoring Stein and putting runners in scoring position with one out for nine-hole hitter Krey Bratsen. Bratsen flied out to centerfield to score Moroney and even up the game at 3-3.