No. 2 Baseball Evens Series with 8-1 Win over No. 1 LSU

April 21, 2012

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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Behind home runs from Austin Cousino and Luke Maile and a quality start from Jerad Grundy, No. 2 Kentucky posted an 8-1 win over No. 1 LSU to even the series, snapping LSU’s league leading eight-game winning streak and forcing a rubber match in the finale, on an overcast Saturday afternoon in front of 2,625 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

After dropping the opener of a Southeastern Conference series for the third time in its last four weekends, the Wildcats responded with a resounding 8-1 win to even the series and force a rubber match on Sunday. UK has posted rubber-match wins in four consecutive series finales, including road finale wins at Tennessee, No. 18 Georgia and No. 9 Arkansas, in addition to a home finale win over No. 10 Ole Miss.

The Wildcats fell behind in an early 1-0 hole as the Tigers plated a run in the top of the first inning. UK immediately responded with two runs in the bottom of the frame and controlled the contest throughout, adding a four-run fourth inning and two insurance runs in the seventh.

Kentucky (34-6, 12-5 SEC) continued to put up double-digit hits against one of the top pitching staffs in college baseball, as UK mounted 11 hits off the Tigers on Saturday and 10 hits off LSU on Friday, with the Tigers entering the weekend ranked second in the SEC in team ERA. UK belted two home runs in the win Saturday, with Cousino and Maile contributing clutch homers.

Cousino and Maile led UK offensively with three RBI each, with Cousino batting 2-for-5 with two runs scored, his SEC-leading 16th double of the year and his SEC-freshmen leading seventh homer of the campaign. Maile hit his SEC-best 11th homer of the year, going 2-for-3 with three RBI. Thomas McCarthy added two hits with two runs scored, with senior Michael Williams also adding two hits and an RBI. The Wildcats also got hits from Cameron Flynn, Zac Zellers and Matt Reida, with J.T. Riddle scoring a run and A.J. Reed drawing a walk.

A junior southpaw, Grundy bounced back with a quality outing after not making it through the fifth inning in his four previous starts. The native of Johnsburg, Ill., was tremendous in his third quality start of the year, tossing six innings, allowing six hits and one run, walking three and striking out three.

Senior Alex Phillips took over for Grundy with a runner and no outs in the seventh, working the final three innings for his third save of the year, keeping the UK bullpen intact for Sunday. On the weekend, UK has used only two relievers, Phillips and freshman Chandler Shepherd, with the duo combining for 6.2 shutout innings. The UK bullpen is currently riding a stretch of 19 consecutive shutout innings over its last five games, dating back to a Friday-night loss at No. 9 Arkansas.

The UK win puts the Wildcats back in a tie with LSU for the league lead, with the two teams owning 12-5 records in league play. UK’s start to a season and its 12-5 record in league play is its best in program history, with the Wildcats boasting a 10-5 record against teams ranked in the top-25. UK’s win over No. 1 LSU snapped the Tigers eight-game winning streak and gave UK its first win over a No. 1-ranked foe since Alex Meyer hurled a complete-game shutout win over No. 1 Vanderbilt in 2011 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

LSU (32-8, 12-5 SEC) starter Ryan Eades (5-2) suffered the loss, as the sophomore right-hander allowed nine UK hits and six runs in 3.1 innings. Eades entered the start sporting a LSU-leading 2.51 ERA, allowing only 49 hits in 57.1 innings and holding opponents to a .236 average. UK’s SEC-leading offense continued to pound out hits against the potent LSU pitching unit, chasing Eades in the fourth inning, a game after getting 10 hits off LSU ace Kevin Gausman. LSU used Brent Bonvillain after Eades, with Bonvillain working 3.2 innings, allowing two hits and two runs, striking out three. Kevin Berry tossed a shutout eighth inning for the Tigers.

The series will conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium, with UK looking to win its sixth consecutive conference series to open the year. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with Neil Price voicing the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UK will send sophomore southpaw Corey Littrell (6-0, 1.95 ERA) to the mound in the rubber match to face off with one of the top freshmen pitchers in college baseball, righty Aaron Nola (5-1, 3.15 ERA).

For a second straight day, LSU got started early as Arby Fields led off LSU with a single up the middle. Tyler Hanover laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Fields to second with one out. After a strikeout to force two outs, Raph Rhymes hit a double to leftfield, just out of the reach of Zellers, to score Fields and give LSU a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.

Kentucky didn’t back down from LSU’s quick start as Cousino led off the bottom half of the inning with a double to leftfield and advanced to third on a wild pitch. McCarthy and Reed each walked to load the bases with no outs. Maile crushed a sacrifice fly to the warning track in leftfield that scored Cousino and advanced McCarthy to third. Flynn hit a single to shallow center, scoring McCarthy and moving Reed to second with one out. The Wildcats left the first inning with a 2-1 lead.

Kentucky added on to its lead in the bottom of the fourth after Zellers led off with a single up the middle. Riddle was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs. Williams singled through the right side to score Zellers and extend Kentucky’s lead to 3-1. With one out and runners on first and second, Cousino blasted a three run home run to the deck in right center. Kentucky left the fourth with a 6-1 lead.

The Wildcats added to their in the bottom of the eighth, started by a single to rightfield from McCarthy. With one out, Maile drilled an opposite-field homer over the rightfield fence. The two-run blast scored McCarthy and extended the Wildcats’ lead to 8-1.

GAME NOTES: Freshman Austin Cousino hit his SEC-leading 16th double of the year to leadoff the first inning … Thomas McCarthy drew his 18th walk of the year … Zac Zellers has now reached base safely in a team-best 11 games … Luke Maile hung his third sacrifice fly of the year in the first inning … Matt Reida laid down his team-leading fifth bunt single of the year … Cousino hit his seventh homer of the year in the fourth inning … Maile belted his SEC-leading 11th homer of the season in the seventh inning … All six of LSU’s runs in the series have come with two outs … UK’s win over No. 1 LSU was its first over a top-ranked team since Alex Meyer’s complete-game shutout win over No. 1 Vanderbilt in 2011 … UK now owns a 10-5 record in games vs. top-25 foes in 2012, with five of its six losses coming to ranked teams … Jerad Grundy tossed his third quality start of the year … Alex Phillips saved his career-best third game of the year and the fifth of his two-year career … UK’s bullpen has tossed 6.2 shutout innings during the weekend, allowing only four hits and no walks … On the week, UK’s bullpen has worked 9.2 shutout innings … UK’s bullpen has worked 19 consecutive scoreless innings, dating back to a Friday-night loss at No. 9 Arkansas.