Chris Rusin Pitches Baseball to Series Win over Auburn

May 9, 2009

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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Behind senior southpaw Chris Rusin’s fourth complete game of the year and the eighth complete-game of his career, the Kentucky baseball team secured its first series win over Auburn in Lexington in 20 years, posting a 6-3 win on a beautiful senior night, Saturday at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Rusin, a senior from Canton, Mich., made the most of his final career start in Lexington on senior night, going nine innings, with six hits allowed, scattering three runs, walking three and striking out nine. With his club-best sixth win of the year, Rusin now has 22 career wins, moving him into a tie for fourth place with Matthew Coleman (1986-89) in the UK record books. Rusin’s eighth career complete game moves him into 10th in UK career history, and with 270 career strikeouts, Rusin sits just one behind Brian Reed (1991-94) for second most strikeouts in the 105-year history of the program. MLB set-up man Scott Downs (1995-97) holds the school record with 293 career punch-outs.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior was dominating from the opening pitch, retiring the first 18 hitters he faced in order, allowing only one hit, with the runner later out attempting to steal. Rusin, a 2008 first-team All-Southeastern Conference starting pitcher, did not allow a lead-off man to reach until the top of the seventh, when Auburn struck for two runs on two hits. On the year, Rusin has now totaled a 6-4 record and a 3.96 ERA, striking out 104 in 86.1 innings. Rusin’s 104 punch-outs in 2009 marks just the 10th player in program annals to eclipse the 100-strikeout mark in a season, with his 104 ranking eight-best, while junior James Paxton – who struck out 12 in game one Saturday – checks in with 109 strikeouts in 73 innings, the seventh-best total in program history. As a team, UK has struck out 479, just 23 strikeouts shy of the school record for team strikeouts in a season, set in 1995, a total of 502.

The series win for UK marked its first series victory in Lexington over Auburn since the 1989 season, when the Wildcats took the final two games of a three-game series in Lexington. UK had not won a series against Auburn since the 2004 season, at Plainsman Park. Entering the series, Auburn had won six of the last nine meetings. 

Kentucky (26-23, 11-15 SEC) has now won three consecutive games and two straight series wins, a weekend after winning 2-of-3 against Tennessee in a de-facto elimination series. In game one of the doubleheader, UK got a walk-off single from freshman Braden Kapteyn in the bottom of the 10th inning, erasing a 5-4 deficit and giving the Wildcats a wild, 6-5 win.

The Wildcats were led offensively by a two hit, two-RBI night from junior first baseman Gunner Glad. Both of Glad’s RBI came on one swing of the bat, a first-inning blast over the right-field wall. It was Glad’s team-leading ninth homer of the year for the Tulsa, Okla., native. On the season, Glad is hitting .314 with four doubles and 37 RBI. Kentucky also got a multi-hit game from sophomore second baseman Chris Bisson, who finished the game 2-for-4 with a RBI and a run scored. Bisson now has a team-high 23 multi-hit games on the season and a club-best 51 RBI. Sophomore shortstop Chris Wade, who had missed the previous four games due to injury, finished the game 1-for-4 with his sixth homer of the season, extending his hitting streak to a season-high tying eight games.

The series will resume Sunday, with first pitch at Cliff Hagan Stadium slated for 1 p.m. ET. The game can be heard live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM. The game will also be broadcast live on BBSN (television), with Dick Gabriel, Doug Flynn and Ryan Lemond calling the action. The game can be found on Fox Sports South (Insight-Lexington channel 52) or locally on C-WKYT (Insight-Lexington channel 5). UK will send freshman right-hander Alex Meyer (1-3, 4.67 ERA) to the mound, to face off with Auburn freshman righty Dexter Price (3-2, 5.74 ERA).

Kentucky struck first at its first opportunity, plating three runs on two hits and two Auburn errors in the bottom of the first inning. Chad Wright led off with a grounder hit to second baseman Justin Hargett, who bobbled the ball for an error, allowing Wright to reach. Wright stole second, moving to third after the throw to second got into center field. After Andy Burns struck out, Bisson drove in Wright with an RBI single up the middle. With Bisson on first, Glad belted the first pitch he saw in the game over the right-field fence, his team-high ninth homer of the year and the first hit to the opposite field.

In the second, UK got two runs on two hits to stretch its lead to 5-0. Keenan Wiley and Chris McClendon put runners on first and second after getting hit by pitches. Wright notched his first hit of the game with a single through the right side, scoring Wiley. After McClendon moved to third, Burns hit a sacrifice fly to the track in left field, scoring McClendon.

UK added a run to its lead in the bottom of the third, as Wade belted his sixth homer of the year over the left-center field fence, clearing the light tower, to put UK up 6-0 after three innings.

Auburn narrowed the UK lead to 6-2 in the top of the seventh, plating two runs on two hits. Justin Hargett led off with a single up the middle, just avoiding the throw on a spectacular play by Bisson at second base. After Rusin got Trent Mummey to fly out, Brian Fletcher got plunked by a pitch and Hunter Morris walked to load the bags. Ben Jones followed and scored Hargett with a single up the middle, just under the glove of an outstretched Wiley in center field. After Rusin got Wes Gilmer looking, Casey McElroy drove in a run with a bases loaded walk. Rusin got out of the jam with a nice defensive play, moving towards the third base line to field a swinging bunt from Tony Caldwell, firing a strike to first for the final out of the inning. 

The Tigers got a run in the top of the eighth, as Hargett doubled down the right-field line with one out. Mummey drew a walk, with both runners moving into scoring position on a groundout from Fletcher. All-American first baseman Hunter Morris followed, ripping an RBI single through the left side, scoring Hargett and making it 6-3.