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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Behind a career-best four-hit game from senior shortstop Taylor Black and a career-high seven innings pitched from freshman southpaw Corey Littrell, the Kentucky baseball team opened up its 11-game homestand with an 8-1 win over Eastern Kentucky, on Tuesday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Black, rated as the 26th-best senior in college baseball in the preseason by Baseball America, had a career day at the dish, batting 4-for-5 with three runs scored and an RBI, rapping a double and a triple, falling just a homer shy of hitting for the cycle. A native of Easley, S.C., Black opened his first four at bats with hits, with his triple coming as an opposite-field seed off the 30-foot high wall in rightfield. In addition, Black stole a career-best two bases, including his first career steal of home plate as part of a double steal at first and third. On the year, Black - who was named Southeastern Conference Player of the Week earlier in the year - has hit .347 (17-for-49) with five doubles, two triples, one homer and 10 RBI, stealing four bases.
In his second career start, Littrell was nearly as dominating as he was in his first career start, a win over Eastern Michigan in the home opener on Feb. 24. A native of Louisville, Ky., and a graduate of Trinity High School, Littrell went a career-high seven innings, allowing only three hits and one run, walking two and striking out a career-best five, hurling first-pitch strikes to 17-of-25 hitters faced. The 2010 Louisville Slugger Kentucky High School Player of the Year, Littrell carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his first career start vs. EMU and carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning vs. EKU. Littrell, who faced only five hitters above the minimum against the Colonels, has appeared in four games with two starts in his freshman season, totaling a 2-1 record and a 6.32 ERA. In his two relief outings, Littrell owns a 0-1 record and a 30.86 ERA and in his two starts, he has charted a 2-0 mark and a 2.03 ERA.
The Wildcats turned to junior right-hander Braden Kapteyn for his third relief appearance of the season to replace Littrell, and the 6-foot-4, 220-pound two-way standout went two hitless innings and struck out four.
Offensively, UK pounded out 12 hits and eight runs, stealing five bases and drawing three walks, as eight of UK's nine starters collected hits. UK was led by Black at the dish, but sophomore centerfielder Brian Adams also recorded a multi-hit game, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a double. Third baseman Thomas McCarthy extended his streak of reaching base safely to a club-high 12 games with a 1-for-4, one-walk game, while Kapteyn, Chad Wright and Luke Maile each added RBI. Freshman rightfielder J.T. Riddle collected his first career extra-base hit, adding a walk.
Kentucky (6-6) returns to action on Wednesday, hosting Middle Tennessee State (2-9) at 4 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast 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 WGVN 1580-AM or online at UKathletics.com.
EKU (3-8) senior southpaw starter Paul Duncan (0-1) took the loss, allowing four this and three runs in three innings.
UK opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning, as Black led off with a single to right-centerfield and Wright got hit by a pitch. After McCarthy struck out, Kapteyn plopped a single to left-centerfield, scoring Black. Maile then plated Wright with a groundout.
In the third, UK added a run, as Maile drew a two-out walk and came around to score on Riddle's high-hoping double down the line.
EKU got a run back in the top of the fourth, as Austin Graham led off with a double down the right-field line, breaking up Littrell's no-hit bid. Graham later scored on a two-out single from Jacob Daniel.
UK added two runs in the fourth inning, as freshman second baseman Paul McConkey led off the inning getting hit by a pitch, moving to second on a sacrifice bunt from Adams. Black scored McConkey with a double down the left-field line. Black then stole third base and after McCarthy drew a walk, UK executed a double steal, with Black swiping home plate just before a swipe tag from the EKU catcher.
In the sixth inning, UK plated two runs on three hits, as Adams led off with a bunt single down the third-base line, moving to second after a throwing error on the throw to first base. Black then pelted a single to rightfield for his fourth hit in as many at bats, with Wright executing a sacrifice bunt to score Adams and McCarthy singling up the middle to score Black.
In the seventh, UK got a two-out rally to score a run, as McConkey singled up the middle, scoring when Adams ripped a double into the left-centerfield gap.