March 11, 2012
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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Junior catcher Luke Maile smashed a single up the middle with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, scoring shortstop Matt Reida from second base and lifting No. 23 Kentucky to a 5-4 walk-off win over Canisius, sweeping the three-game series, on a picture-perfect Sunday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (16-0) rallied from behind twice in the game, as Canisius took a one-run lead in the sixth and seventh innings. UK plated single runs in the bottom of those frames to even up the game, before Maile and Reida’s heroics in the ninth.
The win marks the 16th consecutive to open the season for UK, which is off to the third-best start in program history, eclipsing the 15-0 start that the 2000 team opened up with under Keith Madison. In 2007 and 2008, UK set the school record with 19-0 starts.
With the 16-0 record, the Wildcats own the most wins and the best record in college baseball as the only undefeated team remaining in the nation, among teams that have played at least four games against NCAA Division I opposition (Texas Pan-American is 3-0).
After evening up the game at 4-4 with a two-out RBI from Maile in the bottom of the seventh inning, UK was held off the board in the bottom of the eighth inning. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Reida led off the frame by getting hit by a pitch, taking second on freshman centerfielder Austin Cousino’s sacrifice bunt. After Zac Zellers drew a walk to bring Maile to the dish, the UK backstop smashed a 1-0 offering up the middle to score Reida for the walk-off run.
Maile’s game-winning RBI marks his team-high sixth game-winning RBI for the Wildcats through the first 16 games. The 2009 Kentucky High School Mr. Baseball went 2-for-4 with his game-tying and game-winning RBI in the game, adding his fifth double of the season. On the year, Maile has hit .386 (22-for-57) with five doubles, three homers, 21 RBI, a 10-2 walk-strikeout ratio and six stolen bases.
Zellers added a 2-for-3 game with a walk, while second baseman J.T. Riddle posted a 2-for-4 game. Thomas McCarthy added a double and a pair of runs scored, with Cameron Flynn charting a 1-for-1 game with two RBI. Freshman A.J. Reed went 1-for-4 while hitting No. 4 in the order for the third consecutive game.
Cousino snapped his team-long 14 game hitting streak with his 0-for-3 game, drawing a walk and laying down the sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning. Cousino’s 14-game hitting streak encompassed every game of his collegiate career and marked the longest for a UK player since first-team All-America outfielder Sawyer Carroll finished his career on a 16-game hitting streak. Through his first 15 collegiate games, Cousino has posted a .426 average (29-for-68) with seven doubles, one triple, one homer, 13 RBI and four steals.
UK starter Corey Littrell worked five innings, allowing one run on six hits and two walks, striking out eight. With two runners on base and no outs in the sixth inning, Walter Wijas came on in relief for Littrell, allowing two hits with one out recorded on a throw from the outfield to cut down a runner trying to score at the plate. Freshman Sam Mahar came on in relief for Wijas, allowing two hits before settling in to get two strikeouts to get UK out of the sixth inning, working a total of 1.1 frames, allowing four hits and one run, walking one and striking out two. Tim Peterson took over to get UK out of a jam in the seventh, tossing 1.2 shutout innings without allowing a baserunner, striking out one. Senior Alex Phillips (1-0) took over with one out in the ninth inning and picked up his first win of the year, getting two outs including one strikeout.
Canisius (7-7) starter Devon Stewart turned in a gem, tossing 6.2 innings, allowing eight hits and four runs, walking one and striking out two. The Griffs then used lefty Nathan Linesman (3-1), who tossed 1.2 innings, allowing the decisive run in the ninth inning. Jon Fitzsimmons relieved Linesman in the ninth, allowing a walk and the walk-off single from Maile.
UK returns to action on Tuesday, hosting Wright State at 4 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action.
The Wildcats jumped on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Zellers led off with a double, painted down the leftfield line. After a shallow fly out, Reed plunked a single into centerfield to push Zellers to third base for Flynn. Flynn then ripped a single down the line, scoring Zellers and getting thrown out trying to take second base.
UK added a run with some quality two-out hitting, plating one run to take a 2-0 lead. McCarthy led off the inning by getting plunked by a pitch and Riddle pushed him to scoring position with a single through the right side. Reida then laid down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position. After a infield groundout kept the runners in scoring position, Zellers smashed a single through the right side to score McCarthy, with Riddle gunned at the plate from rightfield for the final out of the inning.
Canisius took the lead with three runs on five hits in the top of the sixth inning, owning a 3-2 advantage. Chris Gruarin led off with a single to leftfield, dropping in front of a charging Zellers. After Littrell walked Shane Zimmer, UK pulled Littrell for Wijas, who loaded the bases with a single from Jimmy Luppens. Manny Hernandez then singled up the middle to score Gruarin, with Cousino’s throw from centerfield nailing Zimmer at the plate as the tying run. UK then turned to Mahar for Wijas, who allowed a two-RBI double from pinch-hitter Brooklyn Foster and an infield single from Mike Booth. Mahar settled in to strikeout the final two hitters to get out of the jam.
UK evened up the game with a run on a hit in the bottom of the sixth inning. Maile led off the frame with a double off the wall in rightfield, taking third base on a productive fly out from Reed and scoring on Flynn’s sacrifice fly in right-centerfield.
The Griffs immediately responded with some two-out hitting in the seventh inning, as Zimmer doubled off the leaping glove of Maile at first base, scoring on a two-out single through the infield from Luppens.
Kentucky mounted a rally in the seventh, as McCarthy led off the inning with a double into the opposite-field gap. After an unproductive first out left McCarthy at second, Reida’s groundout moved McCarthy to third base with two outs. Cousino drew a walk and Zellers got hit by a pitch to load the bases for Maile. Maile then got plunked by a pitch to force home McCarthy with the game-tying run.
After a shutdown inning in the ninth from Peterson and Phillips, UK rallied in the ninth to walk-off with the win. Reida led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch, with Cousino sacrificing Reida into scoring position. Zellers then drew a walk to put two runners on base for Maile. Maile ripped a 1-0 pitch up the middle, with Reida sliding in just before the tag on the throw from centerfield, with the Wildcats posting the 5-4 win.
GAME NOTES: Corey Littrell recorded his team and SEC leading third pickoff of the year … Zac Zellers led off the bottom of the fourth inning with his fourth double of the year … A.J. Reed extended his hitting streak to seven games with a single in the fourth inning, the second longest streak on the club … Zellers recorded his team-high eighth two-out RBI of the year in the fifth inning … Austin Cousino recorded his league-leading fourth outfield assist in the sixth inning, throwing out the tying run at the plate trying to score … Luke Maile pounded his fifth double of the year off the fence in rightfield in the sixth inning … Cameron Flynn charted his team-high third sacrifice fly of the year … Thomas McCarthy launched his fourth double of the year in the seventh inning, leading off the frame … Zellers was hit by his SEC-leading eighth pitch of the season … Maile was hit by his sixth pitch of the year to force home a run in the seventh inning … Maile’s two-out RBI was his eighth two-out RBI of the year, equaling Zellers for the team lead … Maile’s walk-off RBI in the bottom of the ninth was the team-high sixth game of the year that the junior has delivered the game-winning RBI.