Kentucky Routs No. 35 Evansville, 17-1
LEXINGTON – Billy Grace belted a pair of three-run home runs in the first three innings to lead Kentucky to its biggest offensive output of the year in a 17-1 rout of No. 35 Evansville Wednesday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The Wildcats improved to 15-12 on the year and beat a ranked opponent for the first time this year. The Purple Aces, which took two of three from No. 21 Wichita State this past weekend, dropped to 24-8 on the year.
“This is a good ballclub we just beat,” Kentucky head coach John Cohen said. “They have beaten a lot of quality teams and are coming off a great weekend.
Kentucky returns to action Friday 6:30 p.m. when it will face No. 30 Tennessee in the first game of a three-game set. Friday’s game can be heard on WXRA 1580-AM in the Lexington area. The series continues Saturday at 6:30 p.m. before wrapping up on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Wednesday’s game was well out of hand after just three innings as Kentucky batted around in both the first and second and got a three-run homer in each inning. Overall, the Wildcats had season highs in runs with 17 and hits with 21. It was the most hits for Kentucky since May 11, 2005 when the Wildcats pounded out 21 against Vanderbilt.
John Shelby had the first dinger – a towering shot over the scoreboard in right-centerfield – to give him six long balls in his last 14 games. Shelby drove in four and added a single to give him six multi-hit and five multi-RBI games in his last eight outings.
But it was Grace who stole the show with a three-hit performance, including three-run homers in back-to-back innings early. He recorded a career-high 6 RBIs in his first game since March 25.
“It felt good,” Grace said. “I was very focused and determined tonight to put together something good.”
Justin Scutchfield belted three doubles for his second career three-hit day. The three doubles are the most for any Wildcat this year en route to scoring four runs. Michael Bertram got in the act with a trio of hits and three driven in.
Antone DeJesus and Shaun Lehmann, who have been on fire lately each contributed three hits and three runs scored.
“We really used the middle of the field and got the bat squared up to hit line drives in the middle of the field,” Cohen said. “I thought we did a nice job controlling the strike zone, taking pitches out of the zone and attacking ones in it.”
It wasn’t just an offensive display for the Wildcats as seven pitchers combined to allow just one run on eight hits while walking one and striking out nine. The one walk was the most impressive number for a team that had given 25 free passes to its previous five opponents.
Alex Jordan started and worked three innings to earn the win. He fanned three, including two in the second to work out of a bases-loaded jam after giving up a double and single to start the frame.
“When Alex gets in a rhythm he is as good as anyone,” Cohen said of the 19-year old. “He’s going to be a special athlete on the mound. You see glimpses and we’re really pleased with Alex right now.”
He was followed by six pitchers who worked one inning each. The only run allowed came off of Greg Dombrowski who gave up a solo home run to Jeff Fontaine in the fourth.
“We knew we were going to throw our whole staff tonight. That was the plan,” Cohen said. “We threw a lot of strike ones, which is something we haven’t done the past three weekends. We are starting to see the glimpse of how good our young pitchers can be.”
Ryan Lancaster started for Evansville and was chased after just 1 1/3 innings. He was tagged for eight runs on seven hits. Cal Stanke relieved him and didn’t do much better, giving up six runs on seven hits.
Five more Purple Ace pitchers came on after Stanke and combined to allow three runs on six hits.
Notes: Kentucky had a season high 17 runs on a season high 21 hits … The win is the first for UK over a ranked opponent since beating LSU last year … Billy Grace’s six RBIs are the most for a Kentucky player in the past four years … He is the first UK player to hit two home runs in a game since John Shelby against Vanderbilt last season … Justin Scutchfield’s three doubles were the most for a Wildcat this year … 10 Kentucky players recorded a hit and five had at least three … Shelby belted his sixth home run in his last 14 games … Shelby has 21 RBIs in that span … Kentucky batted around in the first and second innings and sent eight batters to the plate in the third … Kentucky had a season-high 35 total bases … Seven Wildcat pitchers combined to allow one run on eight hits.
Kentucky 17, Evansville 1