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By Josh Huff
UK wrestled control of its game in the sixth inning Wednesday to defeat Xavier University, 9-6, at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
No. 19 UK (18-7, 3-3 SEC) jumped out to an early lead against Xavier freshman starting pitcher Trent Astle (1-2), plating three runs in the first inning.
Junior third baseman Max Kuhn drove in junior outfielder Austin Cousino with a double in the bottom of the first inning.
SEC Player of the Week and senior catcher Micheal Thomas followed with an RBI on a sacrifice fly. Then sophomore outfielder Dorian Hairston drilled a two-out triple to right field, driving in sophomore outfielder Ka’ai Tom to push the lead to 3-0.
Hairston was the only UK player with two hits on Wednesday. The game marked his second start of the season, all within the last three games.
“I just try to stick with the approach,” Hairston said.
But the Musketeers mounted a rally in the top of the second inning. Xavier freshman infielder Andre Jernigan singled up the middle, scoring a run. Musketeers sophomore catcher Daniel Rizzie followed with an RBI single to bring the Cats’ lead down to one run.
UK sophomore starting pitcher Ryne Combs allowed a run on a wild pitch to tie the game at 3. Combs (1-1) lasted two innings, allowing three runs on four hits.
Sophomore pitcher Dylan Dwyer replaced Combs in the third inning, striking out two. Sophomore pitcher Taylor Martin took the reins in the fourth inning, striking out the side. The Cats sent seven pitchers to the mound in total.
“With just one day of rest, I wanted to throw as many guys as possible,” head coach Gary Henderson said.
The Cats countered Xavier’s offense in the fourth inning on sophomore catcher Zach Arnold’s two-RBI double. Senior shortstop Matt Reida singled to right, and Cousino had an RBI sacrifice fly to make it 6-3.
After scoring a run in the fifth inning, Xavier took advantage of a bases-loaded situation in the sixth, driving in two runs off of UK sophomore pitcher Sam Mahar to tie the game.
UK plated three more runs in the sixth to jump back into the lead, 9-6.
Xavier failed to mount another rally after the sixth inning and UK’s bullpen closed the door.