UK baseball tries to extend unbeaten start

By David Schuh

UK head coach Gary Henderson knew his baseball team would be improved this season. Depth and bullpen play had been an issue on last years disappointing team, two areas he has seen drastic improvements in.

However, this season’s historically fast start can largely be attributed to the team’s play on offense.

Junior catcher Luke Maile has made the biggest turnaround of any. In 50 starts last season, he hit .282 with nine home runs and 36 RBI. In 22 starts already this season, Maile is hitting .385 with six homers and a team-high 29 RBI, good for eighth nationally.

“My first two years here all I did was get out,” Maile said, laughing. “It’s a tough game and sometimes it goes well for you like it is right now. It says a lot about who you are when you can put a couple hits together and have good at-bats when it’s a tough go at the plate.”

One of the concerning players thus far for coach Henderson has been senior third baseman Thomas McCarthy. After hitting .371 last season, McCarthy became the first UK player since 1972 to earn first-team SEC honors. But in the first 21 games of this season, he was hitting just .240.

“It’s just the way the game goes sometimes,” coach Henderson said. “Guys can hit the ball hard and it gets caught. The game will turn for you. He’s a very good hitter and he’ll get his hits.”

Wednesday against Cincinnati, he got back on track. McCarthy had a career-high four hits and two RBI to help the Cats secure their 22nd consecutive win.

“Obviously four hits is a lot better than the zero or one I’ve been putting up lately,” McCarthy said. “I just felt a lot more comfortable in the box. I worked the count a little bit, saw some pitches and tried to stay in the middle of the field.”

It has been a collective effort though. The Cats (22-0, 3-0 SEC) have five players hitting above .370, two of which are freshmen in Austin Cousino and A.J. Reed. Nationally, UK is eleventh in total batting average, boasting a team average of .332. They are also fifth nationally in runs scored and sixth in slugging percentage.

UK will look to tie the SEC win streak record Friday night at Tennessee in the first of a three-game series. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.