UK sweeps weekend series, improves to 6-0 on the season



By David Schuh | [email protected]

The UK baseball team opened its home schedule this weekend in a three-game series with the University at Buffalo. The Cats took the field looking to build on their 3-0 start.

Friday was a cold, windy night for baseball. Winds were gusting up to 40 mph, blowing straight out to left field.

Right out of the gate, Buffalo took advantage. The leadoff batter tripled into the left-center field gap, followed by a two-run home run that gave the Bulls a 2-0 lead.

From then on, UK starting pitcher Taylor Rogers was virtually untouchable. He struck out the next five batters he faced, culminating with a career-high nine punch-outs in six innings pitched.

The Cats took advantage of the windy night as well. Freshman Austin Cousino hit a leadoff home run in the first inning and then three batters walked. With one swing of the bat, UK suddenly had a commanding lead due to Freshman A.J. Reed.

Reed’s line-drive grand slam over the right field fence, part of a six-RBI day, made the score 5-2. From there, the Cats never looked back. Behind Rogers’ pitching, the offense kept rolling. Another home run by junior Zac Zellers in the third inning and a five-run fourth put the game out of reach. The Cats cruised to a 13-4 victory.

Saturday was another chilly day. And again, Buffalo got off to a hot start.

UK starter Jerad Grundy struggled with his command in the first inning. He walked one batter, threw two wild pitches and gave up five hits in a five-run inning for the Bulls. Fortunately for him, UK head coach Gary Henderson left him in to figure it out.

“I’m always going to leave guys in longer than most (coaches) as long as he’s competing,” Henderson said. “I want to send that message to him that he has to figure it out. And I really felt that if he could get through the first, he would.”

Henderson was right. Grundy only allowed two hits the rest of the way to right the ship. That gave the offense enough time to fight back. A run in the fourth and another in the fifth cut the lead to three. In the sixth, the Cats exploded.

A leadoff home run by Cousino, followed by a three-run homer by junior Luke Maile, gave UK the lead. Two more homers down the stretch by junior Cameron Flynn broke it open, giving the Cats a 9-5 win.

“We got down early but there was no panic,” Zellers said. “Today’s win was big. Being able to come back from behind was a big morale booster.”

To hold with the trend of the weekend, the Cats had to fight back if they wanted to move to 6-0 on Sunday. A back and forth game throughout, the game entered the ninth inning with UK leading 6-5.

Buffalo led off the inning with a home run to tie the game, and a single up the middle later in the inning scored the go-ahead run.

Zellers walked to lead off the bottom half, but the next two batters were retired. Maile singled down the left field line and Reed walked to load the bases with two outs.

Thomas Bernal, a redshirt freshman, came to bat as UK’s last chance. He drew a 3-2 count and calmly took the fourth ball to plate the winning run and the victory for the Cats.

Zellers came up big again, going 2-3 with two runs and three RBI to spark the comeback.

The Cats return to action Tuesday night at 4 p.m. when they play Morehead State at Cliff Hagan Stadium.