UK downs Eastern Michigan 5-2 in home opener



It was a balmy 45 degrees at Cliff Hagan Stadium when the UK baseball team took the field for the first time in front of its home fans in 2011 against the Eastern Michigan Eagles.

After recording its first win of the season just one day earlier by defeating Morehead State 12-3, UK made it two victories in a row, beating EMU 5-2.

UK was the first to get on the board in the bottom of the second inning, riding production from the bottom of its lineup. Second baseman Paul McConkey, starting in place of the injured Neiko Johnson, hit a single up the middle in his first career at bat to score third baseman Thomas McCarthy, giving UK an early one-run lead.

“It was a goal of mine, it was a long time coming,” McConkey said. “I was pumped, I had to settle my nerves a little bit. It’s just another day.”

The Cats followed with two more runs in the fourth inning to take a three-run lead, and that was all the offense that UK starting pitcher Corey Littrell needed.

A freshman left-hander, Littrell took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning before allowing a single to EMU’s Tucker Rubino followed by a home run by the Eagles’ Ben Magsig, cutting UK’s lead down to 3-2.

After the home run, Littrell exited to a standing ovation from the home crowd. With two insurance runs in the seventh inning, and solid outings by the relievers Trevor Gott and Jordan Cooper, Littrell earned his first career victory.

“I felt good. I was a little shaky at first, but in my eight warm-up pitches I found it and began to hit my spots,” Littrell said. “I actually had a dream last night that I was going to throw a perfect game, but I didn’t even think about it until the fifth inning … I wasn’t nervous today, I was nervous Friday night when I threw in relief.”

Senior Taylor Black led the way offensively, going 2-for-2 with an RBI, helping a young UK team bounce back from an 0-3 start to the season.

Fellow senior Braden Kapteyn went 2-for-4 out of the cleanup spot, and contributed an RBI of his own. UK head coach Gary Henderson acknowledged the importance of senior leadership going forward.

“We have 18 new guys,” Henderson said. “Anytime you have a bad weekend, the older guys need to give the team some perspective, but how much perspective? A little is fine, but then you need to get your rear ends in gear and go win a ballgame.”