Timely hitting, shutout pitching deliver 5-0 win over Cards



Aaron Smith

 All eyes – literally, with a season-high attendance watching – were looking to see how UK would fare against a nationally-ranked opponent, with in-state implications, in a charged atmosphere.

They had to like what they saw.

UK (19-11, 2-7 SEC) put on an impressive all-around display of baseball in front of a season-high 3,819 spectators in a 5-0 victory over No. 9 Louisville (23-5, 5-1 Big East) on Wednesday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

The hitting: five runs on six timely hits. The pitching: three pitchers combined to throw a four-hit shutout. The defense: shortstop Taylor Black made two “ESPN-quality plays,” in the words of UK head coach Gary Henderson, ranging far into the hole.

The UK offense, dormant for the first three innings, erupted for five runs over the middle three innings. In a case of clutch hitting, four of the five runs UK scored came with two outs.

“When we got our chances tonight, we capitalized,” Henderson said. “That’s what you have to do to win. When you get the opportunities, you have to cash them in.”

In the fourth inning, outfielder Keenan Wiley hit a double that scored the first run of the night for either team. The run seemed to spark the offense, as UK added three runs in the fifth on a Gunner Glad home run and a Chad Wright single and another run in the sixth.

Whereas UK scratched and clawed when it had the opportunities, the Cardinals fluttered when they had their chances.

In the first inning, the Cards loaded the bases against freshman Jordan Cooper with one out for Phil Wunderlich, who leads Louisville with 10 home runs.  With a freshman pitcher, in the first inning of a rivalry game, against a power threat, the Cats were looking at the possibility of falling into a dangerous hole.  But Cooper bore down, inducing a double play out of the Cardinals’ big bat.

“When you have an opportunity like that to score and you don’t score, the momentum swings,” Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell said.  “Obviously, Kentucky was able to avoid what could have been the big inning.  To get a zero in the first was a huge momentum.”

It would be the biggest threat the Cardinals posed all game.

Sure, there were other chances.  A potential home run by Wunderlich bounced off about the 29-foot-11-inch mark of the 30-foot wall in right field.

But all in all, UK used three pitchers to blank the Cards, who entered the game hitting .328 as a team.  The trio of Cooper, Mike Kaczmarek and Nick Kennedy kept U of L off balance all game, dousing a potent lineup with a variety of arm angles and a mix of pitches.

“You have to come out there with confidence, know that your stuff can get them out, and just attack,” Kaczmarek said.

UK’s position players were pleased with what the pitchers did off the mound.

“It was awesome,” Glad said.  “Cooper came in, threw a lot of strikes, Kaz came in, threw a lot of strikes, and Kennedy just slammed the door.  That’s what we need.”

Kaczmarek threw four innings in the middle of the game while UK was pulling away. He allowed only one hit and picked up the win.

“He made the real pitches when he needed to tonight, and I thought that was they key,” Henderson said. “There were a couple of near-jams when things could have gone the other way and he made the pitches.”