LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Thomas Bernal cranked his first career home run as part of a three-hit, four-RBI night, helping lead No. 19 Kentucky to an 8-3 win over No. 8 Louisville on a perfect Tuesday night in front of the fourth-largest crowd in UK history, 3,742, at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (20-9) rallied from a two-run hole after the Cardinals got two in the top of the second. UK evened up the game with two in the bottom of the second, before exploding with a three-run homer from Bernal in the fourth, also getting two runs in the sixth and a two-out, solo homer from freshman JaVon Shelby in the eighth inning.
The win over the eighth-ranked Cardinals gives UK a 5-3 record against top-10 teams to open the year, with UK also owning a series win over No. 1 South Carolina and wins over No. 1 Virginia and at No. 5 Vanderbilt. In the UK head coach Gary Henderson era, the Wildcats – which entered the game with the NCAA’s No. 4 RPI – have 20 wins over top-10 teams.
The Wildcats now own a 68-36-1 all-time record against Louisville, including a 33-14 lead in games played in Lexington. UK will be going for its first sweep in the series since 2011 when the Wildcats make a return trip to the Cardinals on April 15.
Bernal and Shelby provided the sparks for the Wildcats at the plate, with Bernal equaling his career high with a 3-for-4 game with a career-best four RBI.
“He has played a bunch this year, but you are right he doesn't play all the time,” Henderson said about the impact of Bernal on the club. “It takes a good attitude. It takes all the things that your mom and dad try to teach you as a kid: have a good attitude, try really hard and be nice to other people. They are basics and he does them well. He is a kid that appreciates what he is a part of and the kids respect him. He is a hard worker and a good player, which is a pretty good combination for us.”
Shelby went 2-for-2 with three RBI, also drawing two walks. UK got hits from Micheal Thomas, Kyle Barrett, Max Kuhn and Matt Reida, with Storm Wilson getting hit by a three-ball pitch and scoring a run, also adding two sacrifice bunts.
UK starter Dylan Dwyer (2-1) worked 5.2 innings, allowing seven hits and two runs, walking two and striking out three.
“There are a couple of things that I noticed in his performance,” Henderson said. “He was tentative early. I was not impressed by that, but very impressed in the fourth inning when he finally relaxed, found some rhythm and cut loose a little bit. He is going to be a really good pitcher but there is a little self-doubt right now. He is going to have to get rid of that in order to reach his potential. That will happen for him and this year his numbers are good. Anytime you beat good people you get confidence. You get more confidence beating good people than bad people. He should take that away from me.
“Dylan Dwyer should be a front-line guy in our league. I’m glad he is here and progressing.”
Dwyer was replaced an out shy of his second career quality start by freshman right-hander Zack Brown, who got a right-handed hitter out to end the sixth inning. Brown allowed a leadoff single and hit a batter to start the seventh, with the run later scoring, before lefty Logan Salow replaced him to face the top of the order. Salow got an out and issued a walk, with right-hander Spencer Jack coming on in relief in the seventh to strand two runners and get two outs. Jack worked the final 2.2 innings, allowing just an intentional walk to reach base, striking out three for his second save of the year.
UK went the first 22 games of the 2014 season without recording a save, but a combination of Jack, Salow and Kyle Cody have saved each of UK’s last four wins.
Louisville (21-7) left-handed starter Josh Rogers (0-1) worked four innings, allowing five hits and five runs, walking two and striking out one. He was replaced by southpaw Drew Harrington to start the fifth inning, with Harrington working one inning, allowing three hits and two runs, striking out one. Jonah Philley and Kyle McGrath each worked in the sixth, with Philley walking a hitter to force in a run. McGrath worked two perfect innings, striking out three. Ryan Lauria came on to work the eighth, allowing a solo homer and striking out one.
UK will return to action with a three-game series vs. No. 12 Florida, starting on Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Louisville got on the board first in the top of the second inning. Zach Lucas reached on a swinging bunt down the first base line and after a sacrifice bunt, Kyle Gibson hit a two-run homer over the leftfield fence, his first homer of the year.
UK evened up the game in the bottom of the second inning as Thomas led off with a single on a 1-2 count. Barrett was then hit by a pitch and after a sacrifice bunt from Wilson, Bernal singled through the left side to score Thomas. After a popped up squeeze bunt attempt left the runners in scoring position, Shelby singled through the left side. After the ball was misfired to third base, Bernal attempted to score from third but was out at the plate to end the inning, 5-6-7-5-1-2.
The Wildcats rallied to take the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. Thomas drew a four-pitch walk to lead off and Barrett singled to leftfield. Wilson then laid down a second great sac bunt to push the runners into scoring position for Bernal. Bernal then cranked a no-doubt, three-run homer over the leftfield fence, his first career homer, giving UK a 5-2 lead.
UK plated two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Wilson was hit by a full-count pitch to lead off and Bernal singled to leftfield after getting hit by a pitch and called back to the box. Reida then laid down a bunt single down the third-base line to load the bases and Shelby drew a four-pitch walk to force in Wilson. Cousino then hung a sacrifice fly to leftfield to score Bernal for a 7-2 lead.
Louisville rallied in the top of the seventh inning, as Alex Chittenden singled up the middle off Brown to lead off and then Logan Taylor was hit by a pitch. UK turned to Salow, who walked the bases loaded for Sturgeon. Sturgeon hung a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Chittenden and push the runners up a base. UK then turned to Jack, a right-hander, to face the dangerous right-handed hitting Kay, who got a soft line out. Jack then intentionally walked the dangerous Jeff Gardner, before striking out right-handed hitter Lucas to strand the bases loaded.
UK got a run back in the bottom of the eighth inning as Shelby cranked a two-out solo homer, his third of the year.