LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Freshman rightfielder Kyle Barrett hung a sacrifice fly into centerfield to score J.T. Riddle with the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning and Trevor Gott got three quick outs in the bottom of the frame to clinch a 5-4 win for No. 7 Kentucky over No. 9 Louisville in 10 innings, on a chilly Tuesday night in front of a U of L record 4,733 fans at Jim Patterson Stadium.
In the first-ever meeting of Kentucky and Louisville as top-10 teams in a series that dates back to 1925, the Wildcats and the Cardinals tangled in an instant classic in front of the largest crowd to ever witness a Louisville baseball game.
Kentucky (22-6) jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first on A.J. Reed’s two-run homer, with UL taking a 3-2 lead with two runs in the third and a single run in the first. Max Kuhn evened up the game with a solo homer in the top of the sixth, before the wild late innings.
In the top of the ninth, the Wildcats mounted a rally to take a 4-3 lead. Micheal Thomas was hit by a one-out pitch and after Thomas hustled into second on a wild pitch, Austin Cousino was walked intentionally to set up the double play. Louisville brought in the nation’s top power arm, closer Nick Burdi to face pinch hitter Jeff Boehm, who ran down to the plate after warming up in the bullpen down the leftfield line. Boehm chopped a single up the middle that required a ranging play from UL shortstop Sutton Whiting. Whiting spun and tried to fire to first base but his throw sailed into the dugout for an error, with Thomas scoring on the error.
Louisville (22-6) answered in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings, as Jeff Garner led off with an infield single off UK closer Trevor Gott. Zak Wasserman followed and hit a grounder up the middle, with UK shortstop Matt Reida diving to his right to snag the ball, with his throw to second base sailing wide for an error. With runners on the corners and no outs, Jeff Gardner hit a grounder up the middle, with Reida making a diving play to his left, flipping the ball to J.T. Riddle, who turned a nice 6-4-3 double play that allowed the game-tying run to score. Gott then got a strikeout to end the ninth and force extra frames.
Still facing the flame-throwing Burdi, Riddle led off the top of the 10th inning with a push bunt on the right side of the infield, with Burdi fielding on the run but bobbling the ball for an error. After Kuhn’s sacrifice bunt moved Riddle to second, the first pitch from Burdi to Barrett sailed for a wild pitch, allowing Riddle to motor to third. On a 2-0 offering, Barrett hung a fly ball into shallow centerfield, with Riddle beating the throw that went wide up the third base side. Gott then finished the game with three quick outs for the 5-4 win.
“It feels good,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said, who improved to 5-4 in his career vs. Louisville. “It’s always good to win. Glad to win a really good ballgame. Fans got their money’s worth. A run scored off of both big-time closers. It was a great game, a lot of big plays made. It was a tight game the entire way. It was fun.”
Kentucky freshman right-handed starter Kyle Cody worked a career-long 6.1 innings, allowing four hits and three runs – two earned – walking one and striking out four.
“This is the most people I’ve ever pitched in front of before,” Cody said. “Coming from a small town, I’ve never been to a stadium this big before. I had to calm myself down before the game. The main thing when I was on the mound: I had to breathe. That was the biggest thing. When you start getting base runners on, you just gotta breathe and relax and throw the ball where you want it.”
The quality start was the first of Cody’s career and was UK’s first quality start in a midweek game since lefty Sam Mahar went six strong innings against Cincinnati in 2012. Cody’s damage came on a two-out error in the first and a third inning that saw a pair of leadoff walks and balks lead to two runs.
“Sure he (grew up),” Henderson said about Cody’s development in his biggest start of the year. “It was a full house here against a really good club. An absolute disaster there at the beginning of the third inning and we just flat out handed them two runs. I was really interested in keeping him in the game at the point. I wanted to get him through that. Fortunately, he was able to get past it, found his rhythm and was really pretty impressive in the fourth, fifth and sixth.”
Lefty Ryne Combs took over for Cody with one out in the seventh and the go-ahead runner at second base, getting a groundout to bring in Chandler Shepherd with two outs. Shepherd got the out to escape the jam and worked 1.1 innings, giving up one hit and no runs, collecting one strikeout. Gott (4-0) picked up the win with two innings in relief, as his save chance was blown on an unearned run, just the third blown save of his career. He allowed only one hit – an infield single – and struck out one.
The Wildcats collected five hits in the game, drawing five walks and getting hit by two pitches. UK got homers from Reed and Kuhn, with Reed belting a two-run homer in the first as his seventh of the year and Kuhn leading off the sixth with his second homer. UK also got hits from Boehm, Riddle and Paul McConkey, with Cousino and Zac Zellers each drawing two walks and Micheal Thomas adding a walk.
Louisville starter Kyle Funkhouser worked into the third inning, finishing with two innings, allowing one hit and two runs, walking three and striking out one. Crafty lefty Cody Ege replaced him in the third in a bases-loaded, no-out jam, getting three outs to hold the Wildcats off the board. Ege worked three shutout innings, keeping UK off balance by alternating arm slots to varying hitters. Dace Kime worked two innings with two strikeouts, allowing only a solo homer from Kuhn. Kyle McGrath started the eighth and worked into the ninth, allowing only a single and a walk in 1.2 innings. Burdi (1-1) took the loss, allowing one unearned run in 1.1 innings of relief.
UK will return to action on Friday, traveling to No. 2 LSU for a three-game series at Alex Box Stadium.
The Wildcats got on the board in the top of the first inning, as Zellers drew a full-count walk with one outs. Reed followed with a nine-pitch at bat, sending the final offering of the test from Funkhouser over the rightfield fence for his seventh homer of the year. The homer allowed by Funkhouser was his first surrendered in 2013.
Louisville took advantage of an error to get a run back in the first inning. Ty Young singled to leftfield with two outs, scoring after Zellers’ three-base fielding error on a wind-blown ball in leftfield.
The Cardinals took a lead with two runs on no hits in the bottom of the third inning, as Cody hit Adam Engel and Nick Ratajczak to lead off the inning, then a pair of balks scored Engel and moved Ratajczak to third with no outs. Young then hung a sacrifice fly into rightfield to score Ratajczak and give UL a 3-2 lead.
The Wildcats evened the game in the top of the sixth inning, as Kuhn smashed a 1-1 pitch over the wall in left-centerfield for his second homer of the year.
GAME NOTES: Kentucky improved to 5-3 in the blue tops and white pants on the season … Kentucky is now 16-3 against right-handed starters in 2013 … Kentucky extended its lead in the series against Louisville to 66-35-1 … The Wildcats are now 3-3 when playing in night games … Kentucky is now 5-1 on the road … Kentucky is now 10-0 when scoring in the first inning, and 17-2 when scoring first in the ball game … Kentucky received its first midweek quality start of 2013 from its pitcher Kyle Cody … UK head coach Gary Henderson improved to 5-4 in his career against Louisville … UK is 3-1 against top-25 teams in 2013 and is 18-11 in games against top-25 teams in the last two years … UK is now 11-4 against top-10 teams the last two years … UK is now 6-1 in one-run games in 2013 and is now 21-9 in one-run games the last two years … UK is now 2-0 in extra-inning games in 2013.
· J.T. Riddle extended his consecutive streak of starts to 94 games.
· A.J. Reed blasted his team-leading seventh homerun of the season in the top of the first inning on the ninth pitch of the at-bat.
o Recorded his ninth multi-RBI game on the season, leading the team in 2013.
· Trevor Gott picked up the win, improving to 4-0 on the season.
· Max Kuhn hit a solo homerun in the top of the sixth, giving him two on the season and second in his career.
· Zac Zellers drew a walk in the top of the first, pushing his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 11.
· Kyle Cody threw a career-high 6.1 innings, striking out four batters and allowing two earned runs.
o It was Cody’s first career quality start.
· Paul McConkey ripped his first two-out hit of the season in the top of the fourth inning.
· Chandler Shepherd came in for relief in the bottom of the seventh and stranded the runner on third. Has now inherited 17 runners on the season, allowing eight to score.