LOUISVILLE — For the second time in two weeks, a No. 1 ranking and a rivalry game against Louisville proved a combustible mix for Kentucky's baseball team.
Louisville drubbed UK 10-2 Tuesday night, which more or less matched the 12-0 romp the Cardinals enjoyed at Cliff Hagan Stadium on April 10. As a result, the Cardinals enjoyed their first two-game regular-season sweep of Kentucky since 1970.
Both sides found it difficult to explain two blowout victories by Louisville amid the best start to a season in the history of Kentucky baseball.
"I don't know what's happening," Cardinals outfielder Ty Young said. "We did just what we did last time. We got off to an early lead, and our pitching dominated."
UK first baseman Luke Maile, the reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Week, advised reporters to credit Louisville.
"Baseball is all about the basics," he said. "They've done the basics better than us both times we played them. That's all there is to it."
Kentucky (35-7) suffered a meltdown in the third inning when Louisville (29-12) scored six runs to get the rout started. In that inning, UK pitchers hit two batters, walked two more, threw 35 pitches and didn't get an out until the 28th pitch.
Kentucky Coach Gary Henderson noted the nature of mid-week games in college baseball. Those games offer a chance to give relatively untested players, especially pitchers, a chance to audition for future weekend conference games.
Freshman Sam Mahar, who made his starting debut last Tuesday with six innings of two-hit pitching against Cincinnati, exited after the first four Louisville batters reached base in the third inning. Another freshman, Chandler Shepherd, hit the first hitter he faced, then surrendered a two-run double to Jeff Gardner.
"We had young pitching that didn't respond the way we have throughout the course of the year," Henderson said of an inning that saw Louisville's first eight hitters reach base.
Kentucky didn't do much hitting, either. Having matched a season-low of four hits in the first game against Louisville, UK had five hits this time. Two were infield singles.
"They played great both times we played them," said Maile, who went hitless for only the fourth time all season. "That's where it all starts."
Of Louisville starter Chad Green and Travis Tingle, who limited UK to three hits and one run over the first five innings, Maile said, "Those two guys completely neutralized our offense. They didn't do anything but throw the ball down in the (strike) zone and attack our hitters and be able to get a second pitch over. That will beat a lot of teams."
As the game two weeks ago marked a season-high attendance for UK (3,563), so Louisville enjoyed its largest crowd of the season (3,862). The attendance was a record for Jim Patterson Stadium, which opened in 2005, the same season Louisville last beat a No. 1 team (Tulane) before twice mashing Kentucky this month.
When asked about putting a mid-week loss in perspective, Henderson candidly said, "It's not that tough to take."
But, he added, "We're disappointed. We're very disappointed. It's a rivalry. We want to play well."
A survivor of the March 2 tornado that devastated Henryville, Ind., threw out the first pitch while seated in a wheelchair. Stephanie Decker lost her legs as she laid on top of her children while the storm collapsed their house.
The children, Dominic, 8, and Reese, 6, were not injured.
Decker is scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday at University Hospital in Louisville. She hopes to be walking with the aid of prosthesis within a month, U of L said in a statement.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com