A day after cruising to a season-opening win over Wofford, the University of Kentucky baseball team swept a doubleheader over host South Carolina Upstate to move to 3-0 on the year. One victory was heavy on drama; the Cats left little doubt in the other.
In game one Kentucky showed plenty of grit in clawing back from a 5-0 deficit to edge the Spartans 6-5 in 10 innings on Kole Cottam’s two-out RBI single.
Upstate jumped all over Kentucky starter Zack Thompson in the bottom of the third. The Spartans scored all five of their runs in the inning and brought 11 batters to the plate.
After Thompson’s third walk of the inning loaded the bases with two outs, Jake Bourke singled to right field for a 2-0 Spartans lead. Another single again loaded the bases, and Thompson’s fourth walk of the inning put Upstate ahead 3-0. Brad Schaenzer came on in relief and gave up a two-RBI single before he stopped the bleeding with a strikeout.
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UK’s relievers were lights-out the rest of the way, allowing just two more hits and giving the offense the cover it needed to complete the comeback. Schaenzer went 2 2/3 innings and struck out three. Jimmy Ramsey went 2 2/3 hitless innings before giving way to Chris Machamer, who came on in the top of the ninth with the game tied 5-5.
The Cats’ offense plated runs in three consecutive innings to hand their sophomore closer a hard-fought tie. In the top of the sixth, Troy Squires was hit by a pitch and Luke Heyer, who hit a three-run homer in Friday’s opener, doubled to left and chased Upstate’s starting pitcher. Squires scored on a throwing error and Heyer scored on a fielder’s choice, drawing the Cats within 5-2.
In the top of the seventh, JUCO transfer Ben Aklinski continued his hot start to the season, lacing a leadoff home run down the left field line.
The Cats evened the score in the top of the eighth on T.J. Collett’s RBI-single and Cottam’s ground out to third, which scored Aklinski.
Machamer struck out two and stranded one in the bottom of the ninth, setting the stage for Cottam’s go-ahead single up the middle in the top of the 10th. Machamer then sat down the Spartans in order, earning the win.
In game two, the Cats jumped ahead early and never looked back, as sophomore pitcher Justin Lewis put together a sensational outing and UK’s offense stayed red-hot in a 10-3 win.
Back-to-back RBI doubles by Ryan Shinn and Trey Dawson gave the Cats a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Squires scored on Tristan Pompey’s groundout for a 3-0 lead in the fourth. UK blew the game open with a four-run sixth inning that included RBI singles by Cottam and Heyer.
The Cats added three more runs in the eighth. Becker tagged his first home run of the year to open the inning then Aklinski doubled for his third hit of the game and fifth of the day. The junior, who transferred from Phoenix College, now has seven hits in 13 at-bats this year. Collett followed with a two-run homer.
The Spartans never mounted a threat against Lewis, who allowed just two hits and no walks in six innings while striking out a career-high nine. He fanned the final four batters he faced.
The Cats had 11 hits in the nightcap, giving them 31 through their first three games.
Kentucky vs. Evansville
When: Sunday starting at 11 a.m.
Radio: WBUL-FM 98.5