Kentucky’s starting pitcher, Justin Lewis, made his family proud on Sunday. That’s saying something when your cousins include former UK basketball star Chuck Hayes and pro football star Richard Sherman.
Lewis, who has Hayes-like height (6-foot-7) if not bulk (195 pounds), pitched Kentucky to a 10-2 victory over LSU.
That enabled No. 11 UK to win the weekend series of ranked teams and gave the Cats three victories in the week’s four games against ranked opponents (counting No. 2 Louisville on Tuesday).
Lewis was the model of efficiency in limiting LSU to six hits — including four infield singles — in pitching only the second complete game by a UK pitcher this season.
Kentucky’s hitters provided Lewis with plenty of support. UK’s 18 hits were the most against No. 8 LSU all season. UK’s 10 runs were the second-most against LSU (New Orleans beat the Tigers 11-8 on Feb . 21).
Kole Cottam and Riley Mahan led the UK offense. They combined for five hits, including back-to-back home runs in the third inning.
Kentucky improved to 28-13 overall and 12-6 in the Southeastern Conference. The latter maintained UK’s two-game lead in the SEC Eastern Division. The Cats remained a game behind Mississippi State for the league’ best record.
LSU fell to 27-14 overall and 10-8 in the SEC.
Aside from the chilly weather (50 degrees at first pitch), Kentucky could hardly have asked for a better start to the game.
After Lewis needed 12 pitches to retire LSU in order in the first, Kentucky scored four times in the bottom of the inning.
LSU starter Eric Walker threw 20 pitches before getting an out, and 14 more before a second out. Luke Becker’s two-run double highlighted UK’s fast start.
The Cats added three more runs in the third inning. Kole Cottam and Riley Mahan slugged back-to-back homers, the first time that had happened since May 17 of last season (Evan White and Zach Reks against Murray State).
White lasted only two more batters. When he hit Troy Squires with a pitch for the second time, LSU changed pitchers. Walker, a freshman who came into the game with a 5-0 record, threw 62 pitches to get seven outs.
The fourth inning resembled the first. Lewis needed eight pitches to retire LSU in order.
Then, with the help of a replay review, the Cats scored three more runs. After Cottam doubled in a run, Mahan floated a single to right. Reks, who was on third, had to make sure the ball fell in front of the right fielder before breaking for home. Reks was initially called out, but a replay review led to a safe call.
Meanwhile, Lewis mowed down LSU with precision and efficiency. Four times in first five innings, LSU went out in order or failed to get a ball out of the infield.
Lewis retired 10 straight batters before Nick Coomes’ fly ball to right field, perhaps aided by a northeast breeze, sailed over the right field fence. The homer reduced UK’s lead to 10-2 in the sixth inning.
Xavier at Kentucky
7 p.m. Wednesday