A three-run first inning was more than enough to back Jordan Cooper as Kentucky completed a season sweep of Louisville with a 7-1 victory Tuesday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Cooper, a sophomore from Shelbyville, Tenn., made his fourth consecutive start in the series. This time, the right-hander worked 62⁄3 innings, holding U of L to an unearned run, five hits and three walks, while striking out five.
He didn't allow a hit until J.J. Ethel's single to lead off the fifth. U of L's first base-runner of the night — Ty Young, via a first-inning walk — was picked off by Cooper before another pitch was thrown.
"I just tried to come out and throw some pitches where I needed to throw and let the defense work," said Cooper (3-1). "Luckily, we got some runs and support, and that's all that matters."
UK (20-22) also won 3-2 on April 12 at Louisville.
The teams had split their season series for four years in a row. UK, which also swept the Cardinals in 2006, has now won 26 of the last 36 in the rivalry.
"In my eight years here, it's our second sweep," Wildcats Coach Gary Henderson said. "It's tough to do. I was really proud of the way our kids competed, and especially proud of Cooper's effort tonight."
Alex Phillips followed Cooper with 21⁄3 innings of two-hit ball, striking out two.
Chad Wright and Braden Kapteyn each had three of UK's 11 hits. They each scored twice and drove in a run.
U of L (22-18) was led by Ryan Seiz, who had two of the Cards' seven hits and scored their only run.
"You've got to give them a lot of credit," Cardinals Coach Dan McDonnell said. "They were ready to hit our fastball in the first and put together a really nice inning. Then their pitcher did a really nice job. I'm kind of getting tired of seeing that guy. He's pitched very well against us four times in a row."
Over those four starts, Cooper has allowed one earned run in 192⁄3 innings.
"It hasn't helped us, the more we've seen him," McDonnell said. "He attacks us with the fastball. We don't seem to be ready to hit it. He throws enough strikes and has the breaking ball over just enough that he beats us with the fastball."
The Wildcats batted around in their three-run first inning, although they left the bases loaded.
"I thought the quality of our at-bats was outstanding early on," Henderson said. "Our kids absolutely showed up to play and had an edge to them."
Wright and Taylor Black jump-started things with back-to-back doubles.
Kapteyn singled, moving Black to third.
One out later, Black scored on J.T. Riddle's sacrifice fly.
Kapteyn advanced to second on a walk, then scored on Michael Williams' single up the middle.
Kapteyn, who ranks fifth in the Southeastern Conference in average, RBI, homers and doubles, made it 4-0 with a second-inning homer — his sixth blast of the season.
"He threw me three sliders in a row," Kapteyn said of Cards starter Mike Nastold (3-5). "I knew a fastball was coming and just got one I liked."
Luke Maile led off the sixth inning with his seventh homer for a 5-0 lead.
Cooper fanned the first two batters in the seventh inning, extending U of L's scoreless streak on UK's field to 162⁄3 innings. He consistently threw first-pitch strikes.
The Cardinals then packaged consecutive infield singles by Seiz, Kyle Grieshaber and Kyle Gibson to score their only run. A throwing error moved Seiz an extra base, from first to third, making the run unearned. UK plated single runs in the seventh and eighth, via Thomas McCarthy's sacrifice fly and Wright's RBI single.
After losing 12 consecutive SEC games, UK opened the second half of its season by taking two of three from Arkansas over the weekend. Tuesday's win added to the good vibes.
"It's a great way to start (the second half of league play) and, obviously, we've got a much different feel late in the game over the last four ball games than we had previously," Henderson said. "I'm just really proud that we've turned the corner in that regard."