UK Baseball

Five UK Wildcats combine to blank Cincinnati on four hits

The magic is back at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

A week after getting shellacked 12-0 by archrival Louisville, Kentucky's baseball team is doing just fine.

First, the Wildcats took two of three Southeastern Conference games at Arkansas.

Tuesday, in Sam Mahar's first collegiate start, UK drilled Cincinnati 7-0.

UK (33-5), ranked as high as No. 2, already has tied the school mark for seventh-most wins in a season.

The Cats lead the SEC East (11-4) and, this weekend, are set to play host to top-ranked, SEC West-leading LSU.

Completing a home-and-home sweep of Cincinnati (their previous win came March 21) served as a nice tuneup.

Mahar and four others combined on a four-hitter, with six strikeouts and no walks. Austin Cousino and Luke Maile belted first-inning homers and J.T. Riddle added one in the fifth.

"Very pleased with that effort tonight, especially on the mound," Coach Gary Henderson said. "We did some good things offensively early. Running balls out of the yard was good. I thought our infield defense was very good once again."

Mahar, a freshman lefty from Kenosha, Wis., was perfect until Bearcats designated hitter T.J. Jones led off the fifth with a single to left.

"I had a blast out there," Mahar said. "It's great playing with the defense I have. It gives me all the confidence in the world to go out there and just keep throwing strikes."

The Cats backed Mahar with error-free play, simplifying his thought process.

"I just planned on keep pumping the strike zone and let my defense do the work," he said.

Mahar (3-1) worked six innings, giving up only one other hit, a sixth-inning double by Nic Spence; he struck out five.

Chandler Shepherd, who got the victory when UK won 10-7 at Cincinnati on March 21, replaced Mahar. Spencer Drake, Taylor Martin and Walter Wijas followed.

"Sam did a really good job of throwing first-pitch strikes," Henderson said. "He stayed down for the most part. When he got up in the strike zone, he was able to make the adjustment within a pitch.

"He threw three pitches for a strike; I really liked that. He was able to switch sides of the plate late. Got some punchouts with the fastball in; I thought that was real good as well."

Cousino, celebrating his 19th birthday, led off UK's first with a home run, far into the parking lot beyond right field. The freshman's sixth homer of the season came on an up-and-in fastball.

"Actually I told someone (closer Trevor Gott) that I wanted to hit a home run on my birthday," said Cousino, who finished 2-for-4. "I actually wanted to homer and bunt for a single. I didn't get the bunt but I got the home run, so I'm happy with that."

Two outs later, Maile ripped a 2-0 pitch over the left-field wall, his team-leading 10th homer of the season, to make it 2-0.

The Cats added a run in the third, then plated three more in the fourth.

A fielder's choice by A.J. Reed scored the third-inning run.

In the fourth, Matt Reida's sacrifice fly drove in a run. Two more scored on Thomas McCarthy's two-out, full-count single to center.

Riddle's fourth homer of the season, in the fifth, finished the scoring.

Cincinnati (12-24) became UK's 22nd non-conference victim in 23 games.