UK Baseball

Baseball: Cousino bounces back, helps UK pound LSU 8-1 behind Grundy

Austin Cousino, right, set UK freshman records for hits (76) and runs scored (56). He was named Freshman of the Year by SEC coaches, who also picked him for the all-defensive team.
Austin Cousino, right, set UK freshman records for hits (76) and runs scored (56). He was named Freshman of the Year by SEC coaches, who also picked him for the all-defensive team. Herald-Leader

Turnabout was fair play for Kentucky's baseball team Saturday.

Kentucky, ranked No. 2 by Collegiate Baseball, whipped No. 1 LSU 8-1 to tie the three-game Southeastern Conference series at a game apiece.

UK (34-6, 12-5), leading the SEC East, has not lost an SEC series all year.

LSU (32-8, 12-5), leading the SEC West, is tied with UK for the overall lead. The Tigers had an eight-game winning streak snapped Saturday.

A crowd of 2,625 turned out on a 48-degree, overcast day at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Left-hander Jerad Grundy (4-1) gave UK six innings of one-run, six-hit pitching. Alex Phillips notched his third save, allowing two hits and no runs in three innings.

The starkest contrast from Friday's game was the performance of Wildcats leadoff batter Austin Cousino.

The freshman from Dublin, Ohio, struck out in all five at-bats Friday when LSU won 5-4.

Saturday, Cousino led off the first inning with a double and eventually scored.

In the fourth, his three-run homer to the deck in right-center gave UK a 6-1 lead.

Nice bounce-back.

"That's what you've got to do," Cousino said. "It was a rough Friday night and definitely might have lost a little sleep over it, but credit to LSU and credit (Kevin) Gausman, a great pitcher. It's amazing what one night can do in baseball. That's what the best thing about this sport is; you can just bounce right back."

LSU pitchers struck out 15 Wildcats in the opener. Saturday, the number was four.

Cousino, Thomas McCarthy, Luke Maile and Michael Williams each had two of UK's 11 hits.

Maile belted his team-leading 11th homer with a man on in the seventh. Tigers reliever Brent Bonvillain offered back-to-back fastballs away.

"I let the first one go by and he kind of came at me with the same pitch, and I was kind of fortunate that he left it up for me a little bit," Maile said. "And I was fortunate to put a good swing on it."

The support was plenty for Grundy, who had not made it out of the fifth inning in his previous four starts. He won for the first time since March 30, and for the first time in six SEC starts.

"The last few weeks haven't gone how I would have liked," Grundy said. "But (I) just listened to Coach (Gary) Henderson. He told me to stay positive, and things could turn any moment. So today I just went out there and finally found my fastball command and had my off-speed pitch going, which allowed me to go six innings."

LSU's only run was driven in by Raph Rhymes' two-out double in the first. Grundy settled in, kept the ball down and benefited from solid defense.

"He found his rhythm after he'd lose it for a pitch, rather than get frustrated," Henderson said. "Just a little bit more mature approach to pitching maybe (than in recent weeks). Going to solution instead of frustration. But that was it. Nothing else was changing. Find a way to be successful and don't get too hung up on short-term failure."

After LSU scored in the first, UK plated two in the bottom of the inning. Maile drove in the first with a sacrifice fly and Cameron Flynn singled in the other.

Cousino's three-run homer in the fourth was preceded by an RBI single by Williams.

"You can relax on the mound; you know you don't have to be perfect with your pitches once you've got a 6-1 lead at that point," Grundy said. "You don't have to be perfect. If they sneak a home run on you, you're still up with a big lead."

Now, for the fifth time in six weeks, the Cats can go for a series rubber-game win. Overall this season, UK is 7-0 on Sundays.

"We've responded well every weekend this year, and we're not in a place that we haven't been before," Maile said. "So we've just got to come out and keep playing good baseball no matter what the series is or what the score is. If we keep doing that, things will continue to happen for us."

Said Henderson: "I think we're real confident. But you still respect who you're playing and you respect the game. You don't take anything for granted. But we've been pretty good on Sunday."

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