The Wildcats got a solid starting effort from A.J. Reed and collected hits and RBI from eight different spots in the batting order en route to an 8-3 win over the top-ranked team in the country, Virginia, in the first game of a multi-team event in Wilmington, N.C.
"Some really good quality at-bats," UK coach Gary Henderson said. "Our two-strike approach was better today than just about any time at all last year. And it should be, we have spent a lot of time talking about it and emphasizing it.
"More importantly, or just as important, they bought it. That was fun to watch and it is nice to get rewarded for something that you spend so much time working on."
The Cats trailed 1-0 entering the bottom of the fourth before putting together a big inning against UVA starter Brandon Waddell. Reed doubled to score Kuhn to tie the game, followed by an RBI groundout by Matt Reida to give UK the lead. Shelby singled in Bernal and Heady doubled to plate the speedy Shelby as part of a four-run outburst.
UK got two runs in the fifth on a Kuhn double to score Cousino and a Bernal single that plated Kuhn. The Cats added insurance runs in the seventh and eighth, including an RBI double by Micheal Thomas to score Bernal and an RBI single by Kyle Barrett to score Shelby.
After recording only 69 doubles in 55 games during the 2013 season, the Cats had six in their season opener.
Reed (1-0) pitched five innings for the Cats, working around three hits and three walks to allow only one Virginia run. The junior left-hander and preseason All-Americna exited after throwing 99 pitches. Ryne Combs and Zach Strecker closed out the game for UK with four innings of solid relief work.
Virginia could not come up with the key hits when it needed them most, stranding 11 runners on the day. The Cavaliers (0-1) got one hit and two RBI from centerfielder Brandon Downes. The Cats were able to minimize the damage by All-American first baseman Mike Papi (.381, 7 HR, 57 RBI in 2013) who was limited to a lone single.
Waddell (0-1) took the loss after allowing six earned runs on seven hits and a walk over 4.1 innings. He was the Friday night starter last season for the Cavs, who lost only one starter from a team that went 50-12 and were eliminiated by Mississippi State in the NCAA super-regionals a year ago.
Virginia returns five different players who have earned preseason All-American honors of some variety in 2014.
UK returns to action on Saturday against host UNC Wilmington at 4 p.m. ET at Brooks Field. The game will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Network.
• Kentucky evened the all-time series against Virginia at 1-1. The border-state programs had not faced each other since 1906.
• UK improved to 60-41-3 all-time in season openers.
• The Wildcats posted their first win over a No. 1 team since a victory over top-ranked LSU in 2012 and the forth under coach Gary Henderson. It was UK's first matchup against a No. 1 team from outside the SEC.
• Connor Heady, a freshman second baseman from North Oldham High School, had an afternoon of firsts, including his first career start, first hit, first walk, first stolen base and first sacrifice bunt.