LEXINGTON, Ky. --- Junior right-hander Joseph Blanton struck out a career-high 16 and pitched the first complete game of the season for Kentucky as the Wildcats held off Ball State, 3-2, Friday at Applebee's Park.
"Today was a classic match-up of two of the top pitchers in college baseball," UK coach Keith Madison said. "Joseph Blanton (2-1) pitched an outstanding game and our hitters were able to get to their All-American and put a few runs across the plate. I'm proud of the way our players answered the challenge today."
Kentucky evened its record at 7-7 on the season.
The nine complete innings for Blanton was the second time the Brownsville, Ky. native, went the distance, as he posted his first complete game in a 5-3 setback at Ole Miss on March 10, 2001. The 16 strikeouts are the most for a UK pitcher since Scott Downs set the single-game strikeout record of 18 against Indiana on March 17, 1995.
Ball State (1-4) sent its All-America right-hander Bryan Bullington (0-2) to the mound, setting the stage that attracted a majority of the Major League Baseball scouts from across the tri-state. Bullington, last season's Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year and a member of the 2001 USA National Team, went seven complete innings and yielded three runs (two earned) on seven hits with one walk and four strikeouts.
The Cats got on the scoreboard first when junior Brad Pickrell reached on a throwing error by BSU shortstop Paul Henry in the third. Sophomore Caleb Stewart singled to center to bring home Pickrell and give the Cats a 1-0 advantage.
Blanton cruised through the first four innings, allowing only three Cardinals to reach base. But BSU designated hitter Adam Metzler would not let Blanton, ranked the Southeastern Conference's No. 2 prospect in the 2002 MLB Draft by Baseball America, finish the game unblemished, as he sent a fastball over the right-center wall to even the score.
The Cats rallied in the sixth with two down, as junior Gordon Tyler took first on an infield base hit and center fielder Seth Morris ripped a single to left, extending his team-leading hit streak to seven games. Freshman designated hitter Mike Ferris gave UK a lead it would not relinquish when he slapped his third double of the season to the left-center gap, bringing home Tyler and Morris.
After putting a run across the plate in the eighth, Henry cracked a leadoff single up the middle, representing the game-tying run. After sitting down the next two batters, third baseman Kiel Holman singled to left, putting Cardinals at first and second with two down, but Blanton forced Metzler into a high-fly to center to earn his second win of the season.
Ball State 000 010 010 - 2 6 2
Kentucky 001 002 00X - 3 8 2
Win: Blanton (2-1)
Loss: Bullington (0-2)