Kentucky's SEC opener against 8th ranked Louisiana State was supposed to be an offensive shoot-out. After all, Kentucky and LSU entered the contest ranked first and second in the conference in team batting average, slugging percentage, and runs per game.
But on Friday night, senior pitcher Aaron Tennyson stifled the LSU batters, tossing a strong seven and two-thirds innings to help knock off the Tigers 8-2 at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The win was no doubt the biggest of the Wildcat's season thus far.
"I had a lot of adrenaline from the first inning," Tennyson said, "this being the first SEC weekend and against LSU, one of the best teams in the country. But after I settled in I felt really good."
Tennyson yielded only two earned runs against an LSU offense that averages 7.4 runs per ballgame.
"This is probably the most emotional and most exciting moment I've had in my career," admitted Tennyson.
He also earned a quality start (six innings pitched while giving up three runs or fewer), which was his third of the season and the 11th that Kentucky's starters have produced this year.
With the ace of their staff dominating from the hill, the Batcats were efficient at the plate all night.
John Shelby got things started with a solo home run in the bottom of the second to give Kentucky a 1-0 advantage. Shelby, who had struggled with the bat earlier in the year, may finally be turning the corner. He has hit all three of his home runs in one week's time.
LSU answered in the third. Michael Hollander led off the inning with a single. The Tigers sacrificed him to second, and with two outs Quinn Stewart ripped an RBI double that the game.
But four walks and a single in the bottom half would allow the Wildcats to reclaim the lead 3-1. After a scoreless fourth, Ryan Strieby opened up the fifth inning by belting a bomb over the right-center wall.
Later in the inning, and for the rest of the contest, free passes would bite the Tigers. Kentucky took advantage of the baserunners they were given, adding two more runs in the fifth and one in the sixth.
LSU threatened again in the eighth, scoring their second run of the game on a sacrifice fly to centerfield. But Brock Baber would come out of the pen and pitch the final one and one-third inning, snuffing out the Tiger rally.
After the game, Head Coach John Cohen spoke about Friday's win.
"Our team has really worked so hard to be an SEC caliber-club, and I think that's where we are. You know, this is one game, and it's meaningless if you don't go out and continue to compete hard, and I'd be very disappointed if we don't come out and compete the same way tomorrow."
The win improved Kentucky to 16-3 (1-0) on the season. The Wildcats, who have won their last seven straight games, hope to keep their streak alive as they continue their home series against LSU on Saturday afternoon. The game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m.
Cats knock off LSU, 8-2
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