Kentucky Baseball moves to 9-0

The UK bullpen nearly threw seven perfect innings, retiring 20 hitters in a row as the Cats beat Xavier 6-2 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

UK's 9-0 start is the second best in school history and the best since Keith Madison's team won its first 15 games to start the 2000 season.

Relievers Tommy Warner, James Paxton and Brock Baber combined to pitch seven and two thirds innings and retire all 20 batters they faced.

With two outs in the top of the ninth, pinch hitter Andrew Zellers fisted a single into centerfield against freshman Tyler Henry to end the streak. The single was Xavier's first hit since the third inning.

Henry issued a walk and gave up a run-scoring single before recording the game's final out.

"I am really pleased with the way we pitched it," Cohen said. "Offensively we just aren't hitting on all cylinders right now and when that happens, you have to have good pitching performances and tonight we had that."

The offense was not clicking, and neither was freshman starter Clint Tilford. Tilford gave up six hits and a run before being pulled in the third inning with bases loaded and nobody out.

Junior Tommy Warner, Tilford's replacement, got induced a pop out in foul territory and struck out two batters to escape the scoring threat unscathed.

"Tommy is a kid that we have a lot of confidence in situationally," Cohen said, "He's going to give up a lot of elevated pop-up fly, and that is what we needed (in that situation)."

"We have a lot of confidence in Tommy. Tommy has been on the mound when its mattered before and we knew he could come in and get some quality innings."

Cohen called on Warner in the same situation last week against Tennessee Tech, and Warner gave up a grand slam home run. Warner said last week weighed on his mind when he entered the game.

"When I came in I looked around and saw bases loaded and that was one of the first things to enter my mind," Warner said. "But anything like that, you just have to take it and get rid of it and get past that and get into doing what I want to do."

Warner was perfect for four innings, retiring 12 straight hitters before being replaced by freshman James Paxton. Paxton, making the first appearance of his UK career, retired the side in order to keep the bullpen's hitless streak alive.

"It was a rush," Paxton said. "I was just ready to go. I had waited two weeks to get out there and now I finally got my chance."

Paxton faced five Xavier hitters and retired them all, striking out three along the way.

"We are very high on Paxton," Cohen said. "He had some elbow issues in the beginning and we kind of nursed that a little bit, but he came in and threw the daylights out of the baseball today."

Brock Baber took the mound with two outs in the eighth inning extended bullpen's streak to 20 consecutive outs before giving the ball to Henry in the ninth inning.

Brian Spear hit a solo home run to tie the game 1-1 in the second inning. The long ball was the first of the junior transfer's UK career.

"It's good to get the first one out of the way," Spear said. "I guess that one is the hardest, but I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help the team win."

UK had been held hitless before Spear's hit left the yard. The home run sparked a rally that allowed the Cats to seize command of the game.

Ryan Wilkes and Billy Grace followed Spear's homer with back-to-back doubles that scored another run to give UK its first lead of the game at 2-1. Mike Brown hit a two-out single that drove Grace home. Later in the inning Sawyer Carroll doubled down the right field that plated two more runs and put the Cats ahead 5-1.

"Baseball is a game of momentum," Spear said. "It usually only takes one spark. When I hit that home run in the second inning it just seemed like a snowball affect."

UK added another run in the fifth inning on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly from Jason Kipnis.

Ryan Wilkes left the game after just the second inning because of shoulder tendonitis. Cohen said the substitution was precautionary and that he didn't want to take a chance on Wilkes injuring it in the cold weather.

The Cats will resume play with a three-game series against Wisconsin Milwaukee at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The first game is scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m.


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