Despite Weather, Baseball moves to 11-0

If the first two games of this weekend's series against Wisconsin-Milwaukee have proven anything, its that UK baseball players would make great postal workers.

The Cats survived winds gusting as high as 50 miles per hour Friday and played through snow flurries on Saturday. And despite inclement weather conditions, UK (11-0) keeps delivering wins.

Freshman starter Chris Rusin struck out a career-high nine batters for the Cats, who defeated Wisconsin-Milwaukee 7-3 at Cliff Hagan Stadium in a game that gave whole new meaning to the phrase "winter ball."

"I think again, the conditions, you just kind of have to survive them," said UK head coach John Cohen. "Overall I think our kids really did a great job of focusing in on the task at hand and getting through a difficult weather situation."

Cohen actually thought the cold and the snow helped his team's defensive effort.

"It changes things because it becomes a focus issue," Cohen said. "In some respects, I think our guys focus harder in those conditions. Our defense was spectacular today, and I think it is because you have to be very aware that the ball is going to be hit to you and how cold your fingers are and the whole thing."

UK was held hitless through the first three innings of the game as Wisconsin-Milwaukee jumped out to an early 2-0 lead.

Designated hitter Sean Coughlin singled in the fourth to break up Panther starter Dan Luczak's no-hitter.

After Coughlin's single, UK loaded the bases for catcher Tyler Howe. The junior college transfer ripped a bases-clearing double to put the Cats out front 3-2.

Howe, who played summer ball in the Northwoods League with Luczak, said the two remain good friends, which may have given him an edge at the plate.

"It gave me a little bit of an advantage," Howe said. "I caught him a few times this summer and I kind of new what he had in his arsenal and I felt really confident up there."

UK scored two more runs before Luczak could get out of the fourth inning and outfielder Jason Kipnis doubled to drive in two more in the eighth.

The Cats scattered just five hits, but the UK hitters cashed in on nine walks to score seven runs.

Howe was 2-for-2 with three RBIs and scored twice on the afternoon.

"It was a big win," Howe said. "We battled hard. (Luczak) kept us off balance for the first few innings. But we stuck in there and got some baserunners and executed."

Meanwhile, UK starter Chris Rusin (2-0) struck out a career-high eight batters in six and two-thirds innings to earn his second win of the season.

"I just tried to keep the ball down, because in my last outing I didn't throw a lot of strikes," Rusin said. "I had to get ahead of the hitters today and I did a good job of that."

Cohen said that as long as the left-handed Rusin, who is just a sophomore, throws strikes, he will be successful.

"The whole issue with Chris is how many strikes he is going to throw," Cohen said. "If he can throw a lot of strikes, he is going to get a lot of wins and strike a lot of guys out. But he can't have 2-1 and 3-1 count situations or he is going to get hurt. Today he stayed away from that."

Wisconsin-Milwaukee scored a single run in the seventh inning to pull within two runs of the lead, but Kentucky pushed across a couple of insurance runs in the eighth inning that sealed the 7-3 victory.

UK's 11-0 start is the second best in school history. Keith Madison's 2000 club, which began that season 15-0, holds the record.

The Cats will conclude their weekend series against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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