The No. 17 UK baseball team was coming off its record breaking 16th straight win to start the 2007 season. They were playing at Cliff Hagan Stadium, where they owned the nation's longest regular-season home winning streak with 26 straight wins. And they were playing a Cleveland State team which entered Monday with just a 2-10 record.
The Cats managed to avoid that letdown and shut out the Vikings 8-0, but, head coach John Cohen said his team didn't play as well as it could have. However, he cited other reasons for the Cats' less-than-stellar play.
"We didn't play as well as we could have, and I think a big part of that is Spring Break," Cohen said. "We've been getting our guys up really early for the last eight months and all of a sudden if they want to wake up at noon they could. That's something maybe we could have done a better job of today is waking them up early, and I think our focus wasn't as great as it could have been early on. But I really liked the way it progressed toward the end of the game."
Senior catcher Sean Coughlin drove in three runs on a 2-for-5 day at the plate. Coughlin belted a three-run home run in the fifth inning that gave the Cats a 5-0 lead.
"I hit a curveball first pitch," Coughlin said. "I knew he was going to throw it first pitch to me. I was a little out front in my first at bat and then a little out front in my second at bat so I knew they were going to try and get me out front a little bit and I knew I wasn't going to see to many fastballs. He threw me a curveball first pitch and I just went with and it went over the fence."
Coughlin almost hit a second home run in the eighth inning. The catcher got hit a long fly ball to straight away center, but Cleveland State centerfielder John Westra made a leaping catch at the wall snare the would-be home run.
On his way back to the dugout, Coughlin turned and applauded the centerfielder for making a good play.
"It was a great play," Coughlin said. "I didn't take anything away from him. He was just doing his job. It just so happened that he got up on the wall and got it. Things like that happen in baseball. I put a good swing on it and thought it was gone, thought I had my second one. At the same time, the kid made a great play so hats off to him."
Though Cohen was a little disappointed with the Cats' focus at the plate, the UK pitching staff was as sharp as it has been all season.
Starter Andrew Albers threw six complete shut-out innings allowing just three hits and no walks while striking out three batters.
"I was trying to keep the ball down today," Albers said. "I've been having a little trouble leaving balls up recently so I was just focused on getting the ball down and trying to get some ground balls."
Albers picked up the win and improved to 4-0 on the year.
"Things worked out," Albers said. "They hit balls at my fielders and my fielders made plays behind me, so it was a good day."
Scott Green pitched the final three innings of the game and gave up only two hits while striking out two. The combined shutout was just the Cats' second of the season.
Senior Mike Brown delivered a pair of UK runs in the seventh with a two-RBI single to left field. Brown continues to swing a hot stick for the Cats. The senior entered Monday's game batting .531 with a .627 on-base percentage in eleven starts. He also leads the team with nine stolen bases.
The win moves the Cats to 17-0 on the season, extending their records for both the longest winning streak and the best start in the program's 103-year history.
UK will look to extend those records even further when they take on Canisius on Tuesday and Wednesday at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Both games are scheduled for 4 p.m. starts.