Senior southpaw Jerad Grundy worked seven dominating innings and faced just three hitters over the minimum, leading No. 8 Kentucky to a 6-1 win over Elon, during the second day of the Carravelle Resort Invitational hosted by Coastal Carolina, on a cold and windy Friday afternoon at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Park.
"We did some really good things at the plate, even though we only scored in two innings," UK head coach Gary Henderson said. "I thought the Elon pitcher was tough. I thought he was good. We strung some hits together the second time through the lineup and put a five up on the board. We had some good baserunning in that inning and later in the ballgame. Our defense was really good. Lucas (Witt), Austin (Cousino) and Zac (Zellers) were really good in the outfield."
Grundy (2-0) worked seven strong innings, allowing just three hits and two walks, surrendering a run and striking out three. Over his first two starts of 2013, Grundy has worked 13 innings, including his first 12.1 innings without allowing an earned run, posting a 0.69 ERA.
"After a loss, the next day you come out and you really want to play on edge, especially after losing a tough one like we did yesterday," Grundy said. "For the most part, we played errorless baseball and the five spot in the fourth was huge. When we play like that we have a great chance to win."
The native of Johnsburg, Ill., faced only three hitters over the minimum, allowing one extra-base hit and getting two great double-play turns from his UK infield.
"Obviously Jerad's outing was extremely encouraging," Henderson said. "Three over the minimum. A lot of ground balls and he kept them off balance the entire game. He got tired in the sixth and got through the sixth and then the seventh. His concentration was outstanding."
In his two-year UK career, Grundy has an 8-3 record and a 3.38 ERA in 18 starts, holding opponents to a .234 average.
"Working ahead keeps my pitch count down," Grundy said. "I am on the attack and I feel like I am in control as opposed to the hitter being in control. The defense behind me was great and that just had my confidence up. Outfield covered a lot of ground out there. We have some guys out there who can move a little bit. They did a good job today. I only have two starts, it is really early in the year and we have a lot of games left. To get going like I have these first two starts feels good."
Kentucky (4-1) was led offensively in the win by a five-run fourth inning, later adding a run in the seventh. All-America centerfielder Austin Cousino launched a pair of doubles and stole his fifth base of the year, with Zac Zellers, A.J. Reed, Max Kuhn, J.T. Riddle and Paul McConkey each adding hits. Kuhn hit his second double of the year, with Riddle extending his frolicsome hitting streak to a club-best eight games and adding a steal. Leftfielder Lucas Witt drew a walk and hung a sacrifice fly, with catcher Micheal Thomas also adding a sacrifice fly.
Grundy was replaced to start the eighth by freshman southpaw Ryne Combs, who worked two innings to finish the game, not allowing a baserunner.
"Really happy to see Ryne Combs come in and face six guys and get six guys out in a row," Henderson said. "We have enough guys in the pen. I am not concerned so much about that part of it. I am more concerned about the message that we are sending to our club from our starting pitcher and then when we come in to clean up an inning. We have to be much sharper then we have been in two of our five games. We have talented people down there, we just have to learn out to fulfill the roles effectively, aggressively and confidently.
"Obviously it has been a little up and down so when you have a guy like Combs come in, and even (Dylan) Dwyer and (Zach) Strecker yesterday, and do what they are supposed to do and how they can do it you are really pleased to see it and obviously really happy with Ryne."
Elon (2-3) senior left-handed starter Dylan Clark (1-1) - a 2012 Cape Cod League All-Star - worked six innings, allowing six hits and five runs - four earned, not issuing a walk and striking out seven. Clark finished a strikeout shy of tying his career high, with all of the UK offensive output coming in the fourth inning off the dynamic Phoenix southpaw. Tyler Manez took over in the seventh, working two innings, allowing one hit and one run, walking one and striking out two.
The Wildcats mounted a five-run rally in the fourth inning, breaking up Clark's perfect game and taking a 5-0 lead. Cousino led off with a double hit to the rightfield wall and Zellers followed with a single into right-centerfield. Reed then smoked a RBI single to rightfield to score Cousino and Kuhn followed with a double over the leftfielder's head. After a Riddle line out, McConkey singled into centerfield, with the throw from the outfield sailing to the backstop to score Zellers and Reed and move McConkey to third base. Witt then scored McConkey with a sacrifice fly to the rightfield warning track.
Ryan Kinsella got Elon - a team that won 33 games in 2012 - on the board in the top of the seventh, belting a one-out solo homer over the rightfield fence.
In the bottom of the seventh, UK added to its lead with a run for the final margin, 6-1. Witt led off with a four-pitch walk and Matt Reida came to the plate and successfully executed a sacrifice bunt down the third base line, with the speedy Witt motoring from first base to third with just one out. Thomas then hung a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Witt.