GARY, Ind. (AP) – Freshman centerfielder Austin Cousino collected three hits and three RBI, including a two-RBI double off the centerfield wall in a five-run sixth inning, to lead No. 11 Kentucky to an 8-1 win over Valparaiso in the second round of the NCAA Gary Regional, on a sunny Saturday afternoon at U.S. Steel Yard.
Kentucky (44-17) has now tied the 2006 (44-17) and 2008 (44-19) school-record of 44 wins with the elimination game win over Valparaiso. Just hours after playing the second-longest game in the history of the NCAA Tournament – a 21-inning marathon 7-6 loss to Kent State on Friday night – the Wildcats took the field to face Valpo.
After the teams traded runs in the fourth inning, UK exploded for five runs in the top of the fifth inning to take a lead, including Cousino’s two-RBI double and his steal of home.
The Wildcats will now advance to face the loser of the Purdue vs. Kent State game, set for 8 p.m. ET on Saturday night. The 4 p.m. ET game with UK today will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, available in Central Kentucky on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
If UK is playing Purdue in any games at the Gary Regional, it will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
UK will start all-conference southpaw Corey Littrell (8-2, 2.66 ERA) in today’s game. In order to advance to the Monday if-necessary game, UK would have to post a win in the opener and a win in the finale today.
The 2012 SEC Freshman of the Year, Cousino, led UK at the top of the order for an injury and exhaustion-depleted UK team following the 21-inning affair on Friday night. He went 3-for-5 with a double, three RBI and a steal of home plate.
Shortstop Matt Reida also collected two hits and two RBI, while senior backstop Michael Williams – who has caught all 30 innings of UK’s two games – added an RBI knock.
UK was without All-SEC catcher Luke Maile and sophomore outfielder Lucas Witt due to injuries suffered on Friday night in the 21-inning game, with Reed pitching nine innings in relief and making him unavailable on the mound.
Shepherd picked up his first career save with three shutout innings, allowing two hits and striking out two.