Braxton Cottongame starts, UK wins home opener

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Austin Schultz doubled, homered and drove in a career-best four runs, powering Kentucky to a 9-4 victory over Southeast Missouri in Tuesday’s home opener at Kentucky Proud Park.

Schultz, a sophomore infielder from Adams, Nebraska, narrowly missed hitting for the elusive cycle, falling just a triple shy of the feat. He plated a run in four separate at bats, including his first home run of the season, a towering blast into the UK bullpen in left field. He also delivered RBIs on a single, ground rule double to right field and groundout in going 3-for-4 to extend his streak to 17 consecutive games reaching base safely.

The Cats (1-3) jumped on SEMO right away, putting up single runs in both the first and third innings. After the Redhawks played small ball to take the lead in the top of the fourth the Cats rallied to reclaim the lead on Schultz’s fifth-inning homer and tacked on a four-run eighth to put the game out of reach.

Freshman infielder John Rhodes put his prodigious talent on display, going 2-for-4 with two runs, a triple over the centerfielder’s head and two RBI. He also made a diving snare at third base of a line drive destined for a hit.

On the mound, junior right-hander Daniel Harper earned the win in relief before watching sophomore’s Cole Daniels and Alex Degen allow just one hit and strike out five over the final 2.2 innings. Degen earned his first career save with four punchouts in 2.0 innings.

SCORING

Bottom 1st – Oraj Anu and T.J. Collett singled. Coltyn Kessler reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Austin Schultz grounded out to 1B, scoring Anu. UK 1, SEMO 0.

Bottom 3rd – Anu was hit by a pitch, moved to second on Collett’s groundout and scored on a Schultz single to CF. UK 2, SEMO 0.

Top 4th – Austin Blazevic singled and Wade Stauss walked. Both runners moved up on Peyton Leeper’s SAC bunt. Connor Basler laid down a SAC bunt, scoring Blazevic and moving Stauss to third. Caleb Feuerstake walked and stole second. Danny Wright singled to LF, scoring Stauss and Feuerstake. SEMO 3, UK 2.

Bottom 4th – Jaren Shelby walked and John Rhodes singled to LF. Drew Grace reached on an error, Shelby scored and Rhodes advanced to third. Elliott Curtis grounded out, scoring Rhodes. UK 4, SEMO 3.

Top 5th – Justin Dirden was hit by a pitch and stole second. Stauss doubled to LF, scoring Dirden. UK 4, SEMO 4.

Bottom 5th – Schultz homered to LF. UK 5, SEMO 4.

Bottom 8th – Coltyn Kessler doubled to CF and scored on Schultz’s ground-rule double to RF. Shelby was hit by a pitch. Cam Hill grounded out to move up both runners. Rhodes tripled to CF, scoring Schultz and Shelby. Rhodes scored on Grace’s SAC fly. UK 9, SEMO 4.
NOTES

Kentucky has scored in 123 consecutive games and 199 of the past 200 dating to the 2016 season. The lone shutout came in a seven-inning game. The current streak is the second-longest in school history and fourth-longest active streak in the country. The school record in 124.

Sophomore INF Austin Schultz has reached base safely in 44 of the past 46 games and 17 consecutive contests.
Schultz finished 3-for-4 with two runs, a double, a home run and four RBI.
The four RBI set a new career-high, while the three hits tied a career-best.

Freshman IF/OF John Rhodes went 2-for-4 with two runs, two RBI and a triple.
It was the second multi-hit game in his first four collegiate outings.
The two RBI were the first of his career.

Freshman IF Drew Grace picked up the first hit and first RBI of his career.

Sophomore LHP Braxton Cottongame made his first collegiate start on the mound.
His final line: 3.2 IP, six hits, three runs, four walks and two strikeouts

Sophomore LHP Cole Daniels pitched 0.2 innings to strand a runner in the 7th.
Four of the five outs Daniels has recorded this season have been strikeouts.

Sophomore RHP Alex Degen pitched the final 2.0 innings to pick up his first career save.
Degen struck out four and now has eight strikeouts in 4.0 innings this season.

ON DECK

The Cats open weekend series against Appalachian State at Kentucky Proud Park on Friday, Feb. 21 at 4 p.m. ET. The game will be aired on SECN+. The radio call will be on the UK Sports Network.