Career Outing From Justin Lewis Gives UK 3-2 Win in Series Finale Saturday
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Junior pitcher Justin Lewis (pictured) allowed a leadoff double to start the game and then slammed the door on No. 1 Florida, allowing just two Gators to reach base the rest of the afternoon, powering the No. 6 University of Kentucky baseball team to a 3-2 win in the series finale of a three-game set Saturday, April 21 at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Florida had beaten UK in the first two games of the series.
The win over the Gators (34-8, 14-4 SEC) was the 10th in program history for Kentucky (26-14, 8-10 SEC) and the first since taking two of three from top-ranked Florida in 2016. A near-capacity crowd of 4,461, which was the second largest regular-season home crowd in school history, saw the Wildcats win their 10th game this season against a Top 25 team, including its fifth against a Top 10 opponent.
Lewis was brilliant for the Wildcats on Saturday continuing a streak of UK winning five straight games he has started since the first series of league play. After allowing a leadoff double followed by a walk and a hit-by-pitch, Lewis got back-to-back strikeouts and a groundout to end the threat in the opening frame. He followed by retiring the next 10 batters he faced to allow the Wildcats to build a three-run lead they would not relinquish.
The native of Suwanee, Ga., tossed a season-high eight innings and struck out a career-high tying 11 batters in the outing moving to 7-2 on the season. The leadoff double was the only hit Lewis would allow during his time on the mound, tying a season-low in hits allowed. Saturday’s performance marked the third 10+ strikeout game of the season for Lewis, including his first in league action.
The only run Lewis allowed in the game came without the Gators getting a hit. In the fifth inning, Lewis allowed one of his three walks, then balked to move the runner to scoring position. The Gators would score on a throwing error a few pitches later.
Lewis turned the game over to sophomore Chris Machamer to start the ninth inning with the hard-throwing righty getting a groundout and strikeout to start his day before allowing a solo home run to JJ Schwarz to cut the UK lead to 3-2. Machamer didn’t let the Gators get any closer, getting a groundout to second to end the game. Together, Lewis and Machamer limited the Gators to a season-low two hits on the day.
The Wildcats played small ball to get the 3-0 lead, scoring on an RBI groundout by Luke Heyer in the first before a RBI single from Troy Squires in the second. The game-winning third run came on a sacrifice bunt by Ben Aklinski. Squires recorded his 11th multi-hit game of the season, going 2-for-4 while Kole Cottam, Heyer, Ryan Shinn and Trey Dawson had the other hits for UK.
Florida started Tyler Dyson in the circle with the sophomore going two innings allowing three earned runs on four hits with four walks and no strikeouts. Jake Leftwich took over mid-count with a runner on in the third inning and tossed six scoreless allowing just two hits with two strikeouts. Dyson received the loss, moving to 5-3 on the season.
Kentucky will break conference play Wednesday when it plays host to Morehead State at 6:30 p.m. ET. The game will air on 630 AM WLAP for radio and be broadcast online through computers, smart phones and tablets on SEC Network Plus (online). UK will return to league play next weekend when it welcomes Missouri to Cliff Hagan Stadium with the lidlifter on Friday starting at 7:30 p.m. ET.
UK Athletics Photo by Elliott Hess