Estep-in’: Kentucky Delivers Run Rule Victory over Tennessee Tech
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky baseball team is getting good at this walk-off win thing.
For the second time in as many games, the Wildcats rushed the field after scoring the winning run its final at-bat, albeit in an unconventional way in Tuesday’s wet 13-3, seven-inning victory over Tennessee Tech. The game was called as a 10-run rule that the teams agreed upon before the contest.
Zeke Lewis capped a six-run seventh inning with a three-run double to left field, sending the dugout streaming onto the field as Chase Estep slid safely across the plate. It was the Wildcats’ 27th consecutive win over non-Power Five conference opponents, the longest such current streak in the Southeastern Conference.
Estep, a freshman from Corbin, Kentucky, had a breakout game despite not being in the starting lineup. He drilled the first home run of his collegiate career in the sixth inning, a no-doubt line drive into the right field bullpen, before drawing a walk and racing home from first with the winning run.
The Cats (5-3) also received big nights from John Rhodes and Austin Schultz, who continued his torrid stretch at the plate. Schultz had three hits, scored a career-high three runs, stole a pair of bases and drove in two runs to give him 11 RBI in the past five games. Rhodes, another talented freshman, had a career-high three hits and knocked in a pair of runs.
On the mound, freshman Cole Stupp earned the win in his first career start while striking out seven in 4.0 innings, allowing just two earned runs. The Georgia native struck out five straight hitters and recorded seven of the first nine outs via strikes while flashing a strong arsenal of pitches against a hot-hitting club. Redshirt freshman Will Gambino earned the first save of his career after entering the game with two on, no outs and a three-run lead in the sixth inning and retiring all six batters he faced.
Top 1st – Brett Roberts doubled to LCF and scored on Gavin Johns’ single through the left side. TTU 1, UK 0.
Bottom 1st – Elliott Curtis walked and stole second. Drew Grace pinch ran for Curtis. Austin Schultz lined a single to CF, scoring Grace. Schultz stole second and third. Oraj Anu walked and stole second. John Rhodes singled to LF, scoring Schultz and Anu. UK 3, TTU 1.
Top 2nd – Paul Steffensen singled to CF with two outs. Hunter Higdon reached on an error. Roberts singled to CF, scoring Steffensen. UK 3, TTU 2.
Bottom 3rd – T.J. Collett doubled off the RF wall and scored on Schultz’s double to LF. Anu reached on a fielder’s choice to SS, Schultz forced bad throw to third and scored on the throwing error. Rhodes hit a ground rule double to LF, Anu to third. Breydon Daniel hit a SAC fly to CF, scoring Anu. UK 6, TTU 2.
Top 4th – Cody Littlejohn doubled inside the 1B bag and scored on Steffensen’s single through the right side of the infield. UK 6, TTU 3.
Bottom 6th – Chase Estep homered to RF. UK 7, TTU 3.
Bottom 7th – Schultz reached on an infield single, advanced to second on a throwing error and third on Anu’s groundout. Rhodes reached on a fielder’s choice. Daniel walked to load the bases. Coltyn Kessler walked to force in a run. Golda singled to LF, scoring Rhodes and Daniel. Estep walked to load the bases. Zeke Lewis doubled down the LF line, scoring Kessler, Golda and Estep to end the game. UK 13, TTU 3.
- Kentucky extended the school-record by scoring in its 127th consecutive game and 203 of the past 204 dating to the 2016 season. The lone shutout came in a seven-inning game. It is the fourth-longest active streak in the country.
- The Cats now have won 27 straight games against non-Power Five opponents, the longest streak in the SEC.
Sophomore INF Austin Schultz has reached base safely in 48 of the past 50 games and 21 consecutive contests.
- He went 3-for-3 with three runs, two RBI, a double and two stolen bases.
- He has 11 RBI in the past five games.
- The three runs scored are a career-high.
Freshman INF Chase Estep connected for the first home run of his career, a solo shot in the sixth inning.
- He finished 1-for-2 with two runs, a walk and a solo homer.
- Senior C Tanner Holen lined a single to LF in the second inning for his first hit as a Wildcat.
Freshman INF/OF John Rhodes went 3-for-4 with a run, two RBI and a double.
- The three hits are a career-high.
- The two RBI tie a career-high.
Freshman RHP Cole Stupp made the first start of his collegiate career.
- He pitched 4.0 innings, allowing six hits, three runs (two earned), walking one and striking out seven.
- The seven strikeouts were a career high.
- He struck out five consecutive hitters at one point.
- Redshirt freshman Will Gambino earned the first save of his career with two perfect innings of relief.
- UK coach Nick Mingione announced before the game that redshirt sophomore outfielder Cam Hill suffered a broken wrist in Sunday’s game and will be out indefinitely.
The Cats host Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 1 p.m. ET. The game will be aired on SECN+. The radio call will be on the UK Sports Network.