Cousino takes on leadership role in third year
By Brent Ingram, UK media relations
There is one common thread that stands out when looking at the most successful teams in Kentucky history: leadership.
2006 Southeastern Conference Championship team had Andrew Albers,
Collin Cowgill and Ryan Strieby. The 2008 club had Albers, Cowgill and
Sawyer Carroll. In 2012, UK was led by star catcher Luke Maile, All-SEC
third baseman Thomas McCarthy and fiery closer Trevor Gott.
the 2014 season, Kentucky is hoping that its leadership will come in
the form of its dynamic junior centerfielder, Austin Cousino, who has
earned rave reviews for his progress as a vocal and emotional
forerunner during the fall and preseason.
As a freshman on
the 2012 record-setting club, Cousino played a key role as the leadoff
hitter and defensive dynamo in centerfield. He and Maile tied for the
team lead with a .319 average, with Cousino belting nine homers and
driving in 41 runs en route to SEC Freshman of the Year honors. While
hitting leadoff in 62 games, Cousino was the sparkplug at the top of
the order and brought an energetic presence to the UK club.
the summer, Cousino went on to lead the USA Collegiate National Team in
hitting, including a historic series win in Cuba and a gold medal at
Honkbal Week in the Netherlands. That led to the Dublin, Ohio, native
entering his sophomore year as the Baseball America preseason SEC
player of the year.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound left-handed
hitter got off to a slow start in non-league play, as teams worked
around the dynamic hitter with a blossoming résumé.
finished with a .249 average, belting 12 doubles, one triple, six
homers and 27 RBI, stealing 14 bases. In SEC play alone, Cousino
finished with a .270 average.
“It definitely humbled me,”
Cousino said. “It can only help because some people never experience
that kind of failure before, maybe not until their second or third year
of pro ball. Looking back on it, obviously it was tough, it was a
roller coaster, but I learned a lot about myself and how to overcome
it. You can take for granted sometimes what you’ve done in the past.
The SEC is a grind and it is not how you start but how you finish. You
can look at that from freshman year. It is a long season and you have
to take it one at-bat, one pitch at a time.”
he continued to shine, becoming the third player in program history to
win the Rawlings Gold Glove, given to the nation’s top outfielder.
was something that couldn’t have happened without the pitching staff
and the players around me,” Cousino said. “It was a cool award to win.
Other than that it is just something that you put on the shelf and you
look back on. The team goals are something that you really want. To be
able to host and get to a super (regional) and make it to Omaha is the
After the 2013 campaign, Cousino joined Team
USA for a second tour, batting .273 in 22 games and 19 starts, belting
one homer and driving in seven runs.
“It is always a cool
experience to be a part of USA Baseball,” Cousino said. “It is first
class and everything you do with it is enjoyable. It is fun. It is
entertaining. You get to do a lot of cool stuff. But the best part is
the relationships that you form and the people that you meet.”
was joined for the first portion of the summer by his UK classmate,
two-way standout A.J. Reed, who split time between Team USA and the
Cape Cod League.
“A.J. was my locker mate (with Team
USA),” Cousino said. “It was cool, knowing someone that you are close
to going into it made it a bit more comfortable. He is a great player.
And while he didn’t stay the whole summer, he did play to the best of
his abilities while he was there and he enjoyed the whole experience.”
the summer, Cousino arrived in Lexington for the fall practice season
focused and prepared to help lead the Wildcats back where they left off
“The swing is good,” UK head coach Gary Henderson
said about Cousino’s development through the fall. “He has worked hard.
You are going to see a stronger body and a little bit more athletic
look. The swing has always been nice. It has been a pretty swing,
really. What you are going to see is a much more disciplined approach
and a freer mind. We are really excited about what Austin has done.”
a great fall, Cousino earned praise for his on-field progress but most
notably to the UK coaching staff was his vocal leadership presence.
is the coolest part about this team is everyone buys in,” Cousino said.
“We have great leadership this year. We have some kids that like each
other and we are excited to get the season going. Everyone is aware and
everyone is important. There is no separation because at the end of the
year in a regional, you just don’t know who you are going to need in a
22-inning game. We have guys that came in focused from day one and it
is great that the younger guys were open to the older guys leading the
way, Micheal Thomas, A.J., Max, Reida, Chandler. The new guys didn’t
come in hard-headed but just with a knack to work hard. They understand
how we want to do things around the program and we have done a pretty
good job so far.”