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Kentucky baseball overcomes Illinois 6-1 in Lexington Regional

Sydney Yonker
Kentucky outfielder Ryan Waldschmidt celebrates at second during the Kentucky vs Lipscomb baseball game on Friday, Mar. 1, 2024, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky, Kentucky won 7-4. Photo by Sydney Yonker | Staff

Kentucky baseball (42-14, 22-8 SEC) defeated Illinois (35-19, 18-6 B1G) by a score of 6-1 thanks to a masterful start by Trey Pooser. 

“I thought Trey was unbelievable in so many ways,” Kentucky head coach Nick Mingione said. “Landing multiple pitches for a strike, moving the fastball in and out and up and down, very very special.” 

The Bat Cats were the away team in the matchup, which meant Pooser was second to pitch, but he still tossed a three-up, three-down first inning. 

Kentucky baseball players celebrate during the Kentucky vs Louisville baseball game on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Jim Patterson Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky. Kentucky won 17-13. Photo by Isaiah Pinto | Staff (Isaiah Pinto)

His offense went scoreless in the first, but not in the second as Mitchell Daly was hit by a pitch then driven home after Ryan Nicholson crushed an opposite field two-run home run to give the Cats a 2-0 lead.  

Pooser ran into his first troubles of the day in the second as he walked Vytas Valincius and gave up a single to Ryan Moerman.

Pooser got a step closer to getting out of the early jam by striking out Jacob Schroeder for the first out before making things harder on himself as Brody Harding singled to load the bases. 

Coltin Quagliano hit a grounder to Pooser, who flipped it home to Devin Burkes for the second out of the inning, but the bases remained loaded.

This brought Connor Milton to the plate and he battled to a 3-2 to count, but Pooser won with a called strike three to escape the jam unscathed.

”He competed very well and when he got in a jam, he found a way to get out each and every time, it was impressive,” Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said.  

The Wildcat starter settled back in and pitched up three-up, three-down third before running into some trouble in the fourth. 

After getting two quick outs, Schroeder singled and advanced to second on a Pooser wild pitch before Harding singled to bring him home and bring the score to 2-1 Wildcats. 

After being held scoreless since the second, the Bat Cats got Pooser another run in the fifth after Ryan Waldschmidt doubled to score James McCoy and extend the lead to 3-1. 

Kentucky outfielder Ryan Waldschmidt swings during the Kentucky vs Louisville baseball game on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Jim Patterson Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky. Kentucky won 17-13. Photo by Isaiah Pinto | Staff (Isaiah Pinto)

Pooser came back to the hill and gave up a leadoff single to Milton, but it was quickly erased after Émilien Pitre made a leaping catch on a line drive and threw Milton out at first for a double play. Pooser got a pop out to complete his fifth inning of work. 

“He was commanding all three of his pitches, throwing them all for a strike and getting ahead,” Schroeder said. “There were not a lot of really good pitches to hit all day.”

The Wildcat righty kept it rolling by tossing a three-up, three-down sixth inning. 

Coming back out for the seventh, Pooser got into immediate trouble by hitting Schroeder and walking Harding. 

As the Wildcat bullpen began to get loose, Pooser quickly nullified the threat by getting a double play and a fly out, which ended his outing after seven strong innings of one-run baseball in which he tossed 102 pitches. 

“Just filling up the zone and trying to get ahead as much as possible,” Pooser said about his outing. “The fastball, change up combo played really well today. 

The offense for the Wildcats found its way back onto the scoreboard in the seventh after Pitre reached on a fielder’s choice, which scored Grant Smith. 

The final runs of the game came in the top of the ninth after Smith drew a walk and Waldschmidt crushed a 444-foot home run over the left center field wall, which made the score 6-1 Bat Cats. 

On the mound, Ryan Hagenow came on in the eighth and finished out the game to secure the victory and put Kentucky in the driver’s seat of the Lexington Regional. 

“Only using two guys today really set us up for the rest of the weekend,” Nicholson said. “What Pooser did today was absolutely spectacular, and Hagenow behind him” 

The Wildcats are now one win away from winning the Lexington Regional and advancing to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Kentucky will await the winner of Illinois and Indiana State, who will play the first game on Sunday, June 2, at noon and will face Kentucky at 6 p.m. ET. 

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Jonathon Bruner, Assistant Sports Editor

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    spbearJun 3, 2024 at 6:22 pm

    It took Arkansas a long time to appreciate what Nolan did for Arkansas basketball. I hope Coach Pope is successful there it is a great program just don’t fall into that What Have You Done For Me Lately attitude it does not look good on a very program rich in tradition
    As for Coach Cal we are proud to have him and he has already recruited players that we would never had got except for his presence. Look forward to basketball season personally don’t care for the portal teams like these kids coming out of high school