Eleven-run hole dooms Kentucky in rematch with No. 3 Louisville


Kentucky Wildcat Drew Grace (7) attempts to tag a runner during the UK vs. Louisville baseball game on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. UK lost 12-5. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Eric Decker

For the second time this season against rival Louisville, UK head coach Nick Mingione opted for a bullpen day as opposed to wasting one of his weekend starters for a non-conference matchup. But it didn’t work out, as Kentucky allowed road team to come in and drop double digit runs on them for the second time, with the Cardinals handling the Cats 12-5 to split the season series.

Zach Kammin was tabbed with the start after a promising performance the week before against Bellarmine where he struck out seven over three innings. It couldn’t have gone any worse this time around for the graduate transfer, as he recorded only three outs and allowed seven earned runs before being replaced.

“[The starting pitching] has been a challenge… [since] losing [Mason Hazelwood] we have not figured out the right recipe,” Mingione said after the loss. “We’ve given the opportunities and for whatever reason we have not thrown as well.”

Dillon Harper and Hunter Rigsby each accrued two earned runs during their relief appearances. Wyatt Hudepohl walked two before completing his scoreless inning. Austin Strickland and Holt Jones each recorded scoreless innings late into the contest. Mingione was at least pleased with Hudepohl, who has an affinity for inducing light contact.

“He has thrown the ball really well,” Mingione said of the freshman from St. Xavier in Mason, OH. “What he’s been able to do is get ground balls. Even tonight, he gets two on, what does he do? He manipulates a ground ball, moves it along and that’s what he’s done.”

Though Louisville has consistently been a top-10 team this season, and Kentucky boats a road victory against them, this result should strike some real fear into the coaching staff regarding their overall pitching depth. The postseason race is heating up in the SEC, and the Cats sit at 7-8 in conference with a brutal schedule upcoming. This Wildcat pitching staff is clearly going to have to settle down if they have any aspirations of making an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Mingione knows this of course. He says staying in friendly confines for three of the next four weekends gives them an opportunity to get things sorted and make a run.

“One thing I feel good about is three of our next for series are at home,” he said. “It’s time for us to play good at home and defend our turf.”

The next chance for the Cats to do so comes this weekend in a three-game series with Alabama, the last unranked SEC opponent Kentucky will face this year. The Crimson Tide provide Mingione’s squad its best opportunity to gain some ground on the rest of the SEC, so they’d be wise to take advantage. Friday’s opener begins at 6:30 p.m. on SEC Network Plus.