Comeback Cats top Colonels 7-6 with Ritter’s RBI Double


Kentucky Wildcat Ryan Ritter (47) dives to catch a pop fly 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

Four more series stacked up against some of the best teams in the nation remain until the regular season concludes and the Kentucky Wildcats head to Hoover. Despite Tuesday’s 7-6 late comeback victory against in-state foe Eastern Kentucky, it did nearly nothing to quell the fears that surround this team and might’ve just made them slightly more obvious.

Head coach Nick Mingione has turned to bullpen games for midweek contests ever since the injury to Mason Hazelwood a few weeks ago complicated everything that has to do with the starting rotation. The concept makes sense in order to help preserve arms throughout the staff.

“Our plan was to throw a bunch of guys today and to give some guys some innings,” Mingione said after the game. “I was really pleased with Dillon Marsh.”

Marsh, who got the start, was objectively great. The junior left-hander went two perfect innings, striking out four of the six batters he faced. That decision was a good one. Unfortunately, because you require good showings from many different arms to have an overall successful outing, the bullpen strategy doesn’t always work out as intended.

Ryan Hagenow replaced Marsh in the third inning. The freshman hasn’t seen all that much action since being moved to the bullpen, appearing only twice in April. He’d only make it through one out this night, giving up a run and a hit before being yanked after 16 pitches.

“We felt like it was the time to make a move,” Mingione said. “So we made a move.”

Cole Daniels followed and proceeded to struggle as well, giving up three hits and four earned runs in only an inning of action as Kentucky fell behind 5-1.

The Cats were able to come back in the fifth thanks in part to Coltyn Kessler, who launched his third long ball in as many games. His two-run home run over the center field fence was his fifth of the year and tied the game at five. Mingione lauded his catcher’s mindset postgame.

“I love the way Kessler has used the whole field,” he said. “He’s in a good place offensively there’s no question.”

Holt Jones promptly surrendered the leading run in the sixth. The 6-5 EKU margin stood for a couple innings until one of the newer Cats provided a lift.

With one out in the eighth, Ryan Ritter ripped a two-RBI double down the right field line. The two-base knock enabled Drew Grace to scamper around from first base on the play to tally what would be the winning run.

Ritter detailed his approach to the at-bat afterward, saying he got the pitch he was anticipating.

“Expect a fastball and adjust to a curveball,” Ritter said. “[The] fastball was right where I wanted it, and I like hitting the ball to right field, so that was exciting.”

The Cats begin their series with Tennessee on Thursday, Apr. 29 at 7:30 p.m. E.T, with the broadcast on ESPNU.