Kentucky baseball drops first game of the year to Ball State


Kentucky Wildcat T.J. Collett (5) hits the ball during the University of Kentucky vs. Miami Ohio game on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 5-1. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Eric Decker

After averaging seven runs per game in their first six contests – all wins – Kentucky was bound to deal with some regression to the mean sooner than later. The Cats knew that when the moment came, they’d have to find other ways to continue on the winning path. They were unable to do so at first notice, as their formula fell flat in Friday afternoon’s 3-2 pitchers-duel loss to Ball State. 

Cole Stupp toed the rubber for the Cats, and easily produced his best performance in a Kentucky uniform. The sophomore, who had never surpassed four innings before, went for six and two-thirds innings against the Cardinals. He gave up four hits, and struck out five, but was saddled with a hard-luck no decision when he surrendered a 2-1 lead to the last batter he faced.

Ball State catcher Chase Sebby, who had recorded only one hit in his 16 at-bats on the year coming into the game, lined a 3-2 pitch into left field to drive in designated hitter Decker Scheffler, who got into scoring position after stealing second earlier in the inning.

For the first time this season, Kentucky struggled mightily with runners on base. RBI singles by TJ Collett and Oraj Anu set the Cats up with runners on first and second with no outs in the bottom of the third. Three Chayce McDermott strikeouts later had them back on the field, leading only 2-0 through three innings. In all, the Cats left 11 men on base.

After being brought on for Cole Daniels and inheriting a man on third base with two outs in the top of the eighth, Jimmy Ramsey allowed an RBI double. The hit, which came from Cardinal outfielder Ross Messina on the first pitch he threw, ceded the lead to Ball State for good.

As the bottom of the eighth developed, it didn’t seem that would be the case. Kentucky had multiple opportunities to at least tie the game up. But Kirk Liebert struck out in his pinch-hitting appearance with runners on second and third with one out, and Austin Schultz’s deep drive to left field was hauled in on the run to end the frame.

The Cats aim to get back to their winning ways and tie up the weekend series against Ball State on Saturday. First pitch at Kentucky Proud Park is expected for 1:00 p.m. E.T., with a broadcast available on SEC Network Plus.