Kentucky outlasts Appalachian State in 15-inning thriller


Kentucky junior T.J. Collett hits the ball during the season home opener against EKU on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky defeated EKU 7-3. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Eric Decker

Oraj Anu walked up with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 15th inning with one thing on his mind: “Have a competitive at bat.” He drew a 3-0 count to where there was “no shot” he was swinging, and then walked in the game-winning run in what was the longest game in Kentucky Proud Park history. The 8-7 victory over Appalachian State also completed the series sweep for the Wildcats.

Pitching from Kentucky (4-3) early in the game struggled, which allowed for the Mountaineers to build up a 5-0 by the fourth inning. Starter Dillon Marsh only lasted 2.2 innings, giving up four hits and two earned runs. A leadoff double that ultimately turned into a sac fly gave App St. the 1-0 lead before Marsh got yanked. Daniel Harper gave up two more singles in the inning increasing the Mountaineer lead to 3-0.

Harper continued to struggle in the fourth, giving up a leadoff double that turned into another sac fly. In one inning of work he allowed three hits for two earned runs. He was then replaced by Carson Coleman, who began to settle down the Wildcat staff. Coleman allowed an unearned run, but only gave up one hit in 1.1 innings of work while adding two strikeouts.

Kentucky started its comeback in the bottom of the fourth when Austin Schultz launched a solo shot past the left field bullpen for his second HR of the year. The sophomore sent the ball an estimated 412 feet coming off the bat at 108 MPH.

The Cats brought the game back even in the bottom of the fifth, scoring four runs in the frame. Breydon Daniel got on base originally by being plunked with a pitch. John Rhodes stepped up a roped a pinch hit RBI double down the left field line, moving up to third base on the throw home. Shortstop Matt Golda brought Rhodes home for his first RBI of the day with a single through the infield.

Then Trae Harper stepped up, already looking to continue his hot streak at the plate he launched a 3-1 fastball down the middle of the plate to the Kentucky bullpen to tie the game up at 5-5. Harmon has now hit a homer in three consecutive games, bringing his season total up to four now.

Kentucky took a 6-5 lead in the seventh inning when Golda tallied himself a solo homerun to left field.

Alex Degen followed Coleman in relief– the sophomore threw three innings of two-hit ball and kept his season ERA at 0.00. He did, however, give up an unearned run off a single from App. State’s Jack Lipson in the eighth that made the game 6-6 at the time.

The top of the 8th also included a scary moment as Cam Hill and Jaren Shelby collided while going for a fly ball in the left-center gap. Shelby caught the ball, but both stayed on the turf immediately after. Hill was taken off immediately with what looked to be a splint on his arm, while Shelby took his next at-bat but was subbed out defensively in the 9th.

Kentucky grabbed the lead for a short time in the 8th when a Zeke Lewis sac fly to center field with the bases loaded gave Kentucky a 7-6 lead.

Hunter Rigsby came on to get the save in the ninth, but failed as an RBI double tied the game back up.

TJ Collett and Daniel both had chances with bases loaded to finish the game. In both times the App St. second basemen made a diving stop to keep the game going.

The Wildcats now shift focus toward Tennessee Tech, who comes to Kentucky Proud Park for a game on Tuesday, Feb. 25 with first pitch set for 4 p.m.