Cats hit walk-off winner against Norse


Kentucky junior Dalton Reed goes after a ground 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

Hailey Peters

Following an opening night success in Lexington, the Kentucky Wildcats baseball team played against another in-state foe, the Northern Kentucky Norse, on Wednesday. The Norse had an upset on their mind with the lead for the the majority of the final innings, but the Cats won on a walk-off single by junior Dalton Reed to win 5-4.

“It took 19 players to win this game,” head coach Nick Mingione said of the skill needed to come back and win. “Ten of them were first-year. Every experience we have, I keep telling myself in my head, ‘OK. We needed that experience.’ We needed to come from behind late.”

Inning one opened on a positive note for the Cats when the Norse’s first batter received a strikeout after having a 3-2 count and did not get into the box within the pitch clock, receiving the third strike.

Junior Jaren Shelby became the star of the first as he helped senior Ryan Shinn bring home the first run by hitting an RBI.

The next several innings, though scoreless on both ends, showed promise to the Cats due mostly to faulty pitching from the Norse and increased offensive pressure brought on by stolen bases and at least one hit per inning.

Pitching was the key yet again for the Cats in the early innings. Starter Mason Hazelwood posted a career-high 11 strikeouts in six innings. He pitched perfectly through the first five, allowing no hits from NKU, allowed only one hit in his six innings and not walking a single hitter.

“Now, it’s just the standard for me,” Hazelwood said about his career-high strikeouts. “Now it’s like I know I can do it so I need to go out there and do it every time.” 

Once Hazelwood was relieved before the seventh, the Cats’ pitching momentum slowed. Two hits and one Norse hitter walking allowed NKU to score their first run and tie the game after previously failing to appear on the scoreboard.

A lack of defensive edge from Kentucky’s outfield allowed three more runs in one play for NKU in the seventh. Holding onto their momentum, the Norse benefitted from a three-RBI double down the center followed by an error on Kentucky center fielder Cam Hill, and the Cats were in a three-run deficit late in the game.

Kentucky brought the heat in a pinch in the bottom of the ninth as pinch runner Elliott Curtis touched home after three hits, the final one claiming an RBI by junior Breydon Daniel. Pushing through with stolen bases, walking and filling the bases with cats, junior T.J. Collett’s two-RBI sent the score into a tie.

With the bases still fully loaded, Reed singled up the center with a 1-1 count to send Shinn home in a shattering walk-off RBI, giving the Cats the win.

“I really paid attention throughout,” Reed said about his game-winning hit. “[Collett] got a bunch of sliders… so, I just waited until I got my pitch.”

The Cats will return to Kentucky Proud Park on Friday, March 1, to open their weekend series against the Canisius College Golden Griffins. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.