Wildcat comeback falls short; Kentucky loses 5-3 against Vanderbilt


Kentucky Wildcat Sean Harney (34) pitches during the University of Kentucky vs. Georgia State game on Sunday, March 14, 2021, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 4-2. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke

Kentucky (22-18) came up short 5-3 in game three against Vanderbilt (28-11) on Sunday, losing the series 2-1.

With the loss, Kentucky continues to struggle against the Commodores, with the last series win over Vanderbilt coming during the miraculous 2017 season, the first under current head coach Nick Mingione.

Since winning that series 2-1, Kentucky has gone 2-10 against Vanderbilt, with the Commodores being a thorn in Mingione’s side year after year.

While the loss was not the desired outcome, the day was far from all bad for Kentucky, with the Wildcats going down 5-0, then going on to score three runs and getting the winning run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth before the comeback could be snuffed out.

While disappointed with the loss, Mingione was satisfied with the team’s fight after going down early and in the series as a whole after being no-hit in a 10-run shutout in game one.

“We just kept battling back,” he said. “They scored and we scored, and we score two, and had a chance. We were one swing away from winning that ballgame. Our guys fought and fought back to the very end.”

The Wildcats started the game in a hole with sophomore Seth Logue beginning the game on the mound less than a week after starting in Kentucky’s losing effort against Louisville on Tuesday.

While Logue’s game against Louisville wasn’t his best, his start on Sunday was a disaster, with the righty giving up three hits and three earned runs without recording even a single out.

In fact, Logue’s first earned run against him came on the first pitch of the ballgame, with Vanderbilt’s Enrique Bradfield sending the first ball presented to him over the left field wall for a solo home run.

The performance resulted in a relatively unorthodox happening in the sport taking place as graduate student Sean Harney was rushed in the bullpen while two consecutive mound visits and a throw to second base not-so subtly stalled for time.

With just nine total pitches thrown, Logue was pulled from the game as Harney replaced him on the mound.

“He just wasn’t making the pitch,” Mingione said regarding the decision to pull his starter. “We were going to go to Sean as the first one out of the pen, but obviously we wanted to do it a little later.”

Harney would go on to pitch six innings, giving up two more runs of his own but having an otherwise strong showing with five strikeouts and 102 pitches thrown, closer to what is usually considered a true start.

“I thought Sean was fantastic,” Mingione said. “He gave us everything he had, got us six innings and right at 100 pitches. He did everything.”

After Harney was taken out of the game entering the seventh inning, Mingione brought in freshman Mason Moore to pick up where he left off, with Moore pitching 1.2 innings and preventing any Commodore runs during his tenure.

After Moore, Austin Strickland entered the game late in the eighth inning to close out the game, notching three strikeouts against five batters and allowing just one hit during his time on the mound.

While Vanderbilt recorded its five runs on the first two pitchers, scoring last in the fourth inning, Kentucky’s bats were more of late bloomers during the spring, first scoring in the bottom half of the fourth inning and then again in the seventh.

Senior Jacob Plastiak had a solo home run in the fourth inning to prevent the shut-out, while Ryan Ritter and Hunter Jump recorded RBIs in the seventh to breathe some life into UK’s lineup.

The Cats went down in order in the eighth inning but very nearly tied the game in the ninth as Ritter and Plastiak once again reached base in the inning. With two outs in the ballgame, it was Jump that found himself up to bat, and though he recorded a well hit ball that very nearly dropped in right field, Vanderbilt’s Spencer Jones made the sliding catch to secure the victory.

By the end of the game Ritter had gone a perfect 3-3 from the batter’s box, also drawing a walk in the ninth inning, while Plastiak went 2-3, the two going down as the only Wildcats of the day to record more than one hit.

“I thought [Ritter] and Plastiak both had great at-bats,” Mingione said. “They’ve worked hard to put themselves in that position. Plastiak came in early today and watched some video, made some adjustments, same thing with Ryan he just continues to work and grind through it. There’s no question we need those guys.”

With the tough loss Kentucky drops to 6-12 in the SEC, having claimed victory in only one conference series, beating Georgia at home.

The Wildcats return to action on Tuesday, April 26, at home against Dayton before traveling on the road to take on Florida in a three-game series.

Kentucky’s battle against Dayton is currently slated to take place at 6:30 p.m. EST, airing live on the SEC Network+.