Takeaways from UK Baseball’s 11-1 win over Bellarmine


Kentucky Wildcats outfielder John Thrasher (22) warms up before the UK vs. Morehead State baseball game on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 7-5. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Cole Parke

Kentucky (20-13) defeated Bellarmine (6-26) 11-1 in seven innings on Tuesday, a much needed bounce back win after a staggering 17-3 loss in College Station, Texas.

While the Knights are not quite up to par with the Texas A&M Aggies before them, or Missouri after them for that matter, the game was still significant for a number of reasons, most notably in how key players within the rotation and batting order performed.

Tuesday’s game potentially had a number of implications for the future of the team going forward based.

Magdiel Cotto is not ready to be a starter

In a change of pace from UK’s usual Tuesday order, Kentucky head coach Nick Mingione started sophomore lefty Madgiel Cotto, opting against usual starter Seth Logue.

Cotto had most recently pitched against Ole Miss, putting on a sturdy bullpen performance after a less than stellar showing against Eastern Kentucky.

While Mingione was likely hoping for the Ole Miss Cotto, the South Carolina transfer unfortunately looked more like his Eastern Kentucky version, struggling to find his groove on the mound.

Cotto pitched 1.2 innings against Bellarmine, allowing four hits and Bellarmine’s lone run during his tenure to bring his ERA to 8.05.

While not his worst performance of the season, it was far from his best and proves that he is still not quite ready to be that guy to get the start on Tuesdays, which can’t be what Mingione had hoped for entering the night.

The bullpen looks back to form after a tough Saturday

While Cotto may have struggled with his start, the bullpen arms that followed him certainly didn’t, holding down the fort and shutting out Bellarmine for the remainder of the game.

Mingione made his first change in the second inning, turning to graduate student Daniel Harper to shut down the Knights, who had loaded the bases by this point.

Harper managed to get lucky in getting out of the inning, having a favorable bounce on a wild pitch that allowed catcher Devin Burkes to get the out at the plate, but the lucky escape wasn’t the only work Harper earned in the game.

Remaining in for the third inning, Harper once again found himself in a sticky situation, this one of his own creation, but once again escaped without a scratch, continuing to show his ability to perform in high-stakes environments.

“Harper has been in a lot of college baseball games, and that’s starting to show up,” Mingione said. “We bring him in with the bases loaded and he gets us out of it. He’s just been around a lot, he’s kinda been there, done that, and did a good job for us tonight.”

While Harper may have stolen the show, and the win on the mound, Kentucky’s other bullpen arms remained sturdy as well, a good sign for the Wildcats going forward.

Turning towards many of its younger arms such as freshmen Mason Moore, Colby Frieda, Jackson Nove and sophomore Wyatt Hudepohl after Harper, with the entire group combining for just two hits allowed, no earned runs and five strikeouts.

After a crushing defeat on Saturday with the 17 runs allowed, and uncertainty surrounding the Friday and Saturday starters, seeing his young arms hold strong and get the win against Bellarmine was sure to take some of the weight off of Mingione’s shoulders going forward.

Ryan Ritter is still a threat in the batter’s box

Ryan Ritter, one of UK’s top prospects on the roster, entered Tuesday’s game with a .268 batting average, which may have caused casual followers to write him off at the plate.

That said, opposing pitchers and coaches alike never take Ritter lightly, and rightfully so as he proved against Bellarmine, with the junior putting what he is capable of on full display.

Ritter had just one at bat against Bellarmine, but took full advantage of the opportunity, hitting a three-run home run to right field, his fifth home run of the season.

“I wasn’t expecting to hit a home run,” Ritter admitted. “It felt really good. I was just trying to hit the ball hard and put it in play. I knew I could’ve gotten too big but I know how to be mature and stay simple. All that hard work and just staying true pays off.”

While Ritter was humble about his three-run shot and talked as though it was business as usual, Mingione appeared optimistic that the hit was a breath through and will help him get over the hump after a plethora of fly outs on well hit balls.

“[Ritter’s home run] was good, you know, not so much for me, but for him,” He said. “I give Ryan a lot of credit. He has hit a lot of balls hard and gotten out, that has happened to him quite a bit. To see one go over the fence? I mean, that does wonders for somebody and obviously it was a big time play in our ballgame.”

While Ritter has been known for his impressive fielding and defensive game, he is more than capable of being an offensive threat as well, with the thought of such a prospect sure to make Missouri feel all the more uncomfortable heading into the series.

What does this mean going forward?

While a victory over Bellarmine doesn’t do much resume-wise for the Cats, the method in which they won may have immediate impacts going forward.

Looking back at a recent example, Ole Miss had famously been decimated by Tennessee prior to their series against the Wildcats, but were able to turn around and crush North Alabama 20-3 in seven innings, while Kentucky lost 6-3 to Eastern Kentucky, and the momentum carried over with the Rebels taking the series over UK.

After a crushing series loss of its own, including the gut-punch that was game three, Kentucky hopes to have secured its North Alabama game, with the circumstances appearing similar.

Now all that is left for Kentucky is to take advantage of the momentum and performance with a series victory in Columbia to put them back on track going into a gauntlet of tough SEC series after.

“One thing I’ve tried to express to the guys is that the game we’re playing at the time is the most important game on our schedule,” Mingione said. “Sometimes with 18-24 year olds that’s hard because, even me at times, I think we’ve been guilty of trying to look too far down the road, but we’re at our best when we just lock in on what’s in front of us and I love that that’s what we did tonight.”

Mingione expressed confidence in his team heading into what is all but certainly a must win series against Missouri for UK to maintain any hope of securing a postseason.

“When you look at the series we’ve played, we’ve been in and had opportunities to win at least one and maybe two in every single game,” He said. “That’s been the frustrating part. These guys know that, we all feel that, but I really feel good about this team. I’ve told you guys that since the very beginning. I trust them and now it’s time to just go and [win] it.”

Kentucky travels to Columbia to duel the Missouri Tigers first on Thursday, April 14, with that game scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. EST and air live on ESPNU.