UK ends skid against Louisville in front of record crowd

Tyler Marshall (3) celebrates a run with catcher Troy Squires (16) during the game against the Louisville Cardinals on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated Louisville 11-7.

By Chris Angolia

No. 10 UK baseball finally ended the drought that was against its in-state rival Louisville, grabbing an 11-7 victory over the No. 2 Cardinals in front of a record 4,018 people at Cliff Hagan Stadium on Tuesday night. The win snapped the Cats’ six game losing streak to the Cards.

In the first meeting between these two teams it was the Cards who jumped out to the early lead as they capitalized on UK’s mistakes. But in Tuesday’s game, the Cats’ offense was awake early

“I loved the energy that our team came out with,” UK head coach Nick Mingione said after the win. “We talked to our team about a rematch and the opportunity to face the same guy again and you don’t get that a lot in sports. I just love the way we came out swinging.”

The Cats were in business early. Following a leadoff double by the scorching-hot Tristan Pompey, the Cats got a walk to Evan White and a sac-bunt to open the game. UK put together four straight hits followed by a safety squeeze to grab an early 5-0 lead on the nation’s second ranked squad.

As far as momentum goes, the top of the second inning for the UK defense was perhaps the biggest inning following the Cats’ five-run outburst in the first. After the Cards put two runners in scoring position with nobody out in the inning, it looked as if the Cards were going to get a couple back. But then one of baseball’s rarest plays happened.

Louisville’s Colin Lyman lined one to left fielder Zach Reks who then nailed Brendan McKay at the plate for the double play, and catcher Troy Squires fired quickly to third to nab Drew Ellis and complete the 7-2-6 triple play. The SportsCenter top-10 worthy triple play was UK’s first since at least 2003 as stats were not kept digitally until that season.

The triple play by UK in the second allowed the team to create even more breathing room with a 5-0 lead as opposed to a 5-2 or 5-3 lead.

In the third, back-to-back singles had the Cats poised to start the inning and fortunately for UK, a taylor made double play ball turned into two more runs for UK. That booted double play ball would prove costly as Connor Heady followed with a blast to left and make it 9-0. Two more runs in the fourth gave UK a 11-0 lead and it looked like the rout was on, but the Cards responded.

UofL answered with seven runs in its next two innings at the plate to make it a ballgame and put some pressure on UK and its bullpen. However, after Colton Clearly struggled, Chris Machamer, Zach Pop and Logan Salow came in and slammed the door on the Cards to seal the deal.

“The job that Machamer did, the job that Pop and then Salow. Just it seems like every single pitch they throw is attacking the strike-zone,” Mingione said. “The defense is engaged, our dugout is engaged, and that is what we need more of and when we do that we are special.”

That bullpen helped give UK its biggest win of a season, in which the program is taking on new life.

With Mingione at the helm, the Cats fed off of the record crowd to give a glimpse as to what this UK program may be evolving into.

“This is exactly what I pictured UK baseball becoming,” Mingione said. “I cannot thank the Big Blue Nation enough for showing up. – I just love the fact that many people got a chance to see what our team is about. And I am going to ask the entire Big Blue Nation to come out this weekend. We need you.”

The aforementioned weekend begins on Friday at Cliff Hagan Stadium as UK will host No. 9 LSU with first pitch set for 6:30 p.m..