Missed opportunities prove costly as UK’s comeback falls short at UofL


Kentucky Wildcats infielder Riley Mahan celebrates with first baseman Evan White after scoring a run during the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Cliff Hagan Stadium on Saturday, April 1, 2017 in Memphis, KY. Photo by Addison Coffey | Staff.

By Chris Angolia

No. 8 UK baseball struggled in its first game as a top-10 team against fellow top-10 team and in-state rival the No. 2 Louisville Cardinals, dropping its matchup on Tuesday with the Cards by a final score of 5-3.

The top-10 matchup between the two rival schools set an attendance record at Jim Patterson Stadium with an announced attendance of 6,210 and was the Cardinals 37th straight victory at home.

Missed opportunities plagued the Cats right from the start of the game, and those opportunities came both offensively and defensively.

In its first three innings at the plate, UK was just 1-6 with runners on base and 0-5 with runners in scoring position. Stranding runners was not the start that the Cats were looking for offensively and defensively things did not start much better.

UK starter Zack Thompson looked sharp after striking out the first two batters he faced on Tuesday, but an error with two outs in the first inning opened the door for the Cards to capitalize. As a team with just three losses on the season, Louisville is not going to miss out on many opportunities and they didn’t on Tuesday.

The error in the first helped the Cards grab a 2-0 lead after Drew Ellis doubled. Then in the second, three straight two-out walks set the stage for Lexington-native Devin Hairston to double home two more runs and give Louisville a 4-0 lead after two innings.

The struggles with two outs continued for Thompson in the third when the Cards made their lead 5-0 following a walk and a hit-by-pitch.

Brad Schaenzer came on to relieve Thompson in the third and stopped the bleeding, but the Louisville pitching staff did not waiver. When it was all said and done, the Cats finished 4-14 with runners on base and 2-10 with runners in scoring position.

Despite the struggles at the plate, the production out of the UK bullpen continued with Schaenzer as well as Colton Clearly and Chris Machamer whose roles have been expanding as the season has gone on. The bullpen is something that coach Nick Mingione has been pleased with all year, and it showed again Tuesday night as the bullpen kept them in the game.

“We put up five consecutive zeros, and I thought all of those guys did a phenomenal job,” Mingione said. “Our bullpen was the story of the game, there is no question.”

Thanks to the bullpen, the Cats had a fighting chance heading into the ninth and plated three runs in the inning with three big chances to tie the game at the end. However, with runners on the corners and two outs, Zach Reks was caught attempting to steal second base which ended the UK rally and gave the Cardinals the victory.

Getting caught trying to steal second base is not the most conventional way to end the game, but coach Mingione knew his team had to go for it all as it has done all year.

 “I love the play there, stealing at the end of the game,” Mingione said. “We are attacking, we are trying to get the tying run to second base. If I had to do it all over again, we would do it all over again because that is what we do. We attack.”