Kentucky splits doubleheader; wins series against TCU


Kentucky Wildcats infielder Chase Estep (12) runs to first base during the UK vs. Bellarmine baseball game on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 3-2. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Scott Clarke

A split doubleheader between Kentucky and TCU marked the arrival of the Wildcats as a serious threat in the SEC. 

Kentucky (10-2) took game two of its series against No. 16 TCU 5-1 in a seven-inning-victory in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday in Lexington.

Left-hander Tyler Bosma started for the Wildcats, while right-hander Riley Cornelio started for the Horned Frogs.

After a one-two-three first inning from Bosma, Kentucky got on the board first with a looping double into right field from Adam Fogel, giving the Cats a 1-0 lead. 

The score would remain the same after the second inning. Bosma sat the Frogs down one-two-three again, this time with two strikeouts. Jase Felker got on base for the Cats to lead off the inning, but Nolan McCarthy grounded into a double play, erasing the threat. 

A lead-off double from Kurtis Byrne got the Frogs started in the third. However, Bosma was able to get the two next batters out. 

With Byrne still at second, Elijah Nunez hit a single to left but a great throw from McCarthy beat Byrne to the plate, leaving the score at 1-0.

Cornelio sat UK down in order to signal the end of the third.

Bosma only allowed one baserunner in the top of the fourth, keeping the lead at one for Kentucky.

After Jaocb Plastiak struck-out to start the bottom of the fourth, Fogel doubled for the second time in as many at-bats. Hunter Jump would follow up with a double of his own to left field, scoring Fogel and pushing the lead to 2-0.

With a runner on third, McCarthy struck-out looking to end the inning.

The fifth would spell trouble for Bosma. After allowing two runners on base, Nunez drove home a run with a two-out RBI single. Bosma struckout Luke Boyers with two men in scoring position to leave the score at 2-1.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Cats’ bats got hot. Ryan Ritter and John Thrasher got on base, which set up Chase Estep for a three-run-homerun over the left center field wall, giving UK a 5-1 lead.

That marked the end of the day for Cornelio, as he was relieved by Garrett Wright.

Wright walked three out of four batters. TCU manager Kirk Saarloos had seen enough and brought in Cohen Feser. Feser got out of the bases-loaded jam by striking out McCarthy on three pitches, leaving the score at 5-1.

Darren Williams would relieve Bosma to start the sixth inning. Williams was able to get out of a jam after two TCU hitters were able to get on base. Feser made quick work of the Cats in the bottom half of the inning, retiring three out of four Kentucky hitters.

Williams sat down all three Horned Frogs he saw in the seventh and final frame, securing the seven-inning-victory for Kentucky.

Bosma pitched a gem, only allowing one run, six hits, and striking out six batters in five innings, earning the win.

Approximately 30 minutes after the win for Kentucky, game two of the doubleheader began.

Left-hander Magdiel Cotto took the hill for the Cats while right-hander Brett Walker started for the Horned Frogs.

Cotto struggled out of the gates, finding himself in a bases-loaded-two-out situation in the first inning. A wild pitch brought home TCU’s first run of the evening.

TCU’s Tommy Sacco doubled in the next at-bat, driving home two and pushing the lead to 3-0.

In the bottom half, Estep got on base with a double, imposing a threat to cut the lead. Plastiak singled to right field but unfortunately for Kentucky, Estep was gunned at the plate via a great throw from Boyers.

Cotto pitched a scoreless second inning, only allowing one hit.

Just like the first inning, the Wildcats were able to get two runners on base but were unable to convert, leaving them stranded after a John Thrasher strikeout.

In the top of the third inning, the first two TCU batters reached base and were able to advance due to a Cotto wild pitch. Gray Rodgers drove home TCU’s fourth run with a sacrifice fly, which spelled the end of Cotto’s day.

It was a rough outing for Cotto. His control eluded him and just could not seem to get into a rhythm on the mound.

Tyler Guilfoil took over pitching duties for Kentucky and got out of the inning safely, keeping the score at 4-0.

Walker set UK down in order, ending the third inning.

TCU’s bats continued to stay hot in the fourth. A one-out triple from Nunez set up a Boyed sacrifice fly, extending the lead to 5-0.

Once again, the Cats failed to capitalize in terms of bringing runners home in the bottom half. With bases loaded and one out, Alonzo Rubalcaba popped out in the infield and Thrasher struck out, leaving the lead at five.

Zack Lee relieved Guilfoil and proceeded to give up three hits in four at-bats. The third hit was an RBI single off the bat of Byrne. Lee was able to get out of trouble by striking out the next two batters, with the score remaining 6-0.

Kentucky was unable to make a dent in the lead in the bottom half.

Austin Strickland relieved Lee to start the sixth. Strickland retired the first two batters he faced with relative ease, but could not get out of the inning unscathed.

TCU used clutch, two-out-hitting as they strung together back-to-to-back hits to push the lead to seven. Strickland was able to limit the damage to one run and finish out the inning.

Once again, Walker sat the Cats down in order.

Colby Frieda took over for Strickland to begin the seventh inning and was able to escape with no runs allowed after giving up two hits.

Coming into the seventh inning, Kentucky only had five hits. The chances of a series sweep looked bleak. Then, the bottom of the seventh took place.

A one-out-walk from Thrasher got the Kentucky dugout going. Then, Ritter singled, moving Thrasher to second. Walker was out of the game for TCU and Augie Mihlbauer stepped in. 

Estep walked on four pitches, loading the bases. Up stepped Plastiak, who had been quiet up until the at-bat. Plastiak unloaded on a 1-1 pitch, sending the ball over the left field fence, cutting the lead to three.

With Kentucky Proud Park rocking, Fogel kept the party going with a single of his own, keeping the rally alive. Hunter Jump would provide more fun for the fans with a two-run shot over the right field fence, bringing the score to 7-6. 

Oraj Anu and McCarthy followed up with strikeouts, ending the inning.

Jackson Nove came in to pitch for Kentucky in the eighth inning and found success, sitting TCU down in order.

Rubalcaba led off with a single but hope looked bleak after Thrasher and Ritter both grounded out. Canadian Émilien Pitre pinch-ran for Rubalcaba, providing Kentucky with speed on the basepaths.

All hopes were answered when an error by TCU’s Brendan Taylor allowed Pitre to score, tying the game at seven.

That would be all the fun Kentucky would have.

With the momentum on Kentucky’s side headed into the ninth, TCU put their foot down. A lead-off double from Sacco brought in Daniel Harper for Kentucky. 

Harper looked to provide a scoreless ninth for Kentucky. Long story short, he was unsuccessful.

Harper was able to throw out Sacco at third with a fielder’s choice, temporarily defusing any danger. Logan Maxwell walked, putting runners on first and second with one out. Porter Brown doubled down the left field line, giving TCU an 8-7 lead. 

Mason Moore took over for Harper, looking to limit the damage. Like Harper, he was unsuccessful.

Boyers singled, bringing home Maxwell and pushing the lead to 9-7. Taylor singled right after, driving home two runs and extending the lead to 11-7. 

The once raucous crowd was now quiet.

A Pitre error brought home a twelfth run, making the score 12-7. Moore was able to get the next Horned Frog to ground out.

The Cats, who have been so resilient this year, had another mountain to climb, this time facing an elite closer in River Ridings.

Like clockwork, Fogel led off the inning with a solo-home-run over the left field fence to not just cut the lead down to four, but also get the crowd back into the game.

Jump followed up with a single, furthermore awakening Kentucky Proud Park. Reuben Church pinch-hit for Kirk Liebert, looking to extend the rally.

However, Church was unable to do so, grounding into a double play, killing the momentum. Felker lined out to center field, securing the 12-8 victory for TCU.

The Cats (10-2) took two out of three games from the No. 16 Horned Frogs and showed great poise in the third game, coming back from seven runs. Despite not finishing off the comeback, this weekend can be seen as a successful one within the UK clubhouse.

Kentucky will look to continue its hot play against Murray State on Tuesday, March 8, at 4 p.m. EST at Kentucky Proud Park.