Comeback Cats: Kentucky erases eight-run deficit in 13-12 win over Western Michigan


Kentucky Wildcats infielder Ryan Ritter (47) starts running 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

Kentucky baseball (6-0) remained perfect on the 2022 season as they defeated Western Michigan 13-12 in 12 innings at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday.

UK erased an eight-run deficit after being down 12-4. It is the second come-from-behind victory for the Wildcats.

Magdiel Cotto took the hill for Kentucky while Jack Dane Armbrustmacher started for Western Michigan.

Cotto got through the first with ease, only allowing one hit.

An RBI single from Adam Fogel drove home Ryan Ritter, giving Kentucky a 1-0 lead.

Cotto pitched another scoreless inning in the second. After allowing two runners to get on base, Cotto struck out Josh Swinehart and forced Brendan Harrity to ground out, preserving the lead.

The second inning brought more success for the bats of Kentucky. Oraj Anu led-off with a single, Daniel Harris IV was hit by a pitch, Devin Burkes then brought Anu home with an RBI bunt-single and John Thrasher followed suit, bringing home Harris IV with another RBI bunt.

Armbrustmacher was able to get out of the jam and limit the damage to three.

The third inning brought immense trouble for Cotto. A throwing error by Cotto put a Bronco on base with one out. Cotto walked the next two batters to load the bases. A passed ball brought WMU its first run, which made the score 3-1.

Cotto was able to get a groundout which put runners on second and third. A hit-by-pitch reloaded the bases, which proved costly as Ryan Missal cleared the bases with a grand slam, giving the Broncos a 5-3 lead.

The home run was Missal’s second home run of the series.

Cotto gave up a double after Missal’s missile, which spelled the end for his day.

Daniel Harper relieved Cotto and gave up two hits himself, including an RBI single. Fortunately for Harper, he forced the next batter to fly out, leaving the lead at three.

Kentucky’s pitching would continue to falter in the fourth inning. Harper gave up three straight walks to start the inning. Head coach Nick Mingione brought in Ryan Hagenow to try and get out of the bases-loaded, no-out jam.

Hagenow struck out Missal and Cade Sullivan, only being one out away from a scoreless inning. Unfortunately for Hagenow, a walk brought home a run, pushing the lead up to four.

However, that would be all he would give up. Considering the situation Hagenow found himself in, giving up one run was a huge success.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Cats still could not chip away at the lead. With runners on first and third with one out, Hunter Jump grounded into an inning ending double play.

Hagenow sat WMU down one-two-three in the top of the fifth.

Kentucky was able to get a run back in the bottom frame. Jacob Plastiak led off with a single, Chase Estep doubled, and Anu drove home Plastiak with a sac fly. That would be all the Cats could muster, leaving the score at 7-4.

Hagenow struggled in the sixth. After allowing four of five batters to reach on base to load the bases, including an RBI walk, he was replaced by Tyler Guilfoil, who struck out the first batter he saw. 

Up stepped Dylan Nevar, who deposited Guilfoil’s fastball over the right field wall for a 12-4. It was the Broncos’ second grand slam of the game.

Brenden Levell relieved Armbrustmacher in the bottom of the sixth and sat Kentucky down in order.

Zach Lee pitched a scoreless seventh for the Cats, giving Kentucky a glimmer of hope to come back.

After the seventh-inning-stretch, Jump drew a walk and Plastiak came through with a two-run-shot over the right field fence to cut the lead in half, 12-6. That’s all UK would be able to muster though as they headed to the eighth inning down six.

Lee sat down WMU once again in order, striking out the side and more importantly, keeping Kentucky in the game.

Kirk Leibert started the Kentucky rally, leading off the inning with a single. After Ritter grounded into a fielder’s choice, signaling two outs for Kentucky, the UK bats then came alive.

Jump singled and Plastiak drove him home with a single of his own, cutting the lead to five.

Jase Felker drove home Jump with an RBI pinch-hit-single, chipping away at the lead. Estep walked to load the bases and was driven home with a bases-clearing RBI double from Anu to make the score 12-11. 

The Cats headed to the ninth inning now just down one run. 

Sean Harney pitched a scoreless ninth, leaving the Wildcats with a one-run deficit headed into the bottom of the inning.

The Cats’ chances quickly looked bleak as Leibert and Thrasher made quick two outs. With just one out remaining, the Cats had to come up with something fast to keep their undefeated season alive.

Ritter singled, giving Kentucky life. It looked like the game was over as Jump hit a routine pop-fly to WMU’s Harrity, until it wasn’t. Harrity dropped the ball and with Ritter hustling from first to score, the game was tied at 12.

Plastiak grounded out, sending the game to extras.

Both team’s bullpens allowed no runs in the 10th and 11th innings. Harney and WMU’s Hayden Berg allowed no runs, sending the game to the 12th.

The top of the 12th was rough for Harney, who gave up a lead-off walk. However, a strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play helped Harney reduce trouble. But a two-out single would end his day, bringing in Austin Strickland.

Strickland got the final out, escaping danger.

Plastiak led off with a walk and Felker grounded into a fielder’s choice. Up stepped Estep, who singled Felker to third, but another error by Harrity allowed Felker to score, securing the 13-12 victory for Kentucky.

The Cats showed resilience and heart with the win as they scored eight runs in three innings to tie the game. Clutch, two-out hitting has been a huge plus for the Cats this year.

Kentucky will look to sweep the series against Western Michigan on Sunday, Feb. 27 at 1 p.m. EST.