Bat Cats earn series victory over Illinois-Chicago, move to .500

It was “getaway” day for the UK baseball team and the visitors from the University of Illinois-Chicago as they concluded a three-game series at Lexington’s Cliff Hagan stadium. After splitting the first two games of the weekend, UK prevailed in the third and deciding game over UIC by a score of 3-1.

The game was uncharacteristically low scoring compared to the first two games of the series. On Friday, UK blew an 8-2 seventh inning lead and fell to UIC 10-8. On Saturday, the Cats responded with an offensive explosion, dominating UIC to the tune of a 13-3 win to even out the series. After scoring 21 runs in the first two games of the weekend, UK (4-4) managed only three runs on Sunday on just five hits. But it was enough offense to earn UK a much needed victory.

“Sometimes when they’re willing to give you runs you have to be able to take them and keep your poise,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “There’s not a lot of plan involved in anything like that, you just end up taking what they give you, and I thought we were really fortunate.”

The Cats’ pitching followed a bend-but-don’t-break pattern on the afternoon, allowing ten hits and three walks to UIC, but only letting one run across the plate. UIC stranded 14 runners on the day.

UK starting pitcher Jordan Cooper allowed eight hits and UIC’s lone run in 5.1 innings pitched, striking out one and walking one in 97 pitches on the mound. Cooper failed to record a single perfect inning, allowing at least one runner in each of the six innings he started, but was able to pitch his way out of a few tough spots on his way to a no-decision.

“The thing about Jordan Cooper that I thought today that was really good was that he kept his poise,” Henderson said. “He clearly wasn’t sharp in the strike-zone. He threw a high percentage of strikes, so from that perspective he did a good job, and he kept his poise when there were base-runners.”

Cooper was pulled in the sixth inning for reliever Trevor Gott, who forced a double-play with his first pitch from the mound, ending the inning and getting the Cats out of a tough spot.

“When I came in Coach (Henderson) told me the pitch to make and the kid will roll a ground ball because he’s been watching him all weekend,” Gott said, “and I just executed it and it worked out. It was huge.”

Between Gott and fellow reliever Mike Kaczmarek, UK’s bullpen pitched 3.2 scoreless innings, a well-received improvement after allowing eight runs in three innings on Friday to the same UIC team. Gott earned the first victory of his career, with Kaczmarek locking down the save.

After losing three games in Charleston, S.C., last weekend, UK has now won four of their last five games, including taking two of three this weekend at home against UIC. The Cats will look to ride this momentum to Houston, Texas with them next weekend as they prepare to take on Rice, Houston and Utah.

“(This weekend) was huge.” Gott said, “It gives us a lot of confidence to go into Houston where we will play some really good teams. Hopefully it gives us confidence to do well down there.”