Cats drop nine-run lead to ‘Bama



UK found its rosy picture smeared by a black stain from a Sunday collapse.

After three straight wins against top-25 opponents, the Cats looked poised to put the finishing touches on their week with a sweep against No. 19 Alabama.

But UK (21-12, 4-8 Southeastern Conference) saw a nine-run lead erode under the tides of Alabama’s late-inning offense, culminating in an 11-9 Alabama victory that was UK’s third straight Sunday come-from-ahead loss.

“You lose a Sunday game and you give it away after you’ve had a big lead,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “It’s pretty hard to see the rosy picture at that point in time.”

The Cats had seemingly put the game out of reach with a six-run fifth inning that gave them a 9-0 cushion.

But UK, sitting four innings away from the sweep, was left clutching the brooms as the bullpen gave up 11 unanswered Alabama runs that washed away the lead.

“It’s tough, sometimes the ball just doesn’t fall our way,” outfielder Chad Wright said. “Yeah, we won (the series), but we would have liked to take the third game.”

Alabama started the comeback with five runs in the sixth inning. After UK starting pitcher Alex Meyer allowed a single and two walks to load the bases, reliever Mike Kaczmarek came on to try and work out of the jam.

Instead, Kaczmarek beaned the first batter to force home a run, and then gave up a grand slam that cut the lead to four runs. It was the first time all season he had allowed inherited runners to score.

“Those guys are human,” Henderson said. “The issue is not the ball leaves the yard, the issue is the three freebies on base. The two walks and hit batter puts you in a position where you can’t even afford to give up a hit.”

But the hit was given up, and with that, the Crimson Tide turned the tides.

Two innings later, Alabama launched another assault on the scoreboard and on UK’s bullpen, as the Cats went through three pitchers in the inning. Alabama used four straight hits and a critical error on a bunt by UK second basemen Chris Bisson to plate five runs that gave them a one-run lead.

“We have to improve on our toughness once we get a lead,” Henderson said. “We didn’t close the deal.”

As the lead was slipping away, UK’s offense wasn’t able to mount any serious threats. The eighth inning was as close as the Cats got, as they put two runners on with one out before both Taylor Black and Lance Ray struck out to end the inning.

“After they scored, we weren’t able to put any more runs on the board, and that’s something that concerns you,” Henderson said. “You’ve gotta keep the pressure on and keep scoring.”

The late-inning collapse erased an excellent performance by Meyer.  Through his first five innings, he struck out seven and allowed no runs before he ran into trouble in the sixth.

Now the Cats have to rebound from a crushing loss for the third straight week.

“They’ll be fine,” Henderson said. “They’ve bounced back every time this year. They’ll be fine.”