UK baseball falls 10-9 to Louisville in walk-off fashion


at Jim Patterson Stadium on Wednesday, April 28, 2010. Photo by William Baldon

It looked like Louisville had won the game. Then it looked like UK had won the game. Then, finally, Louisville did win the game. The scoreboard even said so.

UK saw a three-run lead in the ninth inning crumble as Louisville scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to send the Cats (23-18) walking off the field and walking onto the bus after a 10-9 loss to the Cards.

It was a game that saw closers from both teams blow leads, a game that saw the bases loaded three separate times in the last two innings, a game that saw two ninth-inning comebacks and a game that drew a Patterson Stadium regular season school-record 4,039 fans.

“That’s how it goes,” UK junior infielder Chris Bisson said. “You never know in baseball, and especially when you’re playing a team like Louisville. It’s very disappointing. Tonight they were a little tougher than we were.

However, Bisson and the rest of the Cats were not able to come out on top. The Cats had clawed back from a two-run deficit in the top of the ninth inning to take a three-run lead. Closer Matt Little was on the mound. Three runs up, three outs away — it looked like UK had completed the season sweep.

“Your plan with a three-run lead is that your closer can go get you three outs,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “That’s the plan. It didn’t work.”

It turned out Louisville didn’t even need all three of its outs. After a quick out to start the inning, six consecutive Louisville batters reached base safely as the Cards tied the game 9-9. Little was yanked in favor of sophomore Braden Kapteyn.

Now the bases were loaded, bottom of the ninth, intrastate rival on the ropes, and it was Louisville freshman Zak Wasserman who delivered the knockout blow. He lined a single into left field as UK shortstop Taylor Black jumped and tried to haul in both the ball and any remaining hope of salvaging the game.

The ball easily cleared Black’s glove. Louisville scored the winning run. The Cards’ celebration started at the plate and slowly moved toward the outfield as more and more players kept piling on the circle.

“We owed them one,” Wasserman said. “We really hit the ball well tonight.”

Still, the fact UK was even able to get a lead that could be blown was an achievement unto itself. Down by two runs entering the top of the ninth inning, and facing Louisville closer Neil Holland, the Cats mounted a comeback. Bisson singled. Chad Wright singled. Andy Burns singled. Lance Ray doubled. Keenan Wiley was intentionally walked. Navarro Hall walked on four straight balls, bringing home the go-ahead run. A Cory Farris groundout scored two more runs that gave UK a three-run lead. Just three outs away from a season sweep.

“The two best arms of the evening pitched in the ninth and both offenses really locked in,” Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell said. “It’s what I told the coaches at the end of the game, it was a great college baseball game. Obviously, we feel better than they do because we came away with the win.”

Even though UK ended up on the gut-wrenching side of the score, it found solace in its fight.

“The spirit of the team right now is really good,” Henderson said. “I was really pleased with the way the guys came back. That’s a lot of heart in being behind and coming back. I was proud of the effort, especially on the road. Still disappointed that we couldn’t close out a game that we clearly should have won.”

The ninth inning, home of so many magical moments, showed its magic twice in this game. UK ended up on the wrong side of the magic, but some players enjoyed the close battle.

“Fun,” Bisson said. “Those games are fun. It’s a lot better when you come out on top, but I love competing.”