Late surge locks up 7-1 win for Bat Cats



In a game where UK was missing two top-of-the-order bats, the Cats turned to the bottom of the order to get the offense rolling.

With second baseman Chris Bisson and catcher Marcus Nidiffer injured and out of the lineup, the 7-8-9 hitters — Braden Kapteyn, Michael Williams and Taylor Black — went a combined 5-for-10 with four RBI as No. 22 UK (10-1) beat Evansville, 7-1.

“Kapteyn saw the ball well and was taking good swings, it was a great day for Michael Williams, and Black hitting the ball hard in the eighth inning really kept that thing going,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said.

It was that trio, sitting at the back end of the lineup card, that propelled the Cats when the game mattered most. Holding a 3-1 lead entering the eighth inning, UK exploded for four runs in its last at-bat to put the game out of reach.

“We just kept battling, and stuff started falling for us,” said sophomore third baseman Andy Burns, who added a home run later that inning. “We talked it over, went up there with a plan, and things started going our way.”

UK might have made the hits start falling for them by putting better swings on the ball.

“We hit some balls on the nose,” Henderson said.  “We were able to hit some balls hard and put things together.”

Up to that point, the offense had to grind it out for runs. The first two runs, scored in the second inning, were unearned, and UK left a total of 11 runners on base.

“I thought it was some of both (bad luck and poor execution),” Henderson said. “On a couple of occasions we hit the ball hard right at somebody, but on a couple of occasions the quality of our at-bats was very good.” While the Cats seem to have a propensity for the big inning, they would rather be able to consistently manufacture runs.

“It’s always nice to get that big inning, put those crooked numbers up,” Burns said. “But we need to get better scoring runs on a consistent basis.  That’s something we’re going to go to work on.”

UK’s offense may have been streaky, but the pitching was steady. Nick Kennedy, who had been injured since early last season, made a successful return, tossing three shutout innings at the end of the game to earn the save.

“I was happy for him,” Henderson said. “It’s been a long road for Nick.  He’s had two surgeries, but he’s worked hard.  He’s a talented kid who can be effective in short stints.”

The submariner’s performance earned him a loud ovation from his teammates in the postgame huddle.

“It was my first time back in about a year, and there’s always jitters when you haven’t pitched in a while,” Kennedy said. “But after that first pitch it all came back. It was nice to get out there and do well and have them give me a little ovation at the end.”

Besides being a heart-warming story for Kennedy the player, it was a hope-forming story for the bullpen. Kennedy’s return gives the Cats another arm to use in a now-bolstered bullpen.

“We’re really glad to have him back,” Henderson said. “He’s really got a chance to help us, that’s pretty clear. He’s a talented kid who can be effective in short stints. Not perfect, not unhittable, but effective.”