Louisville’s walk-off single hands UK rare non-conference loss

By Matthew George

LOUISVILLE — The Dream Game may be switching its sport of allegiance. The title, usually reserved for the annual basketball game between UK and Louisville, has recently been a more accurate description of the annual home-and-home series between the two schools’ baseball teams.

On April 9, a Keenan Wiley walk-off home run gave the Cats a 12th-inning 7-6 win in front of a school-record 4,009 fans. Last night, it was the Cardinals’ turn to get a taste of the dramatic.

U of L third baseman Chris Dominguez dug in the batter’s box facing every baseball player’s dream situation. Bottom of the ninth. Tie game. Bases loaded. Two outs.

He did not let the opportunity slip by. Dominguez delivered a ninth-inning walk-off single that gave the Cards a 6-5 victory last night in front of a regular-season record crowd of 3,652 at Jim Patterson Stadium.

“I got the first guy, but the next guy I got behind in the count and left the ball up,” said senior reliever Brock Baber, who struck out Justin McClanahan right before giving up the game-winner. “I gave him the chance to see a lot of pitches. Fortunately for them, they got a hit.”

Baber entered the ninth with zero wiggle room. A single, an intentional walk and an ill-timed second walk from senior reliever Andrew Albers left Baber a bases loaded, one-out situation when he took the mound. But Baber did not shy away from the situation.

“You’ve got to go in with the mindset that you’re going to be the hero or goat,” Baber said. “That’s the risk you take when you come in. You just kind of have to come in with ice water in your veins knowing there is a chance to win it or a chance to lose it.”

U of L’s late-inning victory handed UK its first non-conference loss in 22 games. The Cats’ last non-conference loss came at Evansville on May 9, 2007.

Despite the loss, UK head coach John Cohen drew positives from last night’s game, which, along with the game played in Lexington earlier this season, had an NCAA postseason feel.

“I think it’s great for college baseball in the state of Kentucky,” Cohen said. “I think it’s come a long way. When I got here five years ago and we were playing in the old Cardinal Stadium you could have fired a machine gun into the stands and not hit anybody. It was probably very similar at out place.”

“I think it’s neat for both clubs,” he said.

And not all was lost for Bryan Rose. The seldom-used redshirt freshman, who entered yesterday’s contest with just one career home run and eight starts, had a career day at the plate.

Rose belted two home runs and a double, part of a four-RBI performance that almost provided UK enough lift for a win.

“He’s really been swinging the bat well, and (senior first baseman Brian) Spear has been struggling a little bit, so we moved him into the four-hole,” Cohen said. “He’s going to be a great hitter. He’s a very talented kid; he’s really going to hit.”

Cohen said he wanted to start Rose against Florida on Sunday, but couldn’t because the freshman was suffering from a concussion.

“I saw the ball well and got a few pitches that I liked, and I got a chance to drive them,” Rose said. “It was definitely exciting. It would have been a lot better if we had got the game, but that’s the way it goes some times.”