UK keeps non-conference streak alive

By Matthew George

The result of last night’s UK baseball game was the same as is it has been all season for the Cats. Another home game against a non-conference foe. Another win.

But it didn’t come in typical fashion.

Junior center fielder Collin Cowgill and senior right fielder Sawyer Carroll hit back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning to propel the Cats to a 6-5 come-from-behind win against Morehead State at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

The blasts were a part of a two-inning, six-run rally that erased a 4-0 deficit, giving UK its 21st consecutive win over a non-conference opponent.

Last night’s game was a stark contrast to how things have gone for UK in its home non-conference games this season — it had been winning by an average of more than eight runs.

“Sometimes they just don’t find holes for you,” said Carroll, whose 11th home run of the season provided the insurance run that proved to be the winner. “That’s the way the game goes.”

A UK victory seemed doubtful for most of the contest.

As the Cats were suffering from the big-hit bugaboos — they stranded nine runners, six in scoring position — senior reliever Andrew Albers gathered his teammates, screaming at them in the dugout in hopes of motivating them.

“You could see some guys were tired,” Albers said. “We had to find a way to dig down and just find a way to come together a little bit and just bring some energy.”

“Even though you’re on the bench, that doesn’t mean you can’t contribute something to the game,” he said.

The Cats wasted no time responding. The first UK hitters reached safely in the seventh, loading the bases for senior first baseman Brian Spear, who delivered a two-RBI single up the middle to cut the deficit in half. Senior second baseman Ryan Wilkes’s RBI single cut it to one, and freshman shortstop Chris Wade’s one-out sacrifice fly tied it.

“I would love to take credit for that, but I can’t,” Albers said of the rally. “We’ve got a bunch of great guys in the lineup. They dug down and they found a way to get it done.”

Albers can take credit for his effort on the mound. The left-hander took the hill in the top of the seventh, moments after vocally rallying his teammates, and proceeded to pitch 1.2 innings of scoreless baseball to hold the lead into the ninth and earn his fifth win of the year.

“He’s an emotional guy, and he’s a great leader,” Carroll said. “He does a great job for us. He’s not afraid to speak his mind when he thinks he needs to say something, and it’s a good thing he does because everybody respects him.”

Junior pitcher Scott Green, making his first relief appearance after spending the majority of the season as a weekend starter, gave up a run in the ninth before locking things up.

“We’re just happy we battled through everything,” Carroll said. “Sometimes it’s not pretty, but you’ve got to get a win.”

Cowgill, whose go-ahead home run was his team-high 14th, said that despite the Cats’ early futility at the plate, there was never a point when he thought they were out of the game.

“That’s the best thing about this team,” he said. “If the guy in front of you doesn’t get it done, you know the guy behind you is going to get it done. If you don’t get it done, somebody else will.”