UK on the rebound for first time this season

By Matthew George

Just before the UK baseball team beat Xavier to improve to 19-0 and tie the record for best start in school history, head coach John Cohen warned that part of the evolution of a ball club is seeing how its players recover from a loss.

After a 1-2 weekend in Auburn, the Cats (20-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) must stare down adversity for the first time this season.

The Cats failed to score Friday, stranding a season-high 12 runners in a 2-0 loss, their first of the year. UK held a three-run lead into the fifth inning on Saturday before Auburn stormed back for a 7-5 win.

“Things didn’t go as well as we had planned,” redshirt freshman shortstop Chris Wade said. “Of course on the road you would like to win two games and win the series. We came out flat Friday and didn’t score. But things were better on Saturday. We actually had the lead for a while but we walked seven or eight guys and they stole seven or eight bases against us.”

And though the Cats salvaged a 9-8 win Sunday to stave off a sweep, Wade said the team felt the sting of losing their first SEC road series.

“It’s just disappointing that we lost more than anything,” he said. “We really just try and go out and win one game at a time, I know that sounds cliché. But we’re not so much disappointed that we didn’t go 20-0 as we are that we didn’t get the win on Friday or Saturday.”

But Cohen did not share in the disappointment.

“I’m really pleased with the way our kids played,” he said “I love the way our kids fought back on Saturday. We just didn’t control the running game and didn’t throw strikes.”

Had the Cats won Friday, their 20-0 start would have set new records for the best start and longest winning streak in school history. But Cohen said he put little stock in history and was more concerned with how his team played than the games’ outcomes.

“Maybe I’m getting old, but I don’t even think of it in those terms,” Cohen said. “I’m more concerned with: Did we play well or did we not play well? This weekend I thought we played well. I was happy with about 75 percent of our game and disappointed with about 25 percent.”

Senior first baseman Brian Spear said that though the winning streak was nice, he knew an eventual loss was inevitable.

“In a league like the SEC, you’re not going to go 30-0,” Spear said. “The league is just too strong and baseball is too finicky a game. You are going to lose, it’s all about how quickly you rebound and how you deal with adversity.”

Because of the strength of the SEC, Cohen said it is commonplace for a highly ranked team to lose two games in a weekend conference series.

It happened during the weekend. Vanderbilt, ranked No. 4 in the nation, dropped two of three games to Alabama, a team that had lost five straight games and was swept in a three-game series by the Cats earlier this season.

“No matter how used to winning you are, in our league, you better learn to deal with losing,” Cohen said.

After dropping two games to Auburn, the Cats have experienced losing for the first time this season. Tomorrow’s 4 p.m. game against Xavier gives them the opportunity to prove they have, in fact, learned how to deal with it.

“Of course you’re going to lose games, that’s just baseball,” Wade said, “but we are going to be fine as long as we keep doing what we have been doing all season.”