Baseball’s red-hot bats overcome cold weather in home opener

By Matthew George

Mother Nature tried to spoil the UK baseball team’s 2008 home opener. But head coach John Cohen refused to let her — for the most part.

Despite freezing temperatures and snow flurries, the Cats’ offense remained red-hot yesterday, scoring 10-plus runs for the fourth consecutive game en route to a 15-5 drubbing of Oakland in the club’s first home game this season at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Originally slated for two games in two days against the Golden Grizzlies, the series was rescheduled to yesterday’s doubleheader in hopes of avoiding inclement weather today.

But the weather did not prove to be any kinder yesterday. Early rain turned to sleet, then to snow, then back to sleet, which didn’t let up from the game’s first pitch to its final out. But Cohen was determined to at least complete the first game, which started at 1 p.m.

“We needed to play. If we didn’t play, what we were going to do was practice,” Cohen said. “You cannot recreate game situations in practice — you just can’t do it. So we had to play today.”

Because of the weather, the second game was postponed and will be played tomorrow at 4 p.m.

Slushy conditions led to sloppy play, as the two teams committed a combined six errors on the afternoon.

After starting the game with three runs in the first inning, No. 17 UK (4-0) went stagnant at the plate.

The Golden Grizzlies (0-1), led by a three-run home run from Dustin Joffrion, plated four runs against UK starting pitcher Tyler Henry before the sophomore was able to record the first out of the second inning.

But trailing 5-4 with two outs in the sixth, the Cats’ offense exploded. UK rallied for nine runs and surged to a 13-5 lead, which the team would only build upon in the final innings.

“We kind of figured it out,” senior designated hitter Sawyer Carroll said. “We were getting pretty frustrated there in the beginning. (Oakland starting pitcher Matt Traush) was just burying breaking balls, and we kept making the same mistakes over and over, and finally we just decided we didn’t want to do that anymore.”

Facing a two-run deficit in the fifth, sophomore right fielder Troy Frazier smashed an RBI double that sliced the lead in half. The RBI was one of five for Frazier on the afternoon, who finished the game a perfect 3-for-3 from the plate.

Though the Cats had trailed for more than half the game, Frazier said he never doubted they would come back.

“(Traush) had us going for the first few innings, but I really wasn’t worried,” Frazier said. “We put some runs on the board this past weekend, so I knew we were going to put some runs up there at the end.”

With two outs and the game tied in the sixth inning, Carroll belted a double to right field that drove in two runs, giving the Cats their first lead since the first inning and opening the floodgates for the nine-run inning. UK never trailed after that.

“We knew we were good enough to come back and win the game — we were just waiting on the spark to explode us,” Carroll said.

Carroll was 1-for-4 in the game with two RBIs. Freshman shortstop Chris Wade was 2-for-4 with a two-run home run in UK’s big sixth inning.

The Cats totaled a season-high 13 hits against the Golden Grizzlies.

UK has now scored 10 or more runs in each of its first four games, something Carroll said he expects the team to do every time it takes the field.

“I think the most important thing is we’ve had good at-bats all season long so far,” Carroll said. “We’ve been wearing pitchers down, seeing lots of pitches, and I think that’s how we’ve scored runs.”