Late rally sees Kentucky baseball defeat Dayton for fifth straight victory


Samuel Colmar

Kentucky players cheer after an inning during the No.10 Kentucky vs. Dayton baseball game on Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in downtown Lexington in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Samuel Colmar | Staff

Parker Scott, Reporter

No. 10 Kentucky baseball (26-3) scored nine runs in the second half of its home game against Dayton on Tuesday en route to a 13-6 victory.

“(The game) was tight because we had so many baserunners,” head coach Nick Mingione said following the contest. “But I give our guys credit when we needed to make some pitches.”

Right-handed redshirt freshman Travis Smith, who came in with a 2-0 record, was the starter for the Wildcats for the game.

Dayton got two runners on base to start the game, but the Flyers lined into a double play at first base to prevent any chances from scoring.

It did not take long for Kentucky to get on the board as senior Jackson Gray was hit by a pitch and then went all the way home on a double from senior Jase Felker.

With two outs in the first, Dayton got sidetracked on a pickoff attempt which allowed Felker to steal home to put the Wildcats up 2-0.

Kentucky Wildcats outfielder Nolan McCarthy (19) hands his helmet to a coach during the No.10 Kentucky vs. Dayton baseball game on Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in downtown Lexington in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Samuel Colmar | Staff (Samuel Colmar)

A hit-by-pitch and two walks loaded the bases for Dayton with one out in the second and it tied the game with a two-run single.

The play would be the last at-bat handled by Smith in the game, as senior Ryder Giles was brought in to replace him.

Giles retired the two batters he faced in the top of the second, leaving the game tied with the Cats to bat.

Although two Wildcats were able to reach base on walks in the bottom of the second, they could not score, leaving the score at 2-2.

Sophomore Jackson Nove, a left-hander from Fairfax, Iowa, was the pitcher for Kentucky starting in the third for his ninth appearance of the season.

Nove began the inning with a walk, but a double play and a pop-up ended a quick inning at the plate for Dayton.

Sophomore Ryan Waldschmidt hit a sacrifice fly to put Kentucky in front and redshirt senior Hunter Gilliam scored another on a balk to give the Wildcats a 4-2 lead.

Gilliam had reached on a single that extended his hit streak to 22 games, one shy of tying the school record.

Dayton cut the lead to one in the fourth with an RBI single and left-handed redshirt sophomore Evan Byers came in the game to pitch right afterward.

The game became tied once again when Byers hit Marcos Pujols of Dayton with the bases loaded, bringing the score to 4-4 going into the bottom of the fourth.

Neither team scored in the fifth, bringing the teams into the sixth inning when junior left-hander Magdiel Cotto came to the mound for Kentucky.

After Cotto finished the top of the sixth scoreless, sophomore Emilien Pitre brought in two runs with a two-out single to give Kentucky the lead back.

Sophomore Nolan McCarthy hit a single that brought in two more runs not long after before Waldschmidt failed to make it home in time, leaving the score at 8-4 at the end of the sixth.

Following two quick hits for Dayton to start the seventh, junior Seth Logue replaced Cotto as pitcher. 

Kentucky Wildcats pitcher Jackson Nove (43) pitches the ball during the No.10 Kentucky vs. Dayton baseball game on Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in downtown Lexington in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Samuel Colmar | Staff (Samuel Colmar)

Dayton scored a run from an RBI single in the inning, but Logue struck out two and retired the last batter after that to prevent the Flyers from scoring again.

The Wildcats loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh and scored a run when redshirt sophomore Devin Burkes walked.

Felker scored another run from a balk before Waldschmidt was hit by a pitch with the bases full to bring in two more runs for the Cats and create a comfortable 11-5 lead.

McCarthy struck again with a single that brought in two more runs to further extend the Wildcats’ lead to 13-5.

“I’ll just be really aggressive because that’s what our whole team tries to do and jump on first pitches, jump on whenever we can when there’s an opportunity,” McCarthy said after the game.

Kentucky made another pitching change to start the eighth, bringing in sophomore Colby Frieda for the fourth time this season.

The eighth was scoreless for both teams with Frieda striking out two in the process of keeping the Flyers from scoring.

Redshirt freshmen Reed Gannon and Christian Howe helped close out the game for Kentucky and, although Dayton scored a run from a sacrifice fly, the game ended not long after.

“The beauty about this team is I don’t have to keep them focused,” Coach Mingione said. “They’re focused on the next tasks at hand.”

Kentucky will travel to Athens, Georgia, to face Georgia (16-13) for a weekend series starting on Friday, April 7, at 6 p.m. EST at Foley Field.