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Kentucky Tumbles Tide in Top Twelve Series Opener

@CoachRyanKY 🦉


LEXINGTON- A series featuring two of College Baseball’s elite got underway under a dreary sky from a frigid Kentucky Proud Park on Friday Night. The Kentucky Wildcats (coming off of an impressive sweep of the Ole Miss Rebels) earned a #12 ranking in this week’s polls.


Nick Mingione’s roster would be pit against the #11 ranked Crimson Tide from Alabama. This series would not only have serious implications on what promises to be a tight race in the Southeastern Conference, but also among the national landscape of collegiate baseball.


Two right-handers would be taking the hill to kick the series off. Kentucky would start Trey Pooser, a grad-transfer from College of Charleston. He owns a 2-0 record this season on 3.60 runs earned in 8 appearances. Alabama would lean on Ben Hess, a 6’5” 255 pound mountain of a junior, owning a 5.59 ERA of his own on 29 innings pitched in 2024.


1st Inning


Gage Miller led off for the Tide, he bats at a .450 avg this season but wouldn’t need to even swing the aluminum as he was struck in the back on the first pitch of the game from Pooser.


TJ McCants popped up on an offspeed pitch from Pooser to put the first out on the board for the Wildcats. That brought Ian Petrutz to the plate, popping up another off-speeder from Pooser to right field and leaving Miller on first base, two outs good guys. A swing and a whiff from grad-student Evan Sleight to send the Bat Cats to the offensive side of the inning.


Leading off for the Cats would be Ryan Waldschmidt, a .307 hitter this season with two home runs total, he wouldn’t add to the total as he grounded out to third base.


Émilien Pitre was up next, he hit a well played ball to Left that was caught on a sliding catch from Alabama’s- Petrutz.


Nice play.


Devin Burkes would bat third for the Cats, but was caught swinging on a 77 mph off-speed pitch. Three up-three down for the Crimson.


2nd Inning


Justin Lebron would bring his talents to the plate to start the top of the 2nd inning for Alabama. He rocketed a deep shot to center that carried 398 feet, not quite enough to get over the 400’ center wall as Nolan McCarthy awaited underneath the gray sky for an out.


Kade Snell quickly was down 0-2 in the count after two foul balls before grounding out to Second Base. Will Hodo, a .287 batting junior was struck out swinging, three-up-three-down for the Cats.


Touché.


The mystic mustache of Nick Lopez was plunked to lead things off for Kentucky. He would gladly trot his way down the first base line to set up Mitchell Daly. A passed ball from Alabama’s Catcher-Mac Guscette moved Lopez into scoring position. Daly would attempt to bunt but foul one off to go into a 2-2 count with no outs on the board for Alabama. He stayed back on an offspeed pitch from Hess to score Lopez from Second Base and give the Cats a 1-0 lead.


With no outs on the board and Daly taking up residence on first. Ryan Nicholson was able to advance Daly into scoring position by sacrificing himself for the out. First out on the board for the ‘Tide.


A mishandled pitch, likely due to the moist conditions, moved Daly to third base with Nolan McCarthy down 0-2 in the count. McCarthy caught air on the next fast ball, a 93 mph one, to send him digging. Two down.


James McCoy was up next for the Cats with Daly eagerly leading off of third base. A line drive from McCoy to shallow Right sent Alabama back to their dugout.


1-0 Kentucky


3rd Inning


Mac Guscette, the ‘Bama backstop, was up batting eighth for Alabama. He hit a weak fly ball to Left Field that was leathered with ease by Grant Smith. Pooser made quick work of the next man up, grounding out the Tide at first on a dink and run.


Gage Miller was back up in the Leadoff spot and popped up his own out to left. Three-up-three-down again for the Bat Cats.


Hess returned to the dirt for Alabama, hoping to fare better this inning than last. Grant Smith would hope to have other plans has he dug in the right side of the box for the Bat Cats. Hess was off to a better start as Hess swung at a fastball to put 1 down for the boys from Tuscaloosa.


Ryan Waldschmidt was due up next for Nick Mingione, he went down swinging as well, bringing his total to 0-for-2 today from the plate.


Emilien Pitre couldn’t change his fortunes from the first, going down looking on a 76 mph off speed pitch to get Alabama out of the inning.


4th Inning


The fourth began with a strike from Pooser on a 90 mph heater down Main Street thrown past McCants. He fouled off the next one falling behind 0-2 in the count. Another Pooser fastball put McCants down on strike three and added the first out of the inning for Kentucky.


Two quick balls to Petrutz of Alabama prompted a mound visit from Kentucky catcher Devin Burkes. Pooser settled down and threw a strike but walked Petrutz on a call from the Third Base Umpire.


Sleight was up with Petrutz on First, Pooser threw over to first to keep him honest before dealing a 90 mph fastball to tally strike one. Another pickoff attempt followed by another fastball strike, this time clocking in at 93 mph. Sleight hit a grounder that was mishandled on the throw for what (appeared) to be a routine double play to only get the out at second base on Petrutz but failing to punch out Sleight.


Lebron (the Alabama baseball player) hit a curving shot to right field to take First Base and move Sleight to Third with two away.


Snell filled the six-hole and was due up for the tie but popped out on the first pitch to Nolan McCarthy awaiting ever so patiently in Center Field. Cats narrowly escape the Tide’s attempt to even things up.


“The Big Blue” backstop, Devin Burkes, led things off from the three-spot for Kentucky but went down swinging.


Nick Lopez, the designated hitter for the day, squatted into the left side of the box and swung at a 92 mph fastball dealt from Hess. He would be suckered into swinging at a 76 mph curve ball from Hess to put two outs on the scoreboard for ‘Bama.


Mitchell Daly followed by sneaking a ball down into shallow Center for a Single. Two away with Nicholson coming to the plate. Daly ran on a 0-0 count to safely slide feet first into Second, but was quickly called to review by the umpire crew. The replay official overturned the safe call on Daly to end the inning for Kentucky.


5th Inning


Will Hodo, batting from the seven slot in the Alabama Lineup solidly struck a curveball from Pooder to the warning tack of Left-Center to go into Second Base standing on a no-out double.


Guscette hit one on the ground to first to sacrifice himself for the out but move Hodo into Third.


Next up, Grant laid down a sacrifice bunt to score Hodo.


2 outs, 1-1 ballgame.


Gage Miller sought to keep the good fortunes going for the tide but failed, bouncing one to Daly for a routine throw over to first base.


Three hitters that were 0-1 on the day were looked to change it up in the bottom of the fifth for Kentucky (Ryan Nicholson, Nolan McCarthy, and James McCoy).  Nicholson, a native of Louisville, found himself ahead in the count 2-0 after 2 pitches. He took advantage and drew a free base.


Nolan McCarthy then hit a towering fly ball to center but was unsuccessful in getting on base or moving Nicholson into Second.


Hess would do it for him, tossing an errant pitch that sent him in standing.


James McCoy would draw a walk of his own, forcing Alabama Head Coach Rob Vaughn to visit the mound, buying time for one of his relievers warming up in the bullpen behind Right Field.


Kentucky had runners on First and Second with a lone out earned by the ‘Tide. Grant Smith would be tasked with taking advantage of this situation in which he did on a ball that stayed fair about an inch inside the foul line in Right Field to add a run for  Kentucky and move runners into Second and Third (with that lone out still haunting the grey-clad Crimson Tide).


After a short talk from Nick Mingione, Ryan Waldschmidt dug into the right side of the plate. Waldschmidt went down looking on a pitch that he thought was inside of the strike zone.


Two down for the ‘Tide.


Émilien Pitre would get a chance to add to the lead for the Wildcats. Hess walked Pitre to load the bases and summon Devin Burkes to the dish. Burkes hit a first pitch line drive over the head of the Alabama second baseman to bring two home for blue. 4-1.


Cats on top.


The super ‘stache of Nick  Lopez filled the upcoming four-hole for Kentucky. He had runners on First and Second but would pop-up into the infield, leaving two runners stranded. Productive inning for the Bat Cats.


4-1 Kentucky



6th Inning


Pooser returned to the rubber for Kentucky, having thrown 57 pitches thus far in the game, his outing has been stellar.


McCants hit a line drive that looked to be an easy play for Pitre, but he mis-stepped and the ball rolled into Right Field sending McCants into First with a single.


Petrutz joined him on base in the following at bat, positioning runners on First and Second with no outs yet earned for Kentucky.


Evan Sleight hit a deep shot to the warning track of Left Field, falling into the glove of Ryan Waldschmidt and holding the runners “at-bay” while adding the first out of the inning for the Wildcats.


Justin Lebron, 1-for-2 on the night, was next up for Alabama. He would move to 1-for-3 as het hit a bouncing ground ball in the direction of Mitchell Daly who launched a rocket line to First to narrowly beat Lebron to the bag, two outs Kentucky.


Snell would fly out to close things out for Kentucky in an inning that they will feel blessed to have taken no damage to the three-run lead they were protecting.


Up next for the Cats was Mitchell Daly, the “spark plug” of this team in my personal opinion.


He displayed omnipotent plate discipline, forcing Hess into a walk on his 94th pitch of the night.


The Louisville native, Ryan Nicholson followed Daly for Kentucky. He would show elite plate discipline of his own but struck out on the seventh pitch of the at-bat.


That would end the night for Hess, as the bullpen was buzzed to enter Braylon Myers in relief for the Crimson Tide. Myers, a righty, holds a 1.59 ERA on 17 innings pitched this season.


His first batter faced would be the Center Fielder - Nolan McCarthy. The kid from Kalamazoo hit a long strike to bring the count to 1-2 in favor of Myers. Next pitch, he sent one BACK TO MICHIGAN over the Left Field fence to spread the lead to five at 6-1.


James McCoy would dig into the left side of the box following that bomb, forcing Myers into a full count with a lone out on the board for Alabama. Myers would miss the plate on the outside to send McCoy into first…Johnny Cash style, walking the line.


Grant Smith would round out another batting order for Nick Mingione, he would get to walk the line himself, moving McCoy into scoring postion and taking up his own residence on First.


Waldshmidt hit a pop-fly high into the rainy sky bound for Right Field that was grabbed about a foot from the ground by Alabama’s Sleight almost on-top of the Right Field Base Line.


That brought Pitre back to the pate, but he would ground out to Second Base to so graciously let Alabama exit that offensive onslaught by Kentucky.


6-1 Bat Cats


7th Inning


Hodo was due up in the lead-off position for the Crimson Tide. Two quick strikes on fastballs from Pooser quickly put him behind in the count before he snuck away with a very weakly hit ground ball slow rolling it’s way into Left Field and giving him First Base virtually “stress-free”.


Guscette was able to bring him home on the next pitch, adding an RBI to his stat line and a run to the board for Alabama. A mound visit followed to give his “double loaded barrels” of relief more time to get loose beyond the Left Field wall in the bullpen.


Max Grant stepped into the left side of the batter’s box but would fly out to shallow Left Field to notch the first out of the inning for Kentucky. Grant would hit a line drive in the way of Pitre for an easy second out of the side for Kentucky. However, Guscette was able to successfully advance to Third Base.


McCants was next up, thwacking a line drive that was spectacularly fielded on a diving catch from Ryan Nicholson.


Time to stretch, 6-2 Kentucky leads.


In the box-”The Big Blue Backstop”-Devin Burkes would get things started in the bottom of the Seventh, flying out to deep center.


The ‘stache followed, Nick Lopez, rocketing a line drive directly into the awaiting web of Grant in the Alabama Right Filed.


“The Sparkplug” Mitchell Daly, would step in hoping to avoid a three-up-three-down inning for the ‘Tide. Myers had other intentions, hurling his way to another efficiently pitched inning for Alabama, he caught Daly looking.


8th Inning


Travis Smith entered the game and took the mound for Kentucky. The Right-Hander hosts a 6.08 ERA in 26.2 innings of work this season. He would face Ian Petrutz first, who was 1-for-2 on the night. He hit a ball that bounced hard off of the Right Field wall and was down for a hit. He narrowly beat a rocket throw from McCoy needing to slide into Second.


Sleight would hit a bouncing grounder for the first out of the inning. With that grounder, he  successfully moved Petrutz to Third with Lebron awaiting in the on-deck circle.


Lebron would dink one a few feet in front of Burkes who wisely held the runner at Third before throwing the ball to First for out number two.


Kade Snell ended the inning with a ground out to Kentucky Second Baseman Émilien Pitre.


Nicholson was up in the six-spot for the Cats, he would be plunked by Myers to take first, gratís.


McCarthy followed with a bouncer to Third to sacrifice himself to the scoreboard but advance Nicholson.


A quick 2-0 count welcomed James McCoy to the dish for the Bat Cats with one out on the board. Two mighty cuts missed the back-to-back fastballs from Myers to even it up at 2-2 before taking an outside pitch to make it 3-2. Two pitches and one foul ball later, he would get to walk the line to warm up the bag for a hopeful Grant Smith awaiting anxiously in the on-deck circle.Myers would catch him looking to earn the second out of the inning for the ‘Tide.


A long out to center from Waldschmidt would strand them both, ending the inning for Kentucky.


9th Inning


The top of the 9th came shortly after 9 pm local time, Smith would be asked to close things out for Nick Mingione. Two pitches in and two strikes later he dealt a 95 mph fastball struck by Hodo that struck Ryan Nicholson in the knee, giving Alabama a runner on base.


Too little, too late.


Next up, William Hamiter grounded past the pitcher for an out at Second. Kentucky would be unable to convert the double-play as Hamiter busted down the line to safely arrive.


Two outs separated Kentucky from its 25th win of the season. Catching Max Grant of Alabama swinging would help matters, and that is exactly what he did to add the second out of the inning!


Gage Miller, the lead off hitter, hit a hard ground ball to the shortstop which was underhand tossed with ease to Second base for the easy out.


BALLGAME KENTUCKY. VICTORY KENTUCKY!!



Score:


Kentucky 6


Alabama 2



Per Ben Beaty of the SEC, UK is the first team to start 9-1 in SEC play in back-to-back seasons in 32 years.


“They’re just a team, everybody in that dugout…they believe. They have a desire to win that dominates. They love and they care for each other”, Coach Nick Mingione told media after the game when asked what is clicking so well for this team. “Boy did he minimize”, when recounting the pitching effort by Trey Pooser. Kentucky takes Game 1-of-3 for the weekend in what turned out to be one for the record books.





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