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Wildcats Take Two from Tide; Win Seventh in a Row

@CoachRyanKY 🦉


LEXINGTON-Fresh off of a victory last night, the Kentucky Wildcats baseball team returned to action under sunny skies in Lexington on Saturday afternoon.


The Wildcats have won an impressive six in a row, including holding the rare accolade of being the first team to start 9-1 in Southeastern Conference play in back-to-back seasons in 32 years.


Fans began to file towards the entrance to jockey for the best seats more than 90 minutes before the first pitch. I can’t find the proper words to convey it but the interest of BBN seems to be at an all-time high towards the diamond. Success will do that, but this team is also intriguing to watch. The dugout antics, the pure joy they seem to play the game with, and the team culture have captivated the hearts of Wildcat fans recovering from March “sadness”.


Alabama would be sending a former rival of the Wildcats to the hill for the start. Greg Farone, a left-hander, transferred to Alabama from Louisville over the off-season. He leads Alabama for innings pitched (30.2) and saw work as a midweek starter and reliever before earning a spot inn the weekend rotation. He holds a 2.93 ERA and a 3-0 record on eight appearances.


For the Bat Cats, Dominic Niman-a lefty from Connecticut- would get the nod from  Head Coach Nick Mingione.


According to D1Baseball, he was a top 100 transfer and made the NCBWA Preseason All-America team. This is his first year in Lexington, making the move to Lexington after spending last year at Central Connecticut State where he was the 2023 ECAC Pitcher of the Year. This season, he was worked himself to a 5-2 record in his seven appearances giving up 4.42 earned runs.


1st Inning


Gage Miller, the junior Third Baseman, led off for the Crimson Tide shortly after 2pm local time. History repeated itself from yesterday as he was beamed on the third pitch of the game.


That brought TJ McCants, a .331 hitter into the left side of the batter’s box. Niman was able to get settled in forcing McCants to hit a line drive which was easily fielded by Pitre to turn two for blue. Ian Petrutz flew an 83 mph offspeed pitch into Center Field for an easy Nolan McCarty catch to end the inning. Three up-three down, Kentucky ends the inning with no damage.


Ryan Waldschmidt, the Left Fielder was the lead off hitter for Kentucky. He found First on a line drive bounding into Center Field. The following pitch, he turned on the wheels to take Second and move into scoring position.


Émilen Pitre filled the two-hole for Kentucky, he sacrificed a fly out to deep Left Center to advance Waldschmidt to Third, barely beating the Alabama relay. “THROW IT IN THE DIRT” a familiar sound from the Kentucky cheering section could be heard up in the press box.


Devin Burkes, “The Big Blue Backstop” sac-flyed to Center to score Waldschmidt.


1-0 Bat Cats


The ‘stache was up, Nick Lopez, the designated hitter on the line-up card had a very good at bat but ultimately fell out swinging.



2nd Inning


The Alabama Right Fielder, Christian Slieght, hit in clean-up position for the Tide. He swung and grounded out on the first pitch dealt from Niman to put a quick first out on the board for Kentucky.


Justin Lebron (the baseball player, not a typo) earned a quick Second out to bring Kade Snell, a  redshirt junior, to the plate. A 92 mph fastball painted the upper left corner of the strike zone to catch Snell looking. Another three up-three down inning for Kentucky.


Rembrandt like.


Mitchell Daly, who I self-dubbed “the sparkplug” lead off the bottom of the Second Inning for the Bat Cats grounding an 82 mph Changeup to the Second Baseman for the first tally away for the ‘Tide.


Ryan Nicholson, the bluegrass born First baseman followed by digging his toe into the turf on the left side of the dish. He went down swinging on a full count to bring Nolan McCarty up in the seven-slot. McCarthy hit into a 79 mph changeup, faring the same as Daly, grounding out to second. Three up-three down for the ‘Tide.


3rd Inning


Mason Swinney was the seventh hitter of the day for Alabama, the .279 hitter flew out to Center Field on the second pitch of the inning from Niman.


Niman shuffled into the dirt on the hill to greet Will Hodo to the batter’s box. A 92 mph fast ball flung through the beaming sunlight “bit the dust” for Hodo, sending him back to the dugout.


Mac Guscette was up last in the lineup for Alabama. The Florida native flew out for yet another….three up-three down inning for the Blue.


Leading off the bottom of the Third for Kentucky was James McCoy, the Right Fielder.  Batting from the Right side of the dish, he showed a whole “lotta” fight, loading up the count on Farone before walking the line to first on a pitch outside of the strike zone.


Grant Smith rounded out the lineup card for the Cats, the .288 avg batter went down swinging on a 91 mph fastball.


Ryan Waldschmidt, the lone-scorer thus far for Kentucky, was up for his second turn of the day. His bat remained hot as he sent the pearl soaring into the sun coming to rest in the Alabama bullpen to “drop the bomb” on Alabama yet again.


351 feet worth of carry


3-0 Good guys.



Pitre was next up and slid into Second Base on a hard hit ball to Centerfield to become a scoring threat for Kentucky.


Burkes was tasked to advance Pitre into scoring position, but Pitre took off for Third base getting beat by the cannon of the Alabama catcher Mac Guscette.


The next pitch dealt, he swung at an 80 mph offspeed hurl from Farone to ground out to Second Base.


4th Inning


Petrutz was able single through the right side to bring Evan Sleight up to the dish for the Wildcats. He fouled off a shot into Left that looked like it was going to exit into the stands but was grabbed just in the nick of time by Kentucky’s Waldschmidt.


Three up-three down again. That has to make Coach Mingione happy.


Nick Lopez and his glorious mustache grounded out to open up the Bottom of the Fourth Inning for the Cats.


Mitchell Daly looked to provide an offensive spark for Kentucky, squatting into his batting stance and raising the aluminum over his right shoulder. He enthusiastically drew a fastball outside of the plate on ball three to move to first base, free-of-charge.


Nicholson, from Louisville by way a transfer from the University of Cincinnati was waiting in the on-deck circle. He went down looking on a tough called strike to put two away for the ‘Tide.


Nolan McCarthy looked to advance Daly into scoring postion. Daly, leading off of the bag quite substantially, received two pick off throws by way of Farone before sliding into second for a stolen base. He loaded up the count on a 91 mph fastball ball inside of the zone to walk on a virtually identical pitch following from Farone.


James McCoy filled the eight-hole for Kentucky was next up.


He would have to wait on an Alabama mound visit from the entire infield (and pitching coach). A right hander was in the bullpen loosening up to come in for relief, one could infer that was to buy a little more time to get him ready.


McCarthy lined a hard hit ball off of Farone’s ankle in which he was able to shake off and throw over to First base to end the inning.


5th Inning


Lebron was first up for the Crimson, but he grounded out on the first pitch down the Third Base line.


Kade Snell went down swinging on three pitches from Niman who has been efficient thus far through 48 pitches thrown.


Mason Swinney would swing at an 87 mph launched his way by Niman and sneak one past Pitre rolling into Right Field for a Single.


He would be stranded as Will Hodo went down on strikes, punched out by an 84 mph slider from Niman.


Score stood still, 3-0 Bat Cats.


Grant Smith, last in the lineup but first up this side, he loaded up the count and got to take first on a 91 mph fastball missing the zone high and outside.


Ryan Waldschmidt, who was the difference maker up to this point was back up to the plate for his third at-bat of the afternoon. Clouds briefly blocked the sun as Waldschmidt loaded up the count on an exhausted Farone arm. He went down looking on an attempted Smith steal that he was gunned out by a mile on. Two quick outs for the boys from “Title Town” in Tuscaloosa.


Émilien Pitre was third in the side for the Bat Cats and showed great plate discipline, conclusively drawing a walk and prompting another mound visit from the Crimson Tide coaching staff.


The right hander remained up in the bullpen but would not be called upon quite yet.


“The Big Blue Backstop” would seek to make that a decision the Tide would regret, a .247 hitter in his on right, he added the third tally to the out column by catching air on a 90 mph high fastball to help Farone escape the inning with no more damage.


6th Inning


Guscette was ready, or at least he better be, as he would be leading off things for Alabama. He hit a sky-high towering pop up into shallow right that was grabbed by James McCoy to put one out for the boys wearing blue.


Gage Miller would follow with another high pop-up, almost finding its way into the sun drenched terrace down the Right Field line that Ryan Nicholson cautiously fielded next to the netting. TJ McCants would follow and ground out to first for…you guessed it, another three up-three down inning for Kentucky.


Alabama brought in Pierce George, a right hander with a 4.35 ERA in relief. He had been up the previous two innings tossing in the bullpen.


The ‘stache welcomed him to Lexington, Nick Lopez (0-for-2 today heading into the at-bat), he would draw a walk on a 99 mph fast ball that missed high on the outside.


Mitchell Daly would be next to face George, he got plunked on an off speed pitch, clapping with joy-providing the spark if you will-towards the Kentucky dugout. Runners were now on First and Second with zero away for Alabama.


That would end the day for George, a short outing to say the least-Alabama would bring Aidan Moza in relief. In 19.1 innings of work this seasons he has struggled to a 9.31 ERA on a record of 2-1.


Nicholson dug in for Kentucky hoping to add to that number, he wouldn’t add but he did sacrifice himself with a fly out to left field to advance Lopez to Third.


Nolan McCarthy, 0-1 at the plate up to this point, was up with one out away. A bunt or a deep fly ball would’ve scored Lopez, but he singled through the first and second base gap to score Lopez and add a Single to his own stat line. Daly however, would be caught in a pickle after rounding Second Base with too much veracity and would be out.


McCoy hit a deep drive down the Left Base Line that fell fair by about a foot fair, striking Ian Petrutz in the arm on an attempted sliding catch to score Nicholson.


Grant Smith was up next and sent a shot sailing over the right field wall for a two-run homer that landed at 367’.


Ryan Waldschmidt sought to continue his successes of the afternoon as he was due back up in the lead-off spot for the Cats. He would ground out to let Alabama out of the inning, two runs of damage on no errors.


7-0 Kentucky.


7th Inning


Ian Petrutz led things off for Alabama with a deep line drive that sailed over the head of Kentucky Center Fielder McCarthy to go into Second standing.


Sleight was next up and would fly out on a foul ball behind the plate to put the first out on the board for the Cats. Lebron would follow with a weakly hit ball straight into the awaiting Pitre leather. Two away. A very hard hit fly ball from Kade Snell was fielded with fundemental ease by McCarthy in Center to leave one stranded for the Tide.


Time to get flexible.


Leading off in the bottom of the Seventh of Kentucky would be the Second Baseman, Émilien Pitre.


Pitre would hit a line drive to the shortstop for a routine throw over to First Base to earn the first out of the inning for Alabama.


That brought the Catcher up to the plate, Devin Burkes, who sacrificed in a run earlier today. He went down on a checked swing that he didn’t contest and promptly returned to the dugout to bring up the ‘stache.


Nick Lopez leaned into the plate with two away for Alabama, connecting at the second pitch dealt and flying out on a curving ball to middle Right Field.


Three up-three down for ‘Bama.


8th Inning


Mason Swinney, 1-for-2 on the day, would lead off for Alabama. Niman was holding steady on the mound for Kentucky, punching him out looking on an 80 mph change up by way of his 74th pitch of the day.


“It was feeling good, I don’t know what my pitch count was but I feel like it was low”, Niman told me when I asked how his arm felt during the game in the Post game media scrum.


Hodo was next up for the Crimson Tide, he flew out to Left Field from the left side of the batter’s box for out number two of the side for the Bat Cats.


Mac Guscette rounded out another rotation of the Crimson Tide lineup, he fell behind 0-2 in the count before swinging at a pitch well above the strike zone to prompt a small giggle from Niman as he strutted back to the dugout as he knew he got away with one there.


Leading off for Kentucky in the bottom of the Eighth Inning was Mitchell Daly, he was ahead 3-1 in the count before drawing steps on an 87 mph high outside of the strike zone bringing up Ryan Nicholson. Nicholson would uneventfully fly out to Left Field to earn the Tide their first out of the inning.


Nolan McCarthy, 1-for-2 of the day, had next.


McCarthy, hit a 74 mph pitch to the warning track of Center Field but it was just a really long out to put two away for the Tide.


James McCoy stood in for Kentucky, going down without much of a chance to produce as Daly was gunned out by that Bama Backstop Guscette to end the Inning.


9th Inning


The last complete game shutout against an SEC team came from Logan Thompson in 2019 against the Georgia Bulldogs. That would be what Niman would be trying to accomplish as he returned to the hill in the top of the Ninth for the Cats.


He would sucker Snell into a pop fly for his first out of the inning.


He made McCants strike out for out two.


He played Petrutz into a pop up for three, completing the full game shutout.


VICTORY KENTUCKY!


With this victory, the Wildcats have won their seventh game in a row and will look to earn their second Southeastern Conference sweep in a row at noon tomorrow from Kentucky Proud Park.


In post game comments, Niman mentioned that he has thrown a full game before but never a complete shutout. “That was cool”, he followed.


Mingione thought so as well as his words were nothing but kind for the totality of the day. “They’re just amazing people”, he gazed over and told the media as he watch his squad sign autographs. “(These) are a bunch of dudes that are selfless and just want to do whatever they can for Kentucky,” he would go on to say.


Something special is brewing over at Kentucky Proud, I highly encourage you to go catch a game if you’re in the Lexington area.



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