LOUISVILLE — The largest regular-season crowd in the history of Louisville's Jim Patterson Stadium sat quietly most of the night. Kentucky pitchers gave up one hit in the first eight innings against the third-ranked Cardinals.
That U of L won 2-1 in 10 innings in front of 5,056 fans said something about the fickle nature of baseball.
"It's a hard game," UK pitcher Dylan Dwyer said afterward.
Dwyer served as Exhibit A of this sport's unpredictability.
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The lefty from Murray did not give up a hit in four innings of relief. Yet he blamed himself for Kentucky's loss.
"You can't walk the leadoff guy in the ninth inning," he said. "That's what I did."
That began a final two innings that saw the strategic wheels spin. In that time, UK Coach Gary Henderson made four pitching changes. U of L Coach Dan McDonnell used two pinch-hitters and a pinch-runner. Pinch-runner Logan Taylor, a freshman from Lexington Catholic, scored the tying run in the bottom of the ninth. Pinch-hitter Blake Tiberi, a freshman from Taylor Mill, singled in the winning run in the 10th.
Just like that, Kentucky saw a lot of good pitching, especially so for a mid-week game, not result in a victory. Another lefty, Logan Salow, gave up only one hit in the first four innings.
"Playing Louisville, it's big," said Salow, a sophomore from Ashland making his second start of the season. "Quite frankly, I don't like these guys (from U of L) too much. Any Kentucky fan would say the same."
If anything, Dwyer was even better.
"For him to go out and go 'four clean' was great," Henderson said of Salow. "And same thing for Dylan. Anytime you go four shutout (innings) against a really good team, that's substantial. And they should feel good about it. . . .
"We had two guys pitch really well. But it's hard to win when you score one (run). When all you need is one more zero, it seems like you ought to be able to get that done. We weren't able to do that."
Louisville, 35-10, had one hit in the first eight innings: a double by Corey Ray that one-hopped off the center field fence.
Then Danny Rosenbaum, pinch-hitting for Tates Creek graduate Devin Hairston, led off the ninth with a walk.
Henderson replaced Dwyer with Zach Strecker, who threw one pitch. Sutton Whiting sacrificed Taylor (running for Rosenbaum) to second.
Henderson replaced Strecker with Spencer Jack, who leads UK with five saves. After Taylor stole third, Nick Solak singled to center to tie the score.
Zack Burdi, whose fastball was timed at 97 mph, retired UK on six pitches in the top of the 10th.
Louisville's offensive signature, team speed, figured in the winning run. Mike White beat out a one-out grounder to shortstop and took second on an errant throw. Tiberi's single scored White with the winning run.
McDonnell saluted Kentucky's pitching.
"I don't think we had a leadoff man on the first eight innings," the U of L coach correctly noted. "That's how you keep the pressure (of the Cardinals' speed) off. . . .
"Their lefties gave us fits all night. I know they have to be feeling good going into the weekend."
Kentucky returns to Southeastern Conference play with a weekend series against visiting Vanderbilt. UK, 25-18, will take a 10-10 SEC record into that series. The Cats have reason to think an NCAA Tournament bid can be had with at least four victories in the final nine league games. No team with at least 14 SEC victories has ever failed to receive a NCAA Tournament bid.