Facing its biggest week of the season so far, the No. 10 Kentucky baseball team appeared more than up to the challenge on Tuesday night.
The Cats’ offense erupted and the defense treated fans to a rare sight as UK knocked off No. 2 Louisville 11-7 at Cliff Hagan Stadium in front of a record crowd of 4,018, ending the Cards’ six-game win streak in the series and avenging a 5-3 loss at Louisville on April 4.
“We talked to our team about a rematch,” said UK Coach Nick Mingione. “You don’t get that all the time in sports and I just loved the way we came out today.”
That was a first for me, and it came at the perfect time because who knows what could have happened that inning. When it happened I think I blacked out for a second because I screamed so loud. The adrenaline rush was just unbelievable, we were going nuts in the dugout.
Tyler Marshall, on UK’s triple play in the second inning
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After Kentucky starter Zack Thompson retired the Cards in order in the first, UK’s offense pounced, scoring five runs on five hits as every starter batted in the opening inning. Tristan Pompey led off with a double off the left-field wall, then Evan White walked and Zach Reks moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt. UK followed with four straight hits, punctuated by Tyler Marshall’s RBI single to right field for a 5-0 lead. Louisville starter Shane Hummel, who entered the game with a 2.02 ERA, recorded just one out before being pulled.
The Cardinals were on the verge of eating into the UK lead in the second inning after Brendan McKay walked and Drew Ellis doubled. But with runners on second and third, Colin Lyman drove a ball to center field, triggering some defensive wizardry by the Cats.
Marcus Carson caught the fly ball and fired a rocket to the plate, gunning down McKay after he tagged up. Catcher Troy Squires threw out Ellis as he tried to take third, completing the 7-2-6 triple play and sending the home fans into a frenzy. It was the Cats’ first recorded triple play since at least 2003, when UK began tracking baseball stats digitally.
“That was a first for me, and it came at the perfect time because who knows what could have happened that inning,” said Marshall of the rare defensive feat. “When it happened I think I blacked out for a second because I screamed so loud. The adrenaline rush was just unbelievable, we were going nuts in the dugout.”
UK added four more runs in the third. A pair of Louisville throwing errors on one play allowed two Cats to score before Connor Heady blasted a two-run homer to left field. In the fourth, Marshall singled home Luke Becker and Squires scored on a wild pitch for an 11-0 UK lead.
The Cardinals showed why they’re among the favorites to reach Omaha in June, refusing to fold after digging a deep hole. Logan Taylor got Louisville on the board with a two-run double in the fifth. Then Ellis tagged a three-run homer off UK reliever Colton Cleary that was part of a five-run sixth which cut the lead to 11-7.
But relievers Chris Machamer, Zach Pop and Logan Salow combined to retire 12 of the final 13 Louisville batters and secure the win.
Kentucky belted out 14 hits, with Marshall going 3-for-4. The bottom four batters in UK’s lineup combined to go 6-for-15 and drive in six runs.
No wonder they’ve given themselves an intimidating nickname.
“We have a little running joke, we call it ‘Murderer’s Row’ down there,” said Squires, who batted sixth and went 2-for-4 with an RBI. “We have a grind-it-out mentality, we try to grind out a quality at-bat to get on base and produce something for the top of the lineup.”
The Cats improved to 26-12 on the year and will look to carry their momentum into this weekend’s three-game series with No. 8 LSU, which begins at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Kentucky remains atop the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division with a 10-5 league record and will seek its fifth SEC series-win of the year this weekend.
LSU at Kentucky
6:30 p.m. Friday
Duke at Louisville
6 p.m. Friday