It was a tough night at Jim Patterson Stadium for the Kentucky baseball team on Tuesday.
The Louisville Cardinals lived up to their No. 10 ranking, and mistakes from the Wildcats’ defense also contributed to a lopsided 8-3 victory for the in-state rivals.
Kentucky (16-13) took a 2-0 lead in the third, but Louisville had an immediate answer in the bottom of the inning to the tie the game, then took command with four more runs in the fourth.
Six of the eight runs for the Cardinals were unearned, as errors in the third, fourth and sixth from the Kentucky defense set up scores for Louisville. Kentucky finished the game with three errors.
“I have no excuse for the routine plays,” Kentucky head coach Nick Mingione said after the loss. “And when you don’t make routine plays in college baseball it’s going to be tough to stop your opponents. And then when you mix in the amount of walks that we had on the pitching side, just a bad recipe.”
Kentucky sent seven pitchers to the mound for Tuesday night’s non-conference game. They combined to allow seven hits, five walks, two wild pitches and a hit batsman.
Kentucky took the lead in the third thanks to a two-out, two-run single from T.J. Collett. A leadoff double from Coltyn Kessler gave the Wildcats the first bit of momentum from either side. A walk and hit batsman then loaded the bases for Collett to put his team in front.
Louisville (23-6) responded quickly in its half of the third with two runs to tie it. The Cardinals made Kentucky pay for an error early in the inning. Louisville center fielder Drew Campbell reached first on an error by Kessler. Then, Ethan Stringer’s double brought in Campbell. Later, Jake Snider’s triple off the right-field wall tied it at 2.
Louisville pulled away in the fourth. Despite two pitching changes during the inning, Kentucky had trouble escaping and Louisville racked up four runs to take a 6-2 lead. After replacing Mason Hazelwood (1-2) on the mound, freshman Cole Ayers gave up a run-scoring single to left field to Louisville catcher Zeke Pinkham.
Ayers was then replaced by Cole Daniels. With the bases loaded, Stringer was hit by a pitch to bring in Alex Binelas. Then, a single to right field from Snider brought in two more runs to give Louisville its 6-2 edge.
It looked like a Kentucky rally might be in the works in the eighth. Collett singled to drive in a run and trim the deficit to 8-3. Later, the Wildcats were threatening with the bases loaded and only one out, but Louisville pitcher Michael Kirian got the Cardinals out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts.
“I loved how our team got it to the eighth inning, where we were one swing away from making it a game,” Mingione said. “We didn’t stop competing. We put ourselves in a position, but we didn’t get it done.”
Tuesday night was the start of an eight-game road trip for the Wildcats in the coming weeks. Two Southeastern Conference weekend series at unranked Missouri (19-10-1) and No. 18 Ole Miss (20-10) will give Kentucky a chance to improve on its 1-8 conference record.
The Cats return to Lexington on April 16 to complete their home-and-home series against Louisville.
“The road can be a good thing,” Mingione said. “You can go on the road and become road warriors. Had a long home stand, but that’s over. Just an opportunity to continue to get better and we’ve got a lot to work on, no question.”
Kentucky at Missouri
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Live video broadcast: SEC Network Plus (online only)
Radio: WLAP-AM 630