Sidelines with John Clay

Three takeaways from Kentucky baseball’s win over Louisville

Photo slideshow: Battle of the Bluegrass goes to the Cats

Kentucky's baseball team defeated Louisville 8-5 in front of a regular-season record crowd of 4,798 at Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington.
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Kentucky's baseball team defeated Louisville 8-5 in front of a regular-season record crowd of 4,798 at Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington.

Three takeaways from Kentucky baseball’s 8-5 win over Louisville at Cliff Hagan Stadium:

1. Yes, Big Blue Nation is still into the Kentucky-Louisville baseball rivalry.

Never mind the scheduled starting time for the first pitch was moved up two-and-a-half hours to 4 p.m. Never mind the 45-mile-per hour winds. Never mind the threat of rain. Never mind that UK baseball was coming off a disappointing series at Alabama.

Louisville was in town Tuesday. And if you didn’t think this UK-U of L baseball rivalry was officially “a thing” with staying power, then the record-regular season crowd of 4,798 was all the proof you needed.

“First,” proclaimed UK Coach Nick Mingione afterward, “I want to thank Big Blue Nation.”

The overflow crowd snapped the previous regular-season record of 4,118 set at UK’s home opener. Since then, however, the Cats have experienced some ups and downs, including a particularly tough go in the SEC where Kentucky is currently stuck in the East Division cellar at 3-6.

Didn’t matter. In this final year of Cliff Hagan Stadium, before UK’s new baseball stadium opens up next year, the baseball Cats are developing a loyal following that Tuesday braved the elements and weather uncertainties to see another round of Cats vs. Cards.

After Kentucky baseball’s 8-5 win over Louisville on Tuesday at Cliff Hagan Stadium, UK Coach Nick Mingione gave a shout-out to Big Blue Nation.

2. Kentucky’s bullpen saved the windy day.

The record crowd did not see the cleanest baseball game ever played. There were a grand total of eight errors committed, including five by the winning team. There were 13 walks and six hit batsmen. Five different Cats were plunked by Louisville pitchers. That’s the third game this season UK has reached base five times through hit-by-pitch.

It was a seesaw start. Louisville scored a run in the top of the first. A Luke Heyer double put Kentucky up 2-1 after one. Louisville recaptured the lead 3-2 in the top oft he second. Kentucky scored three runs in the bottom of the second, two coming on a Tristan Pompey bases-loaded single.

Louisville cut the lead to 5-4. Kentucky extended it to 6-4. Then the Cats bullpen took over. “That was the story of the game,” Mingione said.

UK starter Daniel Harper allowed four runs in 3.1 innings. Then redshirt freshman Carson Coleman recorded his first career win by pitching 1.2 innings of one-hit baseball. Reliever Jimmy Ramsey allowed an unearned run. Then, to the surprise of most observers, Mingione called on closer Chris Machamer — with two out and bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh. That’s right, the seventh.

“Chris told me he could go five innings,” said Mingione. “I said, ‘Chris, you’re not going five innings.’”

Machamer went 2.1 innings, his longest outing of the year. The sophomore walked one, striking out three and not allowing a run. Upon arrival, he coaxed Louisville’s Tyler Fitzgerald into fouling out to first base to end the threat.

Kentucky relief pitchers Chris Machamer, who got the save, and Carson Coleman, who got the win, talk about the Cats' 8-5 win over Louisville.

3. Now it’s back to the difficult business of the SEC.

As has been well-established, Louisville is one of the nation’s best college baseball programs. Dan McDonnell has taken the Cardinals to the College World Series four times (2007, 2013, 2014 and 2017), including last year when U of L swept Kentucky in the Super Regional in Louisville.

The Cards are a bit down this year. They’re now 19-9 on the year, including 5-7 in the ACC. Still, any win over Louisville is a meaningful win. The two teams play again April 17 in Louisville.

Kentucky’s main focus, however, is the SEC. As previously mentioned, the Cats are three games under .500 in the conference after losing two out of three at Alabama last weekend. To show you how difficult life is in the SEC, Kentucky has struggled and is still ranked No. 9 by Division I baseball.

When USA Today Baseball Coaches Poll came out Monday, there were 10 SEC teams in the top 25, the most ranked teams from any one conference in the history of the poll.

Florida is ranked No. 1, followed by No. 3 Ole Miss, No. 8 Arkansas, No. 10 Kentucky, No. 15 Auburn, No. 16 Vanderbilt, No. 17 Georgia, No. 19 Texas A&M, No. 20 LSU and No. 22 Missouri.

Though unranked, South Carolina is coming off a three-game sweep of Tennessee when the Gamecocks handled the Vols 6-1, 6-2 and 6-3.

First game Friday at Cliff Hagan Stadium is slated to start at 6:30 p.m. Saturday’s game will start at 6 p.m. Sunday’s game, which will be televised by ESPNU, is scheduled to start at 2 p.m.

With the final season at Cliff Hagan Stadium upon the Kentucky baseball team, legendary coach Keith Madison shares two of his favorite memories of the ball field.

Nick Mingione, Keith Madison, Bill Cowgill and Sean Hjelle talk about what Cliff Hagan Stadium means to Kentucky Wildcats baseball. (Music: www.bensound.com)

Kentucky baseball pitcher Sean Hjelle is known for his involvement outside of the sport and the community. He and head coach Nick Mingione talk about his service and passion outside of baseball.

Kentucky baseball 2018

Date

Opponent

UK

Opp

Dec

W

L

2/16

@Wofford

6

1

W

1

0

2/17

@SC Upstate-1

6

5

W

2

0

2/17

@SC Upstate-2

10

3

W

3

0

2/18

vsEvansville

8

4

W

4

0

2/21

Xavier

2

3

L

4

1

2/23

Oakland

10

1

W

5

1

2/24

Oakland

17

6

W

6

1

2/25

Oakland

15

6

W

7

1

2/27

Western Kentucky

4

3

W

8

1

3/2

vsHouston

14

2

W

9

1

3/3

vsSam Houston

7

2

W

10

1

3/4

vsLa-Lafayette

10

4

W

11

1

3/6

Eastern Kentucky

16

5

W

12

1

3/7

Northern Kentucky

6

8

L

12

2

3/9

Texas Tech

10

7

W

13

2

3/10

Texas Tech

11

6

W

14

2

3/11

Texas Tech

3

5

L

14

3

3/16

@Arkansas

4

9

L

14

4

3/17

@Arkansas

2

14

L

14

5

3/18

@Arkansas

9

16

L

14

6

3/20

@Xavier

20

4

W

15

6

3/23

Auburn

5

4

W

16

6

3/25

Auburn-1

3

5

L

16

7

3/25

Auburn-2

13

3

W

17

7

3/27

Miami (O)

13

7

W

18

7

3/30

@Alabama

2

4

L

18

8

3/31

@Alabama

2

4

L

18

9

4/1

@Alabama

5

2

W

19

9

4/3

Louisville

8

5

W

20

9

4/6

South Carolina

4/7

South Carolina

4/8

South Carolina

4/11

@Western Carolina

4/13

@Georgia

4/14

@Georgia

4/15

@Georgia

4/17

@Louisville

4/19

Florida

4/20

Florida

4/21

Florida

4/25

Morehead

4/27

Missouri

4/28

Missouri

4/29

Missouri

5/4

@Tennessee

5/5

@Tennessee

5/6

@Tennessee

5/8

@Indiana

5/11

Miss State

5/12

Miss State

5/13

Miss State

5/15

@Murray State

5/17

@Vanderbilt

5/18

@Vanderbilt

5/19

@Vanderbilt

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