Head coach Nick Mingione has maintained that Kentucky has to come up with new ways to win. The Cats did so today to clinch the series win against Missouri.
After getting drilled in the head by a pitch, Cam Hill stole two bases, then came across on a passed ball to secure the 5-4 walk-off victory
“I’ll do anything for this team,” A jubilant Hill said postgame “I saw it come out of his hands and said, ‘I’m not moving, I’m taking this one.’ It was good.”
Contrary to what we’ve seen so far from a usually front-loaded Cat’s offense, Kentucky fell behind initially to the Tigers, giving up three in the second inning to create a sizable deficit.
After allowing two baserunners when an arguably catchable pop fly ended up falling in the outfield, Mason Hazelwood surrendered an RBI triple to the deepest part of the park to CJ Cepicky. He was eventually brought in by a sac fly that made it 3-0 at the time.
It took time for the Cats to adjust their plate approaches for the day because of who they were lined up against. Missouri sent Seth Halvorsen, who had given up 11 walks and 12 runs in less than 16 innings of work on the year, out to the mound to start Saturday. Once the typically aggressive Kentucky lineup began working the count, it saw dividends.
The patience paid off for the Cats in the bottom of the third. Two walks from the back end of the Kentucky lineup and a single from Austin Schultz loaded the bases up with no outs. A mixture of ground outs and singles followed, allowing Kentucky to tie the game.
Despite the adversity early into his start, Hazelwood bounced back strongly and finished out a pretty solid outing. The senior from Salvisa, Ky. put up a pretty underwhelming stat line, but it doesn’t take into account some of the situations he worked out of to keep the Cats in this game. In all, he went through five innings giving up those three runs. His ERA jumped from 0.96 to 2.01, but his coach was proud of his effort.
“I thought Mason competed really hard,” Mingione said. “He put up three straight innings worth of zeroes, and that was good to see.”
Kentucky really struggled to make contact when absolutely necessary despite numerous chances. The Cats were 3-15 runners in scoring position today, leaving nine on base. One of the better chances coming when Austin Schultz lined a leadoff triple in the 7th, only to watch the absolute core of the lineup strikeout in three consecutive at-bats.
“I just like scoring runs,” Mingione said. “We had bases loaded no outs three times and scored on two of them.”
The Cats will come out tomorrow looking to complete the sweep and set a tone within the SEC. First pitch is set for 12:00 p.m. E.T. with an SEC Network broadcast.