An unusually sloppy Kentucky team suffered only its third loss of the season on Tuesday, dropping a matchup with instate foe Murray State 13-8. A number of atypical slip-ups, including mental errors and brutal showings from lockdown bullpen arms, ended up dooming the Cats.
The signs were clear straight from the jump. Ryan Hagenow, who had been so impressive in his first few collegiate starts, was taken out a bit mysteriously after only giving up one hit in 2.1 innings. Command was clearly off for the freshman, which coach Mingione wanted to take no chances with against a dangerous Racer lineup.
“We’ve just kept him rolling,” Mingione said about previous starts Hagenow has made in his young career so far. “[Murray State] was hot swinging the bat. They’ve done a good job.”
The Racers did just that, forcing an entire bullpen implosion. Kentucky gave up three home runs today, contributing to eight earned runs in the 6.2 innings of relief it tossed. After Cole Daniels loaded up the bases with the bottom of Murray State’s lineup in the sixth inning, Jimmy Ramsey gave up hits to four consecutive batters, concluding with a two-run home run that pushed the game to 11-5. His ERA jumped from a spotless 0.00 to a 9.82 on the year.
Despite the rough day at the office, coach Mingione anticipates a big response from his senior Minnesota native.
“[Ramsey] actually mentioned in media day about how you can’t stay down long,” he said. “Sometimes, if you’re a freshman, you can do that and you can let it bother you… [but] he’ll be able to bounce back. He’s done it before, and I fully expect him to do it again.”
Bad games are bound to happen; you just can’t compound your errors as you continue onward. The hope is that the mental errors and pitching woes from the bullpen are just an outlier to the whole equation, and that the team can respond for conference play in a few days.
“[We’ve] defended the field really good pretty much all year,” Mingione said. “We didn’t make a couple plays and obviously those led to some big runs.”
In a glass half full view, it may be good for the Cats to get a game like this out of the way ahead of more important games. And looking forward, Kentucky has as favorable of a start to SEC play as one could wish for. For the first time in nearly a decade, the Wildcats begin conference season at home. They also are matched up against Missouri, who is currently 7-10 and going through a little bit of a disappointing season thus far, instead of beginning with one of eight Baseball America Top-25 teams in the league.
For Mingione though, the opponent isn’t the most tantalizing thing. That would be just taking the Kentucky Proud Park field for a conference face off.
“I’m excited to play at home,” he said. “A year ago, this time we were getting ready to crank it up and we lose it. I’m just excited to play at home.”
First pitch for Friday’s season opener with the Tigers is set for 6:30 p.m. E.T. on SEC Network Plus.