(Britney McIntosh/UK Athletics)
Kentucky baseball took the field today on top of their bracket, having yet to lose a game in the SEC tournament. But because of the new format, which allows an additional two teams to play in Hoover (due in part to the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M for next season), the semifinal rounds move to single-elimination, versus double elimination from the previous four days.
Despite Kentucky knocking off Mississippi State on Thursday, this rematch was loser-go-home. And unfortunately, Kentucky is heading home. The Cats lost the pitcher’s duel, 2-1 on the heels of the Bulldogs seventh win in their last eight tries and their fourth win over Kentucky in the last five meetings, all in a little over a week.
Kentucky had a quality start from sophomore Corey Littrell, who tossed six innings, giving up six hits and only two earned runs while striking out six. It was just the kind of outing the Cats needed going forward, if they wanted a shot to win the Championship game tomorrow: saving the bullpen for back-to-back games. But it wasn’t meant to be. Littrell had almost no run support in the contest, with the only run coming from a J.T. Riddle solo-home run in the 2nd inning.
The bats just weren’t connecting at the right time for the Cats. While they collected nine hits on the afternoon, some untimely strikeouts and popups killed rallies and ended potential run-scoring innings. 3-4-5 hitters, Luke Maile, A.J. Reed and Michael Williams combined for seven of the team’s eight strikeouts. Not what you want from the heart of your order.
Mississippi State used plenty of small ball to score their two runs, with leadoff singles, SAC bunts and RBI singles in back-to-back innings in the 2nd and 3rd. Kentucky brought in Taylor Rogers for his second relief appearance in this SEC tournament and shut down the Bulldogs in his three innings of work. It was a beautifully pitched game for the Cats, for the third straight game.
There was just no offensive momentum this time around. Kentucky left eight runners stranded on base, including six in scoring position. The opportunities were there but the Cats, uncharacteristically, could not seize the moment.
The loss means Kentucky will be out of the running for a top-eight national seed, but they will surely secure a Regional site for the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The big question now becomes, will the NCAA drop Louisville in the Lexington regional? There is a high likelihood of that happening, and this time the game will actually mean something. The Cardinals have beaten the Cats handily in the two regular season meetings, but they have yet to see any of Kentucky’s three weekend starters. Time will tell, but smart money is on that happening.
The UK baseball team will head back to Lexington to rest for the NCAA tournament, which begins Friday June 1. Super Regionals begin a week after that, followed by the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska on June 15.
[powered by WordPress.]
Bill Keightley Report : Never to be forgotten.
17 queries. 0.803 seconds