On a day of firsts, Kentucky got their first victory in Kentucky Proud Park, a 7-3 win over EKU in front of a crowd of 4,074, the 10th largest crowd in program history.
Things got going for Kentucky in the 5th inning. Already up 1-0, TJ Collett hit the first home run ever in Kentucky Proud Park with a two-run blast to push the Cats lead to 3-0.
— Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) February 26, 2019
“It feels amazing,” said Collett. “I was messing around with Jaren Shelby, I was actually hoping Shelby would hit the first bomb, but he called me selfish, and I guess I got to go first. It’s an honor and something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
To keep it going in the 5th inning, Jaren Shelby got to have a little fun breaking in the new turf infield when he stole three bases in one inning; yes, you read that right. Shelby took second, third, and, most importantly, home. Shelby would go on to steal second and third in the 6th inning. With Shelby reaching base via a walk and an error, I can’t say I’ve looked at many box scores to see a clean-up hitter go 0-4 with five stolen bases in a game.
Ryann Shinn kept his on-base streak alive this afternoon with a walk and a hit. He’s now reached base in six straight games.
Dalton Reed has proved to be a formidable force in this lineup as well. The JuCo transfer had another double today, Kentucky’s first hit in KPP. He scored the first run in KPP as well, on an error by EKU 2nd baseman Ryland Kerr.
After giving up a grand slam to the first batter he faced in relief this season, Grant Macciocchi had an excellent day on the mound. Macciocchi started his day with a three-pitch inning in the opening frame, then retired the next 11 hitters, facing the minimum through four and two-thirds innings.
Macciocchi finished with six strikeouts, allowing three hits, one walk, and a run through five and two-thirds innings of work.
“I thought Grant Macciocchi was awesome,” said Coach Mingione. “I thought he set the tone. Guys, his first inning was a three-pitch inning. I told our guys, I don’t know the last time I was a part of a three-pitch inning. I don’t know if that could’ve gone any better. Get three pitches, get three outs. Woo!”
A cool moment came when two former Rockcastle County Rockets faced off with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th. Freshman Hunter Rigsby faced off against his teammate in the batter’s box, Brent Lovell with EKU down six in the ninth. Rigsby was the better Rocket in this matchup as he got his old friend to lineout to third keep the lead at six. EKU tried to rally back with two runs late, but it wasn’t enough as Kentucky opened KPP with a 7-3 victory.
After the game Coach Mingione emphasized on just how special this game was.
“It was emotional, there was so many people. When you think about the time, the effort, and the years. This was a long time coming… what a special day; thank you to all the fans.”
He was also feeling a little relieved. “Man, it was so good to get a win,” Mingione laughed. “I’m relieved about that. I wanna win every game, but especially the first one, you gotta win the first one right? I wouldn’t say there was worry, but there’s relief now there’s a win in the ballpark.”
If you missed your chance to make it out to Kentucky Proud Park, you won’t have to wait much longer. The Bat Cats will be back in their new home tomorrow to take on Northern Kentucky at 4:00 pm ET.
If you can’t make it out, you can catch UK on SEC Network Plus or 98.5 FM Lexington on the UK Sports Network.
Kentucky improves to 4-3 on the year. Go Cats.