Kentucky Baseball is the talk of the town after sweeping the Shriners Classic in Houston and going 4-0 this week. The BatCats are riding a seven-game winning streak after beating three teams in the last week that were in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. The four wins this week could push UK into the top five before a series against #3 Texas Tech. But before the new week begins, let’s look back on an impressive four-game stretch for the BatCats.
The first eight innings of this midweek were not kind to UK’s offense. WKU’s Evan Acosta quieted a UK offense that tallied 42 runs in the previous weekend. It wasn’t until the ninth inning that UK began to wake up. Trailing 3-0, Ryan Johnson launched a solo home run to get the Cats on the board. After the Cats put men on second and third, Troy Squires delivered a two-out, two-strike single to tie the game at three. The wheels fell off for the Toppers after Squires’ big hit. An error and a pair of pitches to the backstop allowed UK to walk-off for the first time under Nick Mingione.
— KYwildcatsTV (@KYwildcatsTV) February 28, 2018
Friday was the most impressive offensive performance of the young season for the BatCats. Against 2017 American Pitcher of the Year Trey Cumbie and the Houston Cougars, UK erupted for 14 runs on 12 hits in the first game of the Shriners Classic. The Cats jumped out to a 10-0 lead and run-ruled the #24 Cougars in a 14-2 win. Luke Heyer hit a pair of home runs and Kole Cottam and Ryan Johnson each hit one ball out of Minute Maid Park as UK picked up their first win of the season against a top 25 team.
— KYwildcatsTV (@KYwildcatsTV) March 3, 2018
Kentucky put together a complete game in every aspect on Saturday. The Cats played error-free defense while Zack Thompson threw a gem against SHSU. The sophomore lefty shut out the Bearkats in six innings while allowing a season-low four hits. The bats got behind Thompson as Luke Heyer and T.J Collett both hit home runs in the 7-2 win.
— KYwildcatsTV (@KYwildcatsTV) March 3, 2018
Sunday brought Kentucky’s first deficit over the weekend. ULL led 1-0 before Ryan Shinn tripled in two runs to take the lead after two innings. After a controversial call that put a runner at third for the Cajuns in the fifth, Justin Lewis threw a wild pitch that allowed a run to score and tie the game. The Cajuns would take the lead on an RBI single by Monroe Moll after the debacle in the fifth. But Kentucky’s offense was there to back up Lewis. Led by T.J Collett and Luke Heyer, UK outscored ULL 8-2 over the final four and a half innings to sweep the Shriners Classic.
— KYwildcatsTV (@KYwildcatsTV) March 4, 2018
The Cats Break Through at the Plate
What a weekend it was for the BatCats at the plate. Against three 2017 NCAA Tournament teams, UK scored 31 runs and hit six home runs at the home of the Houston Astros, Minute Maid Park. UK was working quality at-bats and barreling up a lot of balls all weekend. Look at Luke Heyer, for example. The senior third baseman went 8/11 and squared up every ball he put into play. Luke Heyer led the charge for an offense that made very few errors at the plate. As a team, the Cats walked 15 times compared to only striking out 17 times while posting a team OBP of .463 this weekend.
The top of the lineup is doing their job of getting on base before the Big Blue Bash Bros come up and drive them in. With Kole Cottam, Ryan Johnson, T.J Collett, and Luke Heyer in the middle of the lineup, UK has one of the most powerful offenses in the country. The four players combined to hit six home runs all over Minute Maid Park this weekend. This lineup has the chance to score more than last year’s offense that led the SEC in most categories.
Tuesday’s Game Sets The Tone
There was zero production before the ninth inning against WKU. UK scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth after being shut out for the first eight innings. The win appeared to jumpstart the offense. UK rallied off that win and put on an offensive clinic in Houston. Mingione said that his team needed to know that they need to finish games, and that is what they did in all three games this weekend. After coming back against WKU, the Cats played well from the first thru the ninth inning in each game in Houston.
Even though it was in a limited capacity, the Cats’ All-American Outfielder returned after missing four games due to an ankle injury. In pinch-hit situations against Sam Houston State and ULL, Pompey walked and laced a double down the left field line before being lifted for a pinch-runner both times. Pompey was gingerly running on his double, but the ankle did not appear to mess with his swing.
Sunday’s game was halted when junior outfielder Ryan Johnson was hit in the face when he tried to check his swing at a high fastball. Johnson was fortunate that the ball hit his lip rather than a couple inches higher. He was removed from the game and was shown in the dugout walking with a paper towel in his mouth.
The Week Ahead
No week on UK’s schedule will be more testing for the Cats. The Cliff will play host to five games over the next seven days. Eastern Kentucky and Northern Kentucky come to Lexington on Tuesday and Thursday before the big series against #3 Texas Tech this weekend.