Coach Keith Madison says there is nothing scarier than playing a team with their backs against the wall. Why? Because that team has two choices; go down fighting or die. Kentucky will need to fight harder than ever to get out of their own regional. The BatCats will need to beat Indiana once and NC State twice in order to advance to the Super Regionals next week. It is extremely difficult, but there are several ways UK could advance if they play their cards right.
UK needs to play like the 2007 Red Sox. That team worked to win every inning rather than the game as a whole. If you look at the total picture, it is a bit intimidating. But UK needs to win a battle at a time rather than the war as a whole. The first battle is tomorrow at 1 ET. The biggest issue for UK will be the lack of pitching depth moving forward. UK is going with Zack Thompson on the mound in game one and will need several big performances from their bullpen in order to win three games in two days.
– KYwildcatsTV (@KYwildcatsTV) May 10, 2017
Thompson was terrific against Indiana last month (see above video), and he will need to step up once again today. With UK using Sean Hjelle yesterday and Justin Lewis and Zach Logue last night, Thompson is the last true starter for the Cats. Thompson will have to go five or six innings and shut down the Hoosiers. After Thompson, UK will need big performances from the likes of Logan Salow and Chris Machamer out of the bullpen. Those three pitchers will most likely make up tomorrow’s staff.
UK’s offense looked tired and unproductive over the last two weeks. If the bats come alive tomorrow, look out for the remainder of this tournament. Kentucky may not have a deep staff, but the offense can carry them if they wake up.
Pompey “There’s no pressure for us. We’re going to go full tilt like we always do”
– Trey Huntsman (@TreyHuntsmanKSR) June 4, 2017
UK will face the steep test of beating NC State twice if they can get past Indiana. Brad Schaenzer and Logue will need to carry the weight if the BatCats can get to Sunday night. Once again, UK will go as far as their offense can take them. Troy Squires, Connor Heady, and Marcus Carson will have to find some production in the bottom half of the lineup so Tristan Pompey and Evan White will have someone to drive in at the top.
“Nothing in life, in this postseason is going to come easy. When we get this done, it’s going to be that much sweeter.” -Nick Mingione
As for NC State, they can definitely be touched. The bullpen for NCST has been used for all but two outs in 21 innings played in the regional. After using seven pitchers in a 12-inning win on Friday, the Pack used Sean Adler 7.2 frames on Saturday. If UK were to make it to Sunday night, then it would be a battle of the bullpens. I have seen my share of regionals, and anything can happen at that point. NC State will definitely have the advantage, but it is not completely out of the realm of possibility that UK could make this happen. If UK’s offense can chance the Pack’s starter early, then it will be interesting to see who they go to for the remainder of the game.
The Lexington Regional bracket after the first two days of play. Two games tomorrow: UK/IU at 1 pm; Winner of that one vs. NC State at 7. pic.twitter.com/TkCaNolyhu
– Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) June 4, 2017
If the Cats can pull off two wins today, it will all come down to tomorrow night against NC State. Neither team will have any fresh arms at that point. UK could start Logue for three innings, then go to Machamer, Colton Cleary, and Salow to finish it out. The Cats will have arms such as Alec Maley and Austin Keen available if they are needed.
As for Kentucky’s offense, they just need to capitalize. The BatCats have left 24 men on base in this regional. That stat is unacceptable if they want to advance any further. Mingione hinted at the fact that they got under too many balls on Saturday night and he couldn’t be more correct. UK was giving NC State routine flyouts from start to finish. As for their approach and vision at the plate, they are fine. The BatCats have walked 14 times in two games in the postseason. It will be about capitalizing and getting extra base hits.
Are their backs against the wall? Yes. But the BatCats still have a great opportunity to win this regional. UK proved they can beat Indiana with Thompson and NC State can be touched. The BBN needs to come out and support this team just like they have the last two day.