After trailing Western Kentucky for the majority of Tuesday’s game, Kentucky’s offense woke up with their backs against the wall. UK rallied to tie the game at three in the bottom of the ninth before Cam Hill came home on a passed ball to give the Cats a 4-3 walk-off win over the Toppers.
“I told Coach Guill in the seventh ‘I want a walk-off for these guys so bad’,” Mingione said. “You know what? You have to be able to experience it. We’re going to be in that situation again, we’re going to be down going into the ninth and we’re going to have to do something to get us a win and the fact that we’ve been there and we’ve done it is good.”
— KYwildcatsTV (@KYwildcatsTV) February 28, 2018
WKU led 3-0 after Ray Zuberer’s two-run bomb off Daniel Harper in the fifth inning. The Toppers were capitalizing in big situations while UK had stranded five runners in the first five innings. UK’s bats could not solve WKU starting pitcher Evan Acosta. The junior went six scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out three.
The UK bullpen bridged the gap between the sixth and ninth innings with four scoreless innings. After junior Zach Haake made his collegiate debut in the top of the ninth, UK’s offense needed three runs to tie the game against WKU closer Ben Morrison.
Morrison struck out Kole Cottam and got Ryan Johnson down 1-2 when Johnson delivered a line drive home run over the right-field wall. The solo home run woke up the dugout and the crowd at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Luke Heyer followed with an infield single to send a buzz throughout the park. After Ryan Shinn flew out, Trey Dawson ripped a double to left-center that gave UK runners at second and third for Troy Squires.
Squires shot an 0-2 pitch from Morrison back up the middle to score a pair of runs and tie the game at three. “We have a saying ‘hit it to the pitcher’s knees with two outs so that’s all I was trying to do,” Squires said.
WKU could never regain the momentum that carried them for eight innings. Ben Aklinski reached on a fielding error and both runners moved up on a wild pitch by Ryan Thurston. On the next pitch, Thurston threw a low breaking ball that catcher Colin Butkiewicz could not handle as it rolled to the backstop. Pinch runner Cam Hill read the ball well from third base and dashed home to score the clinching run in a 4-3 win for UK.
— Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) February 28, 2018
“We’re going to finish every play, we’re going to finish every pitch, we’re going to finish every game,” Mingione said. The Cats were able to finish the first walk-off under Mingione with tonight’s 4-3 win over WKU.
Kentucky travels to Houston this weekend for the Shriners Classic at Minute Maid Park. All games will be available on Astros.com.