Today was a weird day for the BatCats. The offense looked dead for the first eight innings of a 5-2 loss and they killed most of their rallies with uncharacteristic mistakes. It was a frustrating afternoon at Jim Patterson Stadium, but the season is not over yet. Tomorrow will be UK’s fourth elimination game in the last week, so they are well versed in how important every pitch can be.
Takeaways from today’s press conference
Tomorrow’s matchup should be fun- The Cats will face up against Brendan McKay at the plate and on the mound. McKay will face up against Sean Hjelle on the mound. Coach Mingione said “it’s going to be a very special game” with those two guys going against each other.
The dust-up in the fifth inning- After Drew Ellis pimped a three-run home run the teams had an exchange of words along the first base line. Kole Cottam and Zach Logue both got fired up and had to be pulled back by the home plate umpire. Before anyone could stop him, Riley Mahan was screaming at the Louisville players walking back to the dugout. “Just a bunch of guys competing in the heat of the moment,” Cottam said afterward.
The Cats aren’t scared of an elimination game- The Cats played in three win-or-go-home games in the Regional, and they are in the same spot once again. “We’re trusting each other and the same thing we’ve done all year,” Cottam said. “Just believe in each other and trust the process.” The three elimination games will play a huge role in how the players look at tomorrow’s game. “One of the biggest things is we have done it before,” Cottam said. “That’s going to help us, motivate us, we know what we have to do. We have to play one inning at a time and one pitch at a time.”
Another great story?- Coach Mingione has said all season that he came to UK to do things that had never been done before. He believes that the next thing to do is to win the next two games and get to Omaha. Coach Mingione said that “we’re going to have to try and do something that’s never been done before tomorrow”. The Cats will be looking to win their first Super Regional game in school history against Louisville.
My takeaways from today
Today was one of the more frustrating and obscure losses in my time covering this team. UK looked dead when they needed big time hits. They made mistakes in the biggest situations and it came back to bite them. By ruining the huge opportunity in the top of the fifth, UK gave Louisville all the momentum in the bottom half. After the bad bunt and caught stealing, UK’s offense did not get anything going until the ninth. The final inning does give fans hope that the team can wake up. Evan White hit a solo home run and Tyler Marshall singled home a run in the waning moments. UK was taking more pitches and creating run scoring opportunities. If the BatCats play tomorrow like they did in the ninth inning, they will be able to score early on McKay and give their pitching staff some room to breathe.
The season once again rides on a single game. Hjelle will get the ball for the BatCats as they take on Player of the Year Brendan McKay. Baseball America named McKay the best player in college baseball after he went 9-3 with a 2.31 ERA in 15 starts. He struck out 131 batters in 97.1 innings this season. All of this is in addition to McKay hitting .351 with 17 home runs as the team’s DH. The whole game tomorrow will circle around McKay vs. Hjelle.
How can Kentucky make another comeback?
I wrote a story a week ago about how UK could win three games in two days. The BatCats pulled it off and they can win two games against Louisville. The gameplan should be fairly simple for how UK can win the series. Sean Hjelle will need to dominate tomorrow. Yes, it is easier said than done. But Hjelle will need to attack the top of the order and not put anyone on in front of Drew Ellis and McKay. Louisville won today because of Ellis’ big swing. Hjelle will need to keep the ball in the ballpark if UK wants to win tomorrow.
On the other side of the ball, UK needs to get better at-bats than they did today. Mingione said the team swung at 12 pitches outside of the strike zone in game one. UK’s approach at the plate tightened up in the ninth, so that will need to continue into tomorrow. If the team can make it to Sunday, I would feel good about their circumstances. Justin Lewis and his nasty changeup would be on the mound for UK. Lewis is a competitor that has been lights out in a good portion of his starts this season. He could be the guy that pitches UK into Omaha if they reach that point.