A lot of things have broken Kentucky’s way this season during a hot start to the year. That all changed this past week.
After a very close win over Bellarmine, the Wildcats were swept by a reeling Mississippi State squad on the road with the last two losses each occurring by just one run. However, the biggest loss of the week didn’t occur on the diamond out at Dudy Noble Field.
The Bat ‘Cats now sit at 18-7 with a 5-4 mark in SEC play with four huge games arriving this week. A tough weekend is in the past, but there is plenty of time for Nick Mingione and his ballclub to get the ship righted.
Weekend Starter Lost
Mason Hazelwood was emerging as a solid weekend starter for the Wildcats during his senior campaign. The Harrodsburg (Ky.) Mercer County prospect posted a 2.13 ERA in six appearances solidifying the rotation.
Then the injury bug hit.
In the Saturday start down at Auburn, Hazelwood exited the game early after three completed innings with some stiffness in his left elbow. The Cats Pause’s Derek Terry confirmed earlier this week that the 6-foot-5 senior will miss the rest of the season with a UCL injury. This immediately impacts the rotation.
Hazelwood was a proven commodity for a young team and the veteran provided a much-needed left arm in the rotation. The Wildcats will be scrambling without the lefty throwing on the weekends. This is a tough loss for both the player and the team.
No matter the sport, close game results are always going to play a big part in whether a season is considered a success or a failure. Clutch offense, defense, and a little bit of luck are required for the bounces to go your way.
With Kentucky in 2021, we’ve seen both good and bad but the team is consistently finding themselves in close games. This past week, the Wildcats went 1-2 in one-run games. For the season, the ‘Cats sit at 5-4 in these games, and only two losses all season have been by more than two runs.
Kentucky is consistently finding itself in close games and if that continues the Wildcats will have a chance at a very successful season if they can continue to win more than they lose.
Cold Bats Were Expected
Mississippi State ranks in the top-10 nationally when it comes to ERA, strikeout-to-walk ratio, and leads the country in strikeout rate. Kentucky was facing a major uphill challenge at Dudy Noble Field.
That played out in the 27 innings over the weekend.
Kentucky scored just six runs and had some major issues getting things going on offense. The Wildcats were punched out for 39 strikeouts at the dish and had just a handful of extra-base hits.
The ballclub will need more from their offense, but a weekend of struggles was expected going against a stacked Mississippi State rotation playing with their backs against the wall after being swept by Arkansas.
The bats will need to wake up this week.
This Week in Kentucky Baseball
There’s no hiding how significant this week is for the baseball squad. If this team is going to make a run and secure an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament, the next four games could have a lot to say about it.
Kentucky makes the trip down I-64 to take on in-state rival Louisville who sit at 18-8 with non-conference losses to Cincinnati, Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State, and Western Illinois on their resume. This isn’t your prototypical Dan McDonnell squad despite a lofty national ranking. This weekend, LSU will roll into Kentucky Proud Park with a 17-11 overall mark and a 1-8 record in the SEC play. The Tigers were swept by both Tennesee and Vanderbilt while needing a Sunday win to avoid the same result versus Mississippi State.
The Wildcats can get right back on track this week and a solid performance could give them some positive momentum heading into contests against Georgia and Alabama over the next two weekends. Both are outside the top 25 and have losing records in conference play.
The schedule is starting to open up and Kentucky needs to take advantage.