NCAA Tournament: Cats find bats, eliminate Valparaiso 8 to 1

Facing elimination and coming off a heart wrenching loss in 21 innings, the Kentucky Wildcats bounced back in a big way today to beat Valparaiso and eliminate them from the NCAA Tournament. Congratulations to the Crusaders who had a fine season and were able to hang with Kentucky through the first 5 innings before the Wildcats broke the game open in the 6th.

Jerad Grundy gave the team what it needed, earning the win by going 6 innings while giving up a single run on 5 hits and 4 walks while striking out 6. Chandler Shepherd took over in the 7th and pitched the final three innings to earn a save. Crusaders' starter Kevin Wild matched Grundy through the first 5 innings, but with two outs in the 6th he gave up 4 runs on a single, double, walk, single, and double. The Cats scored another run in the inning on a heads up play by Austin Cousino who raced home when a bad throw back to the pitcher got away from Jarad Miller. Thomas McCarthy was thrown out at third attempting to advance on the same sequence to end the inning.

Kentucky tacked on single runs in the 8th and 9th innings, but the 6th inning was the big one. Everyone in the lineup got at least 1 hit and 6 different players scored at least 1 run. 4 different players drove in runs and the Cats stole 5 bases.

Box score.

There were a lot of great individual performances today:

  • Austin Cousino was terrific, going 3-5 with a double, a run, and 3 RBI.
  • Michael Williams caught all 9 innings the day after catching all 21 innings of last night's game. He got a hit and an RBI at the plate.
  • Matt Reida had 2 hits and a sac bunt that led to Kentucky's first run and drove in 2.
  • Zach Zellers had a hit, a walk, and stole 2 bases.
  • I really liked Paul McConkey in the lineup today - he has had some great at-bats this tournament. He got on base twice today and scored both times.
Today's Game Bat goes to Austin Cousino who was prolific throughout the entire game. Hopefully he's back to his usual form - the Cats will need his bat with Luke Maile day-to-day with a hamstring injury.

The Wildcats now await the loser of tonight's Purdue-Kent St game. They will play tomorrow at 4:00 PM with the winner of tonight's game taking on the winner of tomorrow's 4:00 PM game at 8:00 PM tomorrow. Kentucky's pitching staff is in about as good as shape as can be hoped. Trevor Gott and Alex Phillips should be available tomorrow, although maybe for only an inning apiece. The Cats will have Corey Littrell to try and get them to the finals. With Reed pitching 9 innings yesterday and Shepherd pitching today, I am unsure as to who might pitch in a potential second game, but I guess we'll just have to wait and find that out if the Cats make it that far.


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