The University of Kentucky baseball team needed an SEC series win this weekend after a stunning defeat earlier in the week against EKU. They needed it bad. Without it, Kentucky’s hopes of making the NCAA Tournament would lessen. The fire under coach Gary Henderson’s seat on the bench would burn hotter.
After blowing an early lead in a 10-5 loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Friday night, it appeared that yet another defeat was on the horizon.
Then Dustin Beggs pitched a sterling shutout of the Gamecocks on Saturday and 24 hours later Dorian Hairston came up big in extra innings to clinch what could be a season shifting series for the Bat Cats.
Below is a breakdown of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from this past weekend.
Dorian’s Heroic Homer
Dorian Hairston was the man of the hour on Sunday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium. As he strode to bat to lead off the bottom of the 12th inning with the game tied at 4 the Bat Cats were hanging on by a thread.
Limited to just four hits up until Hairston’s at bat by the Gamecock pitching trio of Adam Hill, Tyler Johnson and Josh Regan; Kentucky managed to stay in the game thanks to timely hitting from JaVon Shelby and Zack Reks (both homered).
Ahead on a 2-1 count, Hairston connected on the fourth pitch from Johnson and clubbed the ball over the right field fence.
Bedlam broke out on the diamond and Hairston circled the bases smiling from ear-to-ear.
Not only was his swat crucial for the sake of the club’s tournament hopes but it also provided a jolt of excitement for a Bat Cat squad used to doom and gloom over the last month of the season.
Beggs’ Goose Egg
In two of three series games, South Carolina’s bats lit Kentucky up to the combined tune of 14 runs on 24 hits.
Kentucky’s ace, Dustin Beggs stepped up to be the aberration the Wildcats needed to win the series.
Over 9 shutout innings on Saturday, Beggs struck out seven batters, only walked one and yielded just three hits.
The Gamecocks were only able to threaten Beggs in the top of the 6th with runners on the corners. However, Beggs responded with a pickoff to end the inning.
If Beggs can continue his string of solid outings than Kentucky will have a reliable pitching threat for big games down the line, hopefully extending into NCAA Regional Play.
Zach Brown Struggles in Friday Loss
Brown had an outing to forget on Friday. He lasted a little over five innings in which he allowed seven earned runs, ten hits and also walked five batters.
The 4th inning was especially not kind to Brown. South Carolina scored four runs on two homers and essentially swung the momentum with a pair of swings of the bat.
Hot Start and Cold Finish Rear Their Heads, Again
The most troubling trend of the last month for the Bat Cats has been their tendency to open up an early lead only to give it away as the game progress into the later innings.
On Friday, Riley Mahan’s three-run shot to right field gave UK a 3-0 first inning lead. Kentucky tacked on additional runs in the 5th and 6th, one of them another homer by Zack Reks.
Over the last three innings, Kentucky could barely muster any offense. They down 1-2-3 in the 7th and 9th, and stranded runners in scoring position in the 8th.
If anything is going to torpedo the Cats’ chances at making the post-season it will be their Jekyll and Hyde performances.