The Kentucky Wildcats may have left their high-powered offense in Georgia.
The sixth-ranked Bat Cats ended their five-game road trip in Louisville on Tuesday night, where their bats were kept mostly silent in an 8-2 loss to their rivals. The Cardinals held Kentucky to just two runs on three hits, and outplayed the Wildcats in every aspect.
After taking a series-clinching 1-0 victory on Sunday over the hot Georgia Bulldogs, the Wildcats were hoping their offense would return to form. Instead, it was the Cardinal offense who was firing on all cylinders.
They followed up a dominant 16-1 over Virginia Tech on Sunday by posting eight runs on nine hits, and they were helped by some poor pitching and defense by the visitors in front of 3,806 fans.
Louisville broke the game open in the middle frames, scoring all eight of their runs in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. The Cardinals put two on the board in the fourth on back-to-back singles to right field with two outs, which was a common theme on the night. Kentucky starter Daniel Harper, who pitched decently in the game, would come out after the second run.
Then in the fifth, they stretched their lead with timely hitting, and some gifts from the Wildcats. After a four-pitch leadoff walk to Zeke Pinkham, UK got an out after a failed pop-up bunt by Tyler Fitzgerald.
A seeing-eye single from Jake Snider evaded the shortstop, and then Devin Mann drew a walk to load the bases. After a pitching change saw relief pitcher Carson Coleman make way for Alec Maley, Louisville’s star hitter Logan Wyatt drew his third walk of the day on four pitches to drive in a run, making it 3-1.
Things would get worse in the frame, as Kentucky drew a ground ball from Josh Stowers, but his speed enabled him to beat the throw to first, preventing a double play and driving in the fourth run of the game for the Cardinals.
Then, after getting Stowers caught in a pickle between first and second, they inexplicably threw home to try to get the runner instead of simply completing the play on Stowers. The throw was late, and after replay the safe call was upheld, putting the Cardinals up another run.
Louisville would follow with a double from Danny Oriente, driving in his second run of the day, to put the hosts up 6-1. Kentucky would send in Jimmy Ramsey to relieve Maley, and he drew an infield pop-up on the first pitch to end the inning and stop the bleeding.
The sixth inning saw things get a bit heated. After two quick outs, Louisville got a flared single into center from Fitzgerald, which barely sailed over the diving second baseman. The next pitch was sent sailing over the right field wall by Snider to tack two more runs onto their lead, putting them again 8-1.
Ramsey then proceeded to hit Mann in the head with the first pitch of his at-bat, drawing warnings to both benches and earning a chorus of boos from the fans. Wyatt was then walked for the fourth time in as many appearances, before a groundout ended the scoring for the hosts.
It was a pitching duel in the early innings, as neither team were able to get any hits on the board. The second inning saw each side draw a walk, but both baserunners were thrown out attempting to steal second. In Kentucky’s case, Ben Aklinski beat the throw, but he slid through the bag and was tagged out before he could get back.
The Bat Cats struck first in the game, when Trey Dawson sent an 0-1 fastball over the left field fence to put Kentucky ahead 1-0, on only his second home run of the season. Unfortunately, it would be the only real bright spot on the day.
The Wildcats simply could not get it done, going hitless in nine at-bats with runners on base, and oh for six with runners in scoring position. They added an unearned run in the eighth inning after a throwing error by the Cardinals, but they did so without registering a hit in that inning, either.
Louisville did much of their damage with two outs, scoring five of their eight runs in that situation. They also made their base-runners count, hitting five-of-thirteen with runners on base.
Conversely, the Wildcats failed to record a hit in any of their nine at-bats with runners on, and left six on base for the evening. Kentucky also struck out ten times, as they simply had no answer at the plate.
It could have been a different story, however, had the Wildcats gotten a little bit of luck. With two outs in the fourth, Kole Cottam hit a ball to deep left field with a runner on but it died in the wind.
An inning later, Tristan Pompey ripped a deep shot to straight away center that went about 400 feet; unfortunately, Jim Patterson Stadium’s center field wall is 402 feet from home, and he just missed a three-run home run of his own.
The loss sends Harper to 2-2 on the season with a 6.29 ERA. On the other side, Reid Detmers had his best outing for the Cardinals, earning his second win after allowing only one run, three hits, and a walk to go along with five strikeouts.
Kentucky, sitting at 25-12 on the season, must now will regroup and prepare for their biggest challenge of the season, as the top-ranked Florida Gators will visit Cliff Hagan Stadium this weekend for a three-game series.
With a 32-6 record (12-3 in the SEC), the Gators are on an absolute tear right now, and are 8-3 against the Top 25. This will be a massive challenge for the Bat Cats, and they will have to figure out their batting woes in the next few days if they hope to make a major statement on the national stage.