UK Baseball Survives WVU in Elimination Game, Set for IU Rematch
The 12th overall seeded University of Kentucky baseball team (38-19) shut-out the 2-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers (40-20) by a final score of 10-0 in game six of the NCAA Lexington Regional at Kentucky Proud Park.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The 12th overall seeded University of Kentucky baseball team (38-19) shut-out the 2-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers (40-20) by a final score of 10-0 in game five of the NCAA Lexington Regional at Kentucky Proud Park.
With the loss, UK (2-1) advances to face Indiana (2-0) in the region final, while West Virginia (1-2) is eliminated.
Junior right-hand pitcher Austin Strickland got the start on the bump for UK. In his second start of the season he pitched six innings, giving up four hits, no runs, six strikeouts, and one walk on a season-high 100 pitches.
“What a start at the time where we needed it the most. His competitive spirit shined today. Our guys just love playing behind him,” said UK Head Coach Nick Mingione. “I thought the first inning was great. He rammed the ball in the strike zone. Got a good, quick inning, allowed our offense to score two. From there on I felt we played our best style of baseball, where we got a lead, we added to our lead. And we pitch and defend at a super high level, but it all started with Austin.”
Strickland said the team didn’t panic after the IU loss.
“Never a doubt. I feel like we’re like most teams. After a loss, like yesterday, our locker room was pretty quiet. But we got our leaders who step up in the group chat -- hey, guys, we’ve got to come out with an edge. We know we can hang with any team. We can beat any team but we can also be beat by any team.”
When we come out with our edge and just prove to ourselves, hey, we’re the best team out there, I don’t think anybody’s going to beat us. If we’re down, we just ran out of time yesterday. That’s all it was. We got our innings back today and our offense really showed up. And we’ll keep showing up later tonight.
The Wildcats got going early, in the bottom of the first inning senior infielder Jace Felker had an RBI double to score senior outfielder Jackson Gray. The Bat Cats followed it up with an RBI from sophomore infielder Emilien Pitre to score Felker, giving UK a 2-0 lead after 1.
In the bottom of the second, sophomore outfielder Nolan McCarthy added another RBI, scoring junior infielder Reuben Church to make it a 3-0 ballgame. McCarthy’s bat was hot, in the bottom of the fourth he hit a 2-run home run to bring in sophomore OF/INF Ryan Waldschmidt, giving UK a 5-0 lead.
In the 5th, redshirt senior infielder and team captain Hunter Gilliam got in on the action with an RBI single to bring in Felker. In the 7th, Church had an RBI single to bring in sophomore catcher Devin Burkes, but they really blew it open in the bottom of the 8th when Burkes hit a 3 RBI double to put UK up by 10.
“Our outfielders catch everything, infielders catch everything. Hunter Gilliam picks everything. It’s such a freeing feeling,” said Strickland post game. “It goes back to, I can shove it right in there. I can just throw everything right down the middle and let it break. And I know if they put it in play, our team’s going to get an out.”
West Virginia becomes the second team to be eliminated from the Lexington Regional, after (4) Ball State.
The Wildcats have already faced the Hoosiers twice this year, splitting the two. UK beat IU 12-2 in 7 innings in March, and on Saturday in the NCAA Regional, 5-3.
The NCAA Baseball Tournament is double-elimination format. UK must win the next two games to advance to the Super Regional, where they’d face the winner of the Baton Rouge Region. If Indiana wins game six, they advance to the supers.
Mingione says the team is healthy and they have all their arms ready to go.
Game 6: Kentucky vs. Indiana, Sunday 6:00 P.M. EST on ESPN+
Game 7: (if needed) Kentucky vs. Indiana, Monday, time/TV TBD
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