The Kentucky baseball team may be bruised but it certainly wasn’t battered, using eight hit by pitch to fuel a 7-4 victory over Michigan in the final non-conference home game of the season at Kentucky Proud Park on Tuesday night.
With the win over the Big Ten’s first-place club – and second over a likely NCAA Tournament team from that conference in as many weeks – the Wildcats finished non-conference play with a 19-6 record, including 14-2 at home. Five of those six defeats came against Top 10 opponents.
The Cats (26-26) jumped out to an early lead while scoring in the opening inning for the fifth straight game, manufacturing a run without registering a hit. After falling behind 3-1 on a two-run home run by Michigan star outfielder Jordan Brewer in the fifth inning, the Cats responded with four runs in its half of the frame to take the lead for good. As part of the scoring, sophomore catcher Coltyn Kessler banged a two-run double off the centerfield wall, driving in a run for the eighth time in the past nine games and ninth time in the past 11 games to continue his breakout season.
Meanwhile, the Cats kept wearing pitches from the Michigan pitching staff, which had only hit 44 batters on the season prior to the game. The eight hit by pitch tied for the second-most of any team in a game this season and were two off the school record of 10 – which also is the NCAA record – set vs. Monmouth on March 6, 2010. The Cats also drew five walks and stole four bases in the game.
The Cats now enter the final weekend of the regular season in a three-way tie for the final berth in the Southeastern Conference Tournament as No. 2 Vanderbilt comes to town. The series opens on Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. ET on the SEC Network Plus.
Bottom 1st – Ryan Johnson walked and Ryan Shinn was hit by a pitch. Both runners moved up on a SAC bunt by Elliott Curtis. Johnson scored on a balk. UK 1, Michigan 0.
Top 3rd – Jesse Franklin walked and advanced to third on Jordan Brewer’s double off the glove of a diving LF. Jimmy Kerr hit a SAC fly to CF, Franklin scored. UK 1, Michigan 1.
Top 5th – Franklin walked and scored on Brewer’s home run to LF. Michigan 3, UK 1.
Bottom 5th – Alex Rodriguez doubled to LF to open the inning. Shinn was hit by a pitch. Curtis lined a single to LF, scoring Rodriguez. Coltyn Kessler doubled off the CF wall, scoring Shinn and Curtis. Jaren Shelby singled to RF, Kessler to third. Austin Schultz hit a SAC fly to CF, scoring Kessler. UK 5, Michigan 3.
Top 7th – Jordan Nwogu homered to RF. UK 5, Michigan 4.
Bottom 7th – Shelby was hit by a pitch, Cam Hill reached on a bunt single and Schultz was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Dalton Reed walked, scoring Shelby and re-loading the bases. Rodriguez hit into a fielder’s choice with Reed out at second, Hill scored, Schultz to third. UK 7, Michigan 4.
· Kentucky has scored in 116 consecutive games and 192 of the past 193 dating to the 2016 season. The lone shutout came in a seven-inning game. The current streak is the second-longest in school history.
· The Cats were hit by eight pitches in the game, the most this season. It ties for the second-most by a team in a game this season and is two behind the national record of 10, which UK tied against Monmouth on March 6, 2010.
· With Cam Hill’s stolen base in the fourth inning the Cats now have four players with 10 or more stolen bases on the season, which is the most since the 2010 club had five players with at least 10 steals.
· Freshman INF Austin Schultz has reached base safely in 40 of the past 42 games and in 13 straight.
· Sophomore C/INF Coltyn Kessler had a two-run double, giving him an RBI in eight of the last nine games and nine of the last 11.
o It was Kessler’s sixth multi-RBI game of the season.
· Senior OF Ryan Shinn was hit by two pitches, giving him 16 on the season, which ties him for 10th on the UK single-season list with Troy Squires (2018) and Mike Brown (2007).
· Sophomore RHP Carson Coleman struck out the side in the ninth to earn his team-leading fifth save of the season.
Kentucky opens the final series of the regular season when Vanderbilt comes to Kentucky Proud Park on Thursday night. First pitch is at 6:30 p.m. ET on the SEC Network Plus. Darren Headrick will have the radio call on the UK Sports Network.
‑ GO CATS –
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