Pitching, Defense Aid Offensive Effort in Win over MSU
The challenge that faced the Kentucky pitching staff on Tuesday was formidable. Morehead State entered Tuesday’s game having won all eight of its starts so far this season while averaging 9.4 runs per game, which was 37th in the country.
The Eagles were averaging nearly two home runs per game as a team and were slugging .581 overall, which was 17th in the nation. MSU had scored in double figures in four of its eight contests in 2023.
MSU first baseman Jackson Feltner came into Tuesday’s game hitting .423, while catcher Ryan Grabosch was hitting .412. The Eagles had clearly found their hitting shoes early this season.
Morehead State came into Tuesday’s game seeking the first 9-0 start in school history. But the Kentucky hurlers had other ideas as the Cats blasted the Eagles 15-1.
Kentucky sent seven pitchers to the mound in the game, and all seven proved to be effective. Tyler Smith got the start, and the win, for the Cats. He pitched four innings, gave up the only MSU run and struck out four.
Mason Moore, Jackson Nove, Seth Logue, Seth Chavez each pitched an inning and relief. The quartet combined to give up just two hits while striking out five. Evan Byers pitched the first two-thirds of the ninth, with one strikeout, while Christian Howe came in to record the final out for the Cats.
For the game, the Cats held the Eagles to that single run and just five hits, both season lows for MSU.
A coach who preaches pitching and defense, UK head man Nick Mingione was excited about his team’s effort on Tuesday.
“For us to be able to pitch seven guys, to get some guys in the ballgame that haven’t been in,” Mingione said. “They deserve their opportunities, too.”
The UK pitching staff got plenty of help from solid defensive play by Wildcat teammates. Kentucky made no errors in the contest, aiding the efforts of the Cats on the mound. The defense stood out to Mingione.
“Our defense, I’m just very thankful for the way we communicate,” Mingione said. “James McCoy made two great plays in right field, Jackson Gray came in on a ball, Nolan McCarthy sliding catch in the first was big, we were able to turn multiple double plays. When you’re doing that, it gives your offense a chance to take a deep breath and put some runs on the board.”
“That’s a good team. They were undefeated. They were 8-0.”
The Cats also provided their pitchers with plenty of offense. For the second consecutive game, UK plated 15 runs, which is a season high. Reuben Church led the offensive attack with four hits, knocking in four runs and scoring three. Church was on base six times in the game, adding a walk and a hit by pitch to his four singles.
Kentucky is now 6-2 on the season and the Cats have won in a variety of ways through eight games. On this night, it was the Wildcat pitchers who shut down the potent Morehead State offense.