Two-Out Magic Lifts Cats Past Gamecocks on Saturday
Timing is everything. And for the Kentucky baseball team on Saturday, getting hits at the right time was vital.
The Cats were able to score nine runs with two outs on their way to a 14-7 win over No. 3 South Carolina on Saturday at Kentucky Proud Park. With the win, the Cats claim the series victory over the Gamecocks and will go for the sweep in Sunday’s series finale.
The two-out magic started in the third inning with a play that’s rarely seen. UK’s Ryan Waldschmidt was on second base when South Carolina pitcher Jack Mahoney uncorked a wild pitch. Waldschmidt took off for third base then made the turn for home when South Carolina catcher Jonathan French had trouble corralling the ball that had caromed toward the UK dugout. By the time French got the ball to Mahoney covering the plate, Waldschmidt had scored to tie the game at 3-3.
In the fourth inning, UK second baseman Emilien Pitre singled to center with two outs, plating Jase Felker to make it 5-3 Cats.
The biggest two-out hit of the game came in the fifth inning. South Carolina walked UK leadoff hitter Jackson Gray to load the bases for Felker. The senior from Princeton, Kentucky, slashed a triple into right center field, scoring three and giving UK an 8-5 lead. Kentucky would lead the rest of the way from that point.
UK head coach Nick Mingione thought Felker’s knock was one of the biggest plays in the game.
“I thought the Jase triple was huge,” Mingione said. “They walked Jackson and then Jase stepped up and got that.”
Felker had a plan in that situation.
“I was just staying on the fastball, trying not to miss it,” Felker said. “I really got a second opportunity in that AB, once they didn’t catch my foul ball. I was just waiting for another fastball over the middle.”
With the Cats holding a three-run lead in the sixth inning, UK got some insurance. And, again, it came with two outs. This time, it was James McCoy who hit a line drive over the right field fence for a three-run homer than extended the Kentucky lead to 11-5.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Grant Smith singled home McCoy for the Cats’ ninth two-out run of the game. That capped the two-out magic that Kentucky had all day long.
“We did a lot offensively,” Mingione said. “We executed at a really high level. Our guys did a really good job against some really good arms. I was proud of our guys.”
Felker knows that it’s a mindset within the team that allows something like Saturday’s game to even be possible.
“As a team, we really just have that pass it to the next guy mindset,” Felker said. “So that was really working for us today.”
Kentucky’s ability to score with two outs was crucial on Saturday. And those clutch hits allowed the Cats to clinch the series against the nation’s third-ranked team.