Baseball Cats Stick With Approach to Rally Past Morehead State

Baseball Cats Stick With Approach to Rally Past Morehead State

by Tim Letcher

For most of the first seven innings of Tuesday night’s home opener at Kentucky Proud Park, the Kentucky offense was largely lethargic. The Cats were able to muster just two runs on four hits against instrastate rival Morehead State.

The Cats, however, did not give up. And in the eighth inning, UK’s patience paid off. A seven-run inning gave Kentucky a 9-5 lead, a score by which the Wildcats would win on this night.

UK head coach Nick Mingione loved his team’s never-say-die attitude on Tuesday.

“I told our team I was really proud. It would have been really easy to go, you know what, this is not our night. They didn’t do that. They called their own players meeting in the sixth inning and we ended up adding a run. Their desire to win really showed up tonight.”

After Devin Burkes popped up to start the eighth inning, 10 consecutive Cats reached base in a variety of ways.

Emilien Pitre singled to center field, followed by pinch hitter Eli Small, who also singled to left center. Then came walks to Ty Crittenberger and Nolan McCarthy, the latter of which scored a run and made it 5-3.

Patrick Herrera was then hit by a pitch, scoring Small and cutting the MSU lead to 5-4. Then, Grant Smith laid down a bunt and MSU was unable to get anyone out, and the score was tied 5-5.

Mitchell Daly then singled to give the Cats a 6-5 lead. But the big blow came next when Ryan Nicholson doubled off the right-center field wall to make it 9-5.

Mingione liked how his pitching staff kept the Cats in the game until the offense was able to generate enough offense to win.

“I told them that I don’t think we could have played worse, offensively or defensively, in the early part of the game,” Mingione said. “I just give our pitchers a lot of credit, they kept us in there and they allowed us to be able to come back.”

The eighth inning showed who Kentucky is offensively. The Cats got hits, walks, were hit by a pitch, bunted and got the one big swing from Nicholson. Mingione thought it was pure UK baseball in that inning.

“That’s us at our best, where we’re challenging the strike zone,” Mingione said. “I told our team the strike zone is like the line of scrimmage in football. Whoever dominates it usually wins the game. I thought we did a great job with the strike zone, especially in that (eighth) inning.”

Nicholson said that the Cats never gave up and stuck with their game plan.

“We are really confident in our ability, offensively,” Nicholson said. “All it really took was just one inning. There were a lot of quality at-bats in there that led up to just breaking through the ceiling. Just trusting our guys and having faith in them. We thought we were going to come out on top.”

Tuesday was the first time this season that the Cats had trailed this season but Nicholson and the team knew they had to keep doing their thing.

“I think it just shows that we can come back (especially) with the adversity,” Nicholson said. “That was our first time being behind. McCarthy pulled all of the offensive guys in there and we were like, let’s just stick with our approach.”

It took a while for it to happen, but the Cats rallied in the eighth inning on Tuesday night, doing what they do best.

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