'Efficient' Niman Blanks Alabama on Saturday

'Efficient' Niman Blanks Alabama on Saturday

by Tim Letcher

Dominic Niman came to the Kentucky baseball program with outstanding credentials. The former Central Connecticut State standout was a preseason All-American and was expected to be a key cog in the UK pitching staff this season.

On Saturday, the left-hander showed just how good he can be. He pitched a complete-game shutout against No. 12 Alabama as the Cats won 7-0. Niman allowed just three hits, did not walk a batter and struck out seven. He threw an even 100 pitches on his way to his sixth win of the season. For Niman, it was a first.

“I’ve had a complete game but not a shutout,” Niman said. “That was awesome. Today was awesome. That feels great, just getting a win for the guys.”

Kentucky head coach Nick Mingione loved how Niman pitched on Saturday.

“What a performance,” Mingione said. “He was the conference pitcher of the year at his previous school. Super talented. I thought the first inning was maybe my favorite. He hit the first batter of the game. No problem. I really believe we have the best defense in the country, and what a double play by (Emilien Pitre and Grant Smith). I thought that sent a message.”

It was the first complete game shutout of a Southeastern Conference opponent for a UK pitcher since Zack Lee threw a seven-inning shutout at Alabama in 2021. The last Cat to pitch a nine-inning, complete game shutout against an SEC team was Zack Thompson in 2019.

Niman credited his teammates with getting out to an early lead, allowing him to be more aggressive on the mound.

“It’s huge,” Niman said of having an early lead. “It gives you the ability to just attack the zone, have them get themselves out and our guys make plays.”

Even when it seemed like the Crimson Tide might get on the board, Niman pitched out of it. In the seventh inning, Alabama’s Ian Petrutz led off the inning with a double to straight away center field. Niman got Evan Sleight to pop out to third base, then got Justin Lebron to pop out to second base. Niman got out of the inning by getting Kade Snell to fly out to center field, keeping Alabama off the board through seven.

“For him, just so efficient, so efficient,” Mingione said. “So many innings where he’s just ramming the strike zone and letting his defense work. What a competitor. He’s an uber-competitive dude. I told him that’s what a dog looks like.”

Did the UK coaching staff consider pulling Niman late in the game?

“We didn’t just because his pitch count was so efficient,” Mingione said. “I say this all the time, not all pitch counts are created equal. There’s times when guys throw 60, 70, 80 pitches and there’s guys on base and there’s traffic and there’s stressful pitches. For him, he didn’t have a ton of traffic on the bases and that’s probably the reason why he felt so strong at the end. Those were not stressful innings for him.”

Niman knew he still had good stuff late in the game.

“It was really good,” he said when asked how he felt late in the contest. “I don’t know what my pitch count was, but I felt like it was low and I felt like I had a lot of energy left.”

Niman’s performance on Saturday moved the Cats to 26-4 on the season and 10-1 in the SEC. And he accomplished that in a most efficient manner.

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