There was little joy in Big Blue Nation on Friday as both the UK Baseball and Softball teams lost post-season contests.
Kansas broke open a tie game in the seventh inning and posted a 10-6 win over No. 22 Kentucky in the opener of the NCAA Louisville Regional, on a sticky Friday afternoon at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Kentucky (35-24) fell behind early to the Jayhawks after allowing three runs in the top of the first inning, ending the start for UK’s sophomore Kyle Cody after just one out. After the two teams sat through a 60 minute rain delay, the Wildcats answered with a game-tying, three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning from Ka’ai Tom. After getting two quick outs in the second inning, KU got two, two-out walks and three straight singles to plate the go-ahead runs.
UK answered with a run in the third and two in the fourth inning, before a nearly two hour rain delay halted the game in the bottom of the fifth. After the teams traded a shutout frame in the sixth, Kansas got two hits to start the seventh inning, plating two in the frame and adding two in the eighth.
The Wildcats will now face off with Kent State. The elimination game is slated for 1 p.m. ET at Jim Patterson Stadium and will be televised live on ESPN3.
Kentucky totaled eight hits in the game, including two-hit games from Austin Cousino and Max Kuhn. Tom, a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection, hit his third homer of the year, a game-tying three-run job. UK also got hits from Micheal Thomas, Storm Wilson, Matt Reida and Thomas Bernal, with Bernal driving in two runs to tie the game in the fourth. A.J. Reed drew a pair of walks and has reached base safely in 55 of 59 games in 2014.
Cody made his first career NCAA Tournament start and got one out in the first inning, before the rain delay ended his outing. Cody finished allowing two hits and three runs – one earned – walking one. Andrew Nelson (2-5) came on with a runner on third and one out in the first inning with a 3-2 count, with Nelson getting the strikeout, which is credited to Cody, for the first out. Nelson went on to work 4.1 innings, allowing four hits and three runs, walking three and striking out three. After the last delay, Kentucky turned to Chandler Shepherd to start the sixth inning. Shepherd (5-5) – who entered the postseason with 10.2 NCAA Tournament inning pitched and just two runs allowed – suffered the loss, allowing seven hits and four runs in four innings of work.
Kansas (35-24) starter Jordan Piche worked four innings, allowing seven hits and six runs, walking two and striking out four. After the third delay, Kansas turned to righty Drew Morovick (10-4) who picked up the win with 3.1 shutout innings, allowing just one hit and two walks, striking out one. KU then used right-handed closer Stephen Villines, who worked the final five outs for his ninth save of the year.
Kansas jumped out to an early lead in the first inning, as Justin Protacio led off with a full-count walk. Colby Wright then laid down a sacrifice bunt, with the throw from Cody to first sailing down the rightfield line, allowing Protacio to take third with no outs. Michael Suiter then laid down a squeeze bunt to score Protacio, with Wright moving to third on a wild pitch with Dakota Smith at the plate. Smith then laced a double into the left-centerfield gap, scoring Wright and giving KU a 2-0 lead. Tucker Tharp followed with a single to the left side, putting runners on the corners and one out. With a downpour coming, Tharp stole second, with the throw from Thomas slipping out of his hands and sailing into centerfield, allowing Smith to score.
After the rain delay and Nelson’s clutch work to get out of the top of the first inning, UK rallied with one out to even up the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the frame. Kuhn singled up the middle with two strikes to bring up Reed. Reed worked into a 3-0 count, taking a strike and swinging at a 3-1 breaking ball, before drawing a walk. That brought up Tom, who smashed a 0-2 pitch over the rightfield fence, his third homer of the year.
The Jayhawks immediately got the three runs back in the top of the second inning, as Nelson walked Protacio and Wright with two outs. Suiter then singled to leftfield to score the go-ahead run, with Joven Faenir loading the bases with a single through the left side. Tucker Tharp then singled through the hole on the right side, scoring Wright and Suiter for a 6-3 KU lead.
UK got a run back in the bottom of the third inning, as Cousino led off the inning with a ground ball up the middle, taking second on a hustle double. He then took third on a wild pitch and scored on a second wild pitch, cutting the KU lead to 6-4.
Kansas took the lead in the top of the seventh inning, as Afenir singled to left-centerfield to leadoff the frame, scoring on Tharp’s RBI double off the wall in left-centerfield. After a single from McKay on a bunt, Ka’iana Eldredge hit into a double play, to score Afenir.
Kansas got a leadoff triple in the eighth inning and an RBI single from Pratacio to take a 9-6 lead. Wright then doubled into the right centerfield gap to put two runners in scoring position. Pratacio then scored on a wild pitch to stretch the lead to 10-6.
On the Women's side:
University of Kentucky sophomore pitcher Kelsey Nunley tossed seven strong innings in the circle, allowing two runs with four strikeouts, but the Wildcat offense was not able to capitalize on having the bases loaded with no outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, falling 2-0 to No. 2 Alabama on Friday night on day two of the 2014 Women’s College World Series at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
The loss moves Kentucky (50-17) to the top half of the bracket where the Wildcats will play the winner of No. 13 Baylor and No. 8 Florida State on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. The winner will advance to the final against No. 5 Florida for a chance in the championship series. Florida defeated Florida State in the opening round and No. 1 Oregon in Friday’s winner’s bracket.
Kentucky loaded the bases in the seventh inning after back-to-back-to-back singles from sophomore Nikki Sagermann, junior Griffin Joiner and senior Lauren Cumbess. UK could not cross the plate, however, striking out and grounding into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game. The scoreless outing snaps a streak of five straight games where UK has scored four or more runs, including seven or more runs in three of those games.
Nunley made just one mistake in the circle, allowing a two-out single followed by a home run in the second inning, but was brilliant after the second inning. The sophomore did not allow a hit the rest of the way and retired 16 of the next 18 batters she faced after the home run. In nine NCAA Tournament games started this season, Nunley has limited opponents to two runs or less seven times. Nunley finished the game with five strikeouts, allowing two earned runs on three hits with two walks allowed.
Offensively, the Wildcats out-hit the Crimson Tide with four singles off Alabama ace Jaclyn Traina, who is a four-time National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American and limited a high-powered Oklahoma offense to just one hit Thursday night in the tournament opener. Traina held a no-hitter with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning before UK sophomore Sylver Samuel reached on an infield single to the right side of the infield. Samuel was thrown out at second base trying to steal a few pitches later.
Alabama started the scoring in the second inning with a two-out rally. Nunley got a fly out to leftfield and strikeout to start the inning before a single up the middle by Peyton Grantham and a two-run home run by Leona LaFaele put the Crimson Tide up 2-0. Nunley got a groundout to third to end the threat.