Cats Grind One Out, Squires Walks It Off
Only six days removed from his first game-winning hit last Sunday at Vanderbilt, Troy Squires one-upped himself.
Stepping to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game against Arkansas, Squires split the gap in right-center for a walk-off single to score Riley Mahan from second base.
“I was just looking for something I could handle,” Squires said. “A guy was in scoring position and I just had to get a pitch I could handle. That’s about it.”
Thanks to Squires’ seventh-inning hit, UK salvaged the series finale against Arkansas with a 5-4 comeback victory in the second half of an afternoon doubleheader. Dorian Hairston – who had a two-run home run earlier – tied the game in the previous at-bat with an infield single.
“I think it gives us a lot of momentum,” said Squires, who got a Gatorade shower from teammate JaVon Shelby in his postgame interview. “We’ve been struggling, but a win like this on a doubleheader day especially, I think it will give us a lot of momentum.”
The Wildcats (24-15, 10-8 Southeastern Conference) came in having lost seven of eight, including five of six in SEC play. In those six games, UK had been shut out three times and managed just six total runs.
“We had a lot of hard-hit balls,” head coach Gary Henderson said. “We didn’t hit enough of them hard. We gotta hit enough to eventually start falling, but that was a heck of a first couple games. To be able to pull through and compete as well as we did in game three was really a testament to the kids we have. Really proud of them.”
At no point did the Cats hang their heads. Instead, they just kept “grinding,” in the words of Squires.
“They’re obviously not perfect – they’re kids – but the feel in the dugout is still as optimistic as you could hope for given the circumstances,” Henderson said. “They did a good job. They support each other.”
Even with the bats mostly quiet, UK’s pitchers provided plenty of reason for confidence. Kyle Cody was solid in his start, but only lasted 5.1 innings in allowing three earned runs. It marked the first time since April 2 that a weekend starter did not turn in a quality start after Dustin Beggs and Zack Brown combined to go 16.2 innings and allow just three runs in UK’s two shutout losses to open the series.
“Our pitchers battled their butts off all weekend and kept us in that game, especially out of the bullpen,” Squires said. “Guys coming in throwing strikes, getting quick outs. They just did a tremendous job all weekend keeping us in it.”
Combine that starting pitching and offense willing to grind its way through struggles inevitable in baseball and UK is well positioned entering the final four weekends of SEC play.
“Very easily we could have got swept right there,” Hairston said. “We battled. Bottom of the seventh, we come back, we score one to tie and then Troy runs one into right-center and we end up winning. We didn’t give up.”