Louisville-Area Natives Help Cats Snap Skid Against Cards
Heading into Tuesday’s game against archrival Louisville, the Kentucky baseball team had lost to the Cardinals six straight. However, the Wildcats were close in all six of those games and, in fact, had a chance to beat the Cardinals on multiple occasions during the streak. The largest margin of victory in the six-game skid was three runs.
A number of times during the streak, Kentucky rallied and had a chance to tie or win the game late against Louisville. Earlier this season, in a 5-3 loss at Jim Patterson Stadium in Louisville, the Wildcats had the tying run at the plate when the game ended.
But on Tuesday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium, No. 10 Kentucky ended the streak, and did so behind a pair of players from the Louisville area, topping the second-ranked Cardinals 11-7. Senior shortstop Connor Heady, from just outside of Louisville in Prospect, Kentucky, ripped a two-run home run to left field in the third inning to stretch the UK lead to 9-0. It was Heady’s only hit of the night, but it was a big one.
“It’s just a big game,” Heady said. “It’s a great win against a really good team, obviously one of our rivals. I’m proud of our guys for coming out and competing and leaving everything out on the field.”
Junior third baseman Tyler Marshall had three hits in Tuesday’s game, knocking in a pair of runs and scoring once. For Marshall, who played at Trinity High School in Louisville, beating his hometown team was special.
“It’s huge, beating a team like that any time is big for a program,” Marshall said. “We haven’t beaten them since my freshman year here. Getting that win against them feels good.”
The Wildcats scored five times in the first inning, four times in the third and two more times in the fourth inning. The final score was not indicative of the game, as Kentucky led 11-0 before Louisville scored two in the fifth inning and five in the sixth.
Kentucky (26-12) also turned a unique triple play in the game. Louisville had runners on second and third with no one out in the second inning. Colin Lyman flew out to left field for the first out, and UK left fielder Zach Reks fired a throw home to cut down Brendan McKay for the second out. Kentucky catcher Troy Squires then threw to third base, where Heady tagged out Drew Ellis to complete the triple play.
Kentucky head coach Nick Mingione was happy with his team’s approach to the game.
“I loved the energy our team came out (with),” Mingione said. “We talked about a rematch. You get the chance to face the same guy, you’ve got a rematch and you don’t get that all the time in sports. I loved the way we came out swinging.”
Freshman Zack Thompson was solid on the mound for the Wildcats on Tuesday, tossing five innings, allowing four runs and three hits, while walking three and striking out seven.
“His first four innings, I thought were really good and showed what kind of pitcher he can be,” Mingione said.
A Cliff Hagan Stadium record crowd of 4,018 turned out for the game, and was vocal throughout. Mingione knows the home crowd made a difference for the Wildcats.
“I can’t thank the Big Blue Nation enough for showing up,” Mingione said. “I just loved the fact that that many people got a chance to see what we’re all about. There was a clear-cut home field advantage, and it was really special.”
And a special effort from a pair of players from the Louisville area helped the Cats end the losing streak to the Cardinals.