Baseball Falls in Season-Opener at No. 20 College of Charleston

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MT. PLEASANT, S.C. -- Braden Kapteyn belted a three-run homer but the Kentucky baseball team could not overcome a four-run inning in the third and a five-run frame in the sixth, as No. 20 College of Charleston posted a 11-6 season-opening win over the Wildcats, on a gorgeous Friday night at the Ballpark at Patroits Point.

Kentucky (0-1) was led offensively by Kapteyn, who belted a three-run homer to the opposite field in the third inning. UK junior Michael Williams added a pair of hits and a two-RBI double. Freshman Lucas Witt and senior Neiko Johnson each recorded hits, with Witt’s hit coming as his first career hit and Johnson adding a stolen base. Kapteyn and sophomore catcher Luke Maile led the Wildcats with two runs.

On the mound, UK sophomore right-hander Jordan Cooper made his ninth career start. A native of Shelbyville, Tenn., Cooper went three innings, allowed six hits and five runs. Cooper was relieved to start the fourth inning by freshman Louisville native Corey Littrell (0-1), who was solid through his first two innings – highlighted by striking out the side in the fifth inning – finished with 2.1 innings of work, with five hits, five runs, two walks and three strikeouts. UK senior Nick Kennedy tossed a shutout inning and sophomore Walt Wijas worked the final 1.2 innings, allowing two hits and striking out two.  

The Wildcats will return to action at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, facing Marshall (1-0), which picked up a win over Miami (Ohio) in extra innings on Friday. UK will start sophomore southpaw Taylor Rogers vs. Marshall junior left-hander Mike Mason. The game will be broadcast live by the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with Dick Gabriel calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WGVN 1580-AM.

College of Charleston (1-0) starter David Peterson went four innings, allowing four hits and three runs, striking out five. Dre Watts (1-0) picked up the win with three innings in relief of Peterson, allowing one hit and two runs. The Cougars were led offensively by first sacker Matt Leeds, who hit a homer and added six RBI. Last season, Leeds led COC with 21 homers and 88 RBI.

College of Charleston got on the board first, as preseason conference player of the year Cole Rakar led off the inning with a single up the middle and Rob Kral drew a walk. After Cooper got Marty Gantt to strike out and No. 4 hitter Matt Leeds to fly out, Jose Rodriguez singled to leftfield, scoring Rakar.

Kentucky took the lead in the third inning, as Johnson led off the inning with a single laced down the left-field line. Johnson promptly stole second and moved to third when Taylor Black grounded out on a high chopper. After Chad Wright got plunked by a pitch to put runners on the corners, Kapteyn pounded a no-doubt three-run homer to the opposite-field foul pole.

COC immediately responded, plating four runs on four hits in the bottom of the third inning. Kral singled up the middle and Gantt singled on a bloop to rightfield. Leeds then followed and belted a jack over the left-centerfield fence. Rodriguez made it back-to-back homers with a roundtripper to the same spot over the left-field wall.

UK tied the game up in the top of the sixth, 5-5. Kapteyn and Luke Maile led off the inning with walks and moved to scoring position after Thomas McCarthy’s sacrifice bunt. Michael Williams then evened up the game with a double, painted down the third-base line, scoring Kapteyn and Maile.

Charleston answered in the bottom of the sixth, regaining the lead. Jesse Mesa led off the inning with a single to rightfield, moving to second on a stolen base. Rakar followed with a double off the glove of diving centerfielder Witt. With Kral at the plate and a 3-2 count, Mesa scored on a wild pitch, with Kral issued a walk. Leeds then singled down the line in leftfield, scoring two runs.

The Wildcats got on the board in the bottom of the seventh, cutting the lead to 11-6. With one out, Maile reached second base on a two-base throwing error by the COC third baseman. After McCarthy and Williams loaded the bases with one out, Witt’s fielder’s choice scored Maile.