Kapteyn Leads Baseball to 3-2 Win at No. 12 Coastal Carolina
CONWAY, S.C. -- With the game tied 2-2 in the top of the ninth, Kentucky pushed across the game-winning run and sophomore right-hander Braden Kapteyn closed out the win, as the Wildcats sprang a 3-2 upset over the No. 12 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, Sunday in front of 1,133 fans at Charles Watson Stadium at Vrooman Field.
“Well, anytime you beat a ranked team on the road it is a big win for the program,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “I was extremely pleased with the poise that we showed after the second inning. I was really proud of Logan Darnell and Braden Kapteyn on the mound. I thought our hitters, although they certainly weren’t sharp today, they did a great job of hanging with it, staying tough and competing until the very end. I am just really proud of the program.”
The Wildcats battled in a pitchers’ duel with the Chanticleers, with Kapteyn emerging as the breakout performer in the upset win, after tossing the final three innings with no runs allowed and two strikeouts to pick up the first win of the year. A 6-foot-4, 220-pounder Kapteyn issued one walk and allowed only two hits, including a perfect bottom of the ninth inning. Kapteyn, a native of Lansing, Ill., had arguably the two best defensive plays of the game, picking off speedy top-of-the-order hitters Scott Woodward and Rico Noel on consecutive plays at first base to end the bottom of the seventh inning. With Woodward and Noel combined, the duo stole 78-of-84 bases a year ago.
“Well Kapteyn has grown up a little bit,” Henderson said. “We will see how he goes next time out but that is an outing that he couldn’t have had last year. Obviously he has improved dramatically physically and emotionally. That is the type of performance that you can build a bullpen around.”
The win for Kentucky at Coastal marked just the third loss at home for the Chanticleers in the last two seasons, as they posted a 29-2 record at home in 2009, including opening the season with 13 consecutive home wins. Kentucky’s win over Coastal secured the Caravelle Resort Invitational for UK, as the Wildcats posted a 15-6 win over Virginia Tech Friday in the season opener and a 6-0 shutout win Saturday, behind a splendid pitching debut of freshman southpaw Taylor Rogers.
With only four runs scored between the two teams entering the ninth inning, UK needed to threaten CCU in the top of the ninth. After preseason All-American Chris Bisson pushed his lead-off bunt attempt into the second baseman for an out, sophomore leftfielder Chad Wright ripped a one-out single up the middle and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Kapteyn, who started at designated hitter and drew a career-high two walks at the dish, grounded out to second base, enabling Wright to advance to third. Senior catcher Marcus Nidiffer followed and ripped a high-hoping grounder at Woodward, a preseason All-American. Woodward fielded it cleanly and fired a throw to Adam Rice at first base, but his throw just scooted under the glove of Rice, enabling Wright to touch home with the go-ahead run. After CCU got out of the inning, Kapteyn came back out for his third inning of work and filled up the strike zone, getting ahead of the first two hitters before striking them out and inducing a game-clinching groundout to Bisson at second base.
“Pretty much I was just thinking that I have to shut them down,” Kapteyn said about his mentality entering the bottom of the ninth inning on the mound. “I just wanted to go out there the same, the same thoughts I had the first two innings. I just wanted to throw strikes and force some soft contact and if I can get them to swing and miss, then get it done.”
The Wildcats got an outstanding pitching performance from junior southpaw Logan Darnell, making his first career start in his 44th career appearance. A native of Joelton, Tenn., Darnell tossed a career-high six innings, allowing seven hits and two runs, walking two and striking out a career-best six. UK then turned to Kapteyn, who turned in a gem to finish off the game.
“It is pretty obvious that he was overly excited the first couple of innings but he did a great job of dialing it back a little bit, getting his thoughts and his emotions under control,” Henderson said. “Six innings of two-run and two walks is a pretty impressive outing for his first start here. I was really proud of his performance.”
Coastal Carolina (2-1) entered the weekend ranked a school-record No. 12 in the preseason and posted wins over Virginia Tech and West Virginia before the contest with UK. CCU started junior left-hander Matt Laney, turned in 4.1 innings, with two hits, two runs, four walks and five strikeouts. Laney hit four UK batters, including Wright twice. Ryan Connolly tossed a scoreless inning with one hit allowed, before turning it over to left-hander Keith Hessler (0-1), who took the loss despite going three innings with only one hit and one unearned run allowed. CCU used right-hander Austin Fleet, who started against UK last season, for the final two outs.
At the plate, UK mustered only four hits but drew five walks and got plunked by four Laney pitches. UK got hits from Bisson, Wright, Gunner Glad and Taylor Black in the game, with Black charting the only extra-base hit, a double down the left-field line. Glad and Bisson each totaled an RBI, with Wright, Kapteyn and Neiko Johnson scoring runs.
Overall for the weekend, UK was led by Keenan Wiley, who batted .455 (5-for-11), with two doubles a homer and four RBI. Nidiffer finished the three games hitting .429 (3-for-7), with four runs and two RBI, drawing five walks and reaching base safely in 12-of-15 plate appearances. Bisson, a third-team preseason All-America selection by Baseball America, added four RBI and a .400 (6-for-15) average.
Kentucky (3-0) returns to action Wednesday with the home opener, facing Murray State at 4 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with the Voice of UK Baseball Neil Price, calling the action. The game can be heard on WGVN 1580-AM live in Lexington and live on UKathletics.com.
“This win means a lot,” Kapteyn said. “Coming into their territory, they are a really good team, a top-25 team, it means a lot. To be able to stick with them in a close game means a lot and to pull out a win is a big confidence boost.”
The win marks UK’s first win against Coastal Carolina since 1991, with CCU owning a 4-2 overall lead in the series. UK had lost four consecutive games to the Chanticleers, including two games in 2009, by a combined score of 18-6.
The Wildcats got the first run of the game in the top of the second, taking advantage of the wildness of Laney. Johnson got hit by a one-out pitch and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Bisson scored Johnson with a laser single up the middle.
CCU got on the board in the second inning, as catcher Jose Iglesias led off with a single up the middle, his first hit of the season, and Chance Gilmore singled into right field to more Iglesias to second base. A perfectly-placed sacrifice bunt by shortstop Taylor Motter moved both runners into scoring position and second baseman Steve Davis scored Iglesias with a first-pitch laser single into left field.
In the fifth inning, UK pushed across a run, taking the lead and chasing Laney from the mound. Kapteyn drew a one-out walk, moving to second after Nidiffer worked his second walk of the game. After a pitching change, CCU switched to the sidearm right-hander Connolly, who Glad tagged for an RBI single up the middle.
Coastal answered with a two-out run to even up the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth. After Darnell got the first two hitters, Noel lined a double down the left-field line. Tommy La Stella followed and chopped what looked like a routine grounder to Bisson at second base but the ball took a wicked bounce and hopped up around his left ear, going as an RBI infield single, with the speedy Noel scoring from second.
Head Coach Gary Henderson Post-Game Quotes
On the win over No. 12 Coastal Carolina …
“Well, anytime you beat a ranked team on the road it is a big win for the program. I was extremely pleased with the poise that we showed after the second inning. I was really proud of Logan Darnell and Braden Kapteyn on the mound. I thought our hitters, although they certainly weren’t sharp today, they did a great job of hanging with it, staying tough and competing until the very end. I am just really proud of the program.”
On the performance of Braden Kapteyn on the mound …
“Well Kapteyn has grown up a little bit. We will see how he goes next time out but that is an outing that he couldn’t have had last year. Obviously he has improved dramatically physically and emotionally. That is the type of performance that you can build a bullpen around.”
On the pitching performance of Logan Darnell …
“It is pretty obvious that he was overly excited the first couple of innings but he did a great job of dialing it back a little bit, getting his thoughts and his emotions under control. Six innings of two-run and two walks is a pretty impressive outing for his first start here. I was really proud of his performance.”
Kentucky Sophomore Braden Kapteyn Post-Game Quotes
On what the win means to the program …
“This win means a lot. Coming into their territory, they are a really good team, a top-25 team, it means a lot. To be able to stick with them in a close game means a lot and to pull out a win is a big confidence boost.”
On his pitching performance …
“I just wanted to come in and fill up the zone. Compared to where I was in the bullpen, I filled it up a little better. I was a little erratic in the bullpen, may have been a little bit of nerves. But when I got out there I was ready to go and was just trying to blow it by them.”
On his mentality on the mound after UK scored the go-ahead run in the ninth …
“Pretty much I was just thinking that I have to shut them down. I just wanted to go out there the same, the same thoughts I had the first two innings. I just wanted to throw strikes and force some soft contact and if I can get them to swing and miss, then get it done.”