Bernal's Walk-off Single in 14th Lifts Baseball to 6-5 Win
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Thomas Bernal’s walk-off single in the bottom of the 14th inning completed a dramatic comeback 6-5 win for Kentucky over Nebraska-Omaha, making UK’s Gary Henderson the fastest coach in program history to achieve 200 career wins, on a cold and windy Friday morning at North County Regional Park.
After the Wildcats blew a three-run lead in the eighth inning, Kentucky mounted a furious rally in the bottom of the ninth inning, plating three runs to push the game to extra innings.
The two teams traded scoreless frames until the bottom of the 14th inning, when Storm Wilson laid down a perfect one-out bunt single and JaVon Shelby beat out an infield knock up the middle. UNO elected to intentionally walk clean-up hitter Ka’ai Tom to set up the force at any base and bring the infield in. Bernal drilled a 0-2 offering high to third base, with the attempted snag falling short and allowing Wilson to scamper home with the walk-off run.
The offensive heroics came a half inning after Wilson and catcher Zach Arnold teamed up for a defensive gem. With the bases loaded and one out, UK turned to reliever Andrew Nelson to attempt to get out of the jam in the top of the 14th inning. Nelson got clean-up hitter Andrew Mortensen to fly out to rightfield, with Wilson charging and throwing a one-hop strike to Arnold, who picked the ball and applied the tag to keep the game even at five.
Kentucky (4-3) fell behind after an unearned run in the first inning, before UK rallied to tie the game with a run in the fourth and took a lead in the sixth with a second run. After getting the first two outs in the eighth, UK surrendered six consecutive hits that allowed four runs to score and give the Mavericks a 5-2 lead. Down to its last at-bat, UK mounted a three-run rally to force extra innings.
The Wildcats were led at the plate by a three-hit game from Bernal and Wilson. Tom and Kyle Barrett each collected two hits, with Shelby, Arnold, Evan White and Greg Fettes each charting hits. Fettes’ laser off the wall in rightfield in the ninth inning set up UK’s comeback win. White, a freshman first baseman, made two sparkling defensive gems and extended his hitting streak to seven games.
UK starter Dustin Beggs worked a career-long 7.1 innings, allowing seven hits and one unearned run, not issuing a walk and striking out five. With one out in the eighth, UK turned to sophomore southpaw Logan Salow to face a pair of lefties, getting one out and surrendering two hits. With the game-tying and go-ahead runners on base in the eighth, Spencer Jack got the call for a four-out save. Jack allowed four hits and two runs, with UNO taking a 5-2 lead. Freshman Brad Schaenzer got UK out of the jam in the eighth inning and worked three sparkling innings, allowing just one hit and striking out four. Schaenzer had his streak of six consecutive hitless innings in his NCAA debut snapped with a single.
UK used Zach Strecker to get an out in extras, before Dylan Dwyer took over. Dwyer worked 2.1 shutout innings, allowing just one hit, walking three and striking out one.
Nelson (2-0) picked up the win, throwing one pitch that resulted in the inning-ending double play in the 14th inning.
Nebraska-Omaha (4-5) starter Tyler Fox worked six innings, allowing three hits and two runs, walking one and striking out two. UNO used Brett Sasse, Cole Volkers and Gregg Gausden (1-2) in relief.
UK will return to action on Saturday with a twinbill at the same facility. UK will face Nebraska-Omaha at 11 a.m. before facing off with Northeastern in the nightcap at 2:30 p.m. The two games will be broadcast live on the UK Radio Network, with Dick Gabriel voicing the action. UK will turn to junior right-hander Kyle Cody (0-1, 9.00 ERA) in the opener and sophomore Zack Brown (0-1, 4.76 ERA) in the nightcap.
Nebraska-Omaha got on the board in the top of the first inning, as Clayton Taylor led off with double down the line and Schultz singled to a diving Shelby at second base. Alex Schultz then stole second base with one out and Taylor at third, with the throw skidding away from the second base bag to allow Taylor to score.
UK got the run back in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Barrett led off with a single into leftfield and Wilson followed with a knock into shallow right. After Shelby was plunked by a three-ball offering, Tom hung a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Barrett.
The Wildcats took the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Carson led off with a full-count walk, stealing second with Barrett at the plate. After a line out, Wilson smashed a RBI single down the rightfield line, scoring Carson and giving UK a 2-1 lead.
Nebraska-Omaha rallied with two outs in the eighth inning, plating four runs on six consecutive two-out hits, taking a 5-2 lead.
UK mounted a rally in the ninth inning, as Tom singled to leadoff, Bernal was hit by a pitch and White singled through the left side. After a strikeout, Fettes scored one and re-loaded the bases with a line drive off the rightfield wall. After the second out, Barrett came through with a two-out, two-RBI single through the right side, evening up the game at 5-5.
GAME NOTES: Sophomore second baseman JaVon Shelby made his team-leading 59th consecutive start … Junior righty Dustin Beggs made his third start on a weekend opener … Junior centerfielder Kyle Barrett played in his team-best 99th career game and started his club-high 83rd game … Barrett stole his first base of the year and the 15th of his career … Sophomore rightfielder Storm Wilson stole his team-leading fifth base of the year and the eighth of his career … Junior leftfielder Ka’ai Tom hung his second sac fly of the year and the fourth of his career … Beggs picked off the first runner for the Wildcats in 2015 … Shelby was hit by his seventh career pitch … Sophomore Marcus Carson stole his first base of the year and the third of his career … Beggs set a new career high with seven innings and had UK’s first quality start of the year … Sophomore Logan Salow made his third appearance of the year and the 26th of his career … Senior Spencer Jack made his third appearance of the year and the 29th of his career … Freshman Brad Schaenzer made his second appearance of the year … Freshman first baseman Evan White extended his hitting streak to a club-high seven games … Schaenzer worked six consecutive hitless innings to open his career … Junior lefty Dylan Dwyer made his 31st career appearance … Senior righty Andrew Nelson made his 23rd career appearance … Senior third baseman Thomas Bernal was hit by his 28th career pitch, moving him into a tie with Chad Wright for seventh in UK history … Bernal laid down his second sac bunt of the year and the ninth of his career … Wilson charted his second career outfield assist and his first of the year … UK played in its 39th extra-inning game since 2003 and the 18th of the Coach Gary Henderson era … UK’s 14-inning game marked its longest since playing 18 innings at Western Kentucky in 2013 … Nelson won his second game of the year and the fourth of his career … UK coach Gary Henderson won his 200th career game in his 354th career contest, making him the fastest coach in UK history to win 200 games.