Murray State Hands No. 20 Baseball Midweek Loss
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Despite committing six errors, leaving 10 runners on base and falling behind by six runs in the fourth inning, the No. 20 Kentucky baseball team mounted a valiant comeback to bring the go-ahead run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth but Murray State held off the UK rally and posted a 7-5 win on Monday evening at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (13-3) committed a season-high six errors in the game, with five coming in the first four innings. UK's six errors are the most committed by a team in the Southeastern Conference this season. The six errors are the most since committing six in 2005 in a March 6 game against Toledo.
Murray State (7-8) starter Dan Huff (1-2) turned in a gutsy performance, tossing 131 pitches and going eight innings, allowing four UK runs before Murray State Friday night ace Chris Craycraft - who threw 104 pitches Friday night - came on to throw the bottom of the ninth.
The Wildcats fell behind 7-1 entering the bottom of the fourth inning and slowly started narrowing the gap, plating single runs in the bottom of the fourth, fifth and sixth inning, cutting it to 7-4 entering the bottom of the ninth inning.
In a quirky game that saw UK play 17 players, including putting reliever Nick Kennedy at first base for an inning just so he could remain in the game to pitch later, UK brought freshman catcher Luke Maile - who had been inserted to play first base - to the plate to lead off the bottom of the ninth and UK trailing 7-4. Maile drew a walk, leftfielder Chad Wright singled through the right side and Andy Burns drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. With Kennedy, a junior 160-pound right-handed reliever due up in the No. 4 spot in the order, UK brought preseason All-American Chris Bisson to the plate with the bases juiced, down three and no one out. Bisson, who has sat out the previous five games after suffering a broken nose after getting plunked in the face by a fastball, came off the bench to face his first live pitching since March 6. Bisson took the first pitch for a strike then roped a single into centerfield, scoring one, leaving the bases loaded with no outs and extending his hitting streak to 11 games. That brought slugger Cory Farris to the plate as the go-ahead run and he chopped a grounder to first base with Wes Cunningham, the Murray State first baseman, quickly stepping on the base and firing to home plate to get Wright for the second out, who was blocked nicely from the dish by catcher Jason Laws, who absorbed the collision with Wright. Gunner Glad came up next with the game-tying run on second base in the form of Burns but he hung a fly ball into leftfield for Murray State to escape with the win.
UK starter Sam Kidd (1-1) was chased in the fourth inning, allowing four hits and seven runs - five earned - in his 3.1 innings of action, walking one and striking out one, pitching in a tough situation throughout the four innings due to defensive miscues. UK then turned to reliever Braden Kapteyn, who pitched 1.1 innings, walking two, allowing one hit and striking out one. Kennedy kept UK in the ballgame, hurling 3.2 shutout innings, allowing two hits and striking out a career-best four without issuing a walk. UK also used southpaw Mike Kaczmarek for two outs in a pressure-laden situation in the top of the eighth - with Kennedy moving to first base to accommodate Kaczmarek. On the year now, Kennedy - who pitched just twice last season due to injury - has tossed 6.2 innings, allowing four this and no runs, walking one and striking out seven.
Huff, a senior who leads Murray State (7-8) with three saves, frustrated UK hitters in his third start of the season, going eight innings allowing 10 hits, four runs and three earned runs while striking out six and walking two. Huff was relieved after the eighth inning by Chris Craycraft, a Lexington native. Chris Craycraft got the final three outs, allowing two hits, one run and issuing two walks in the game, tossing 24 pitches.
UK got three solo home runs in the game, as Kapteyn, Glad and Wright each belted home runs, with Kapteyn's coming in the second inning, his first roundtripper of the year. Glad went 3-for-5 with his second homer of the year and Wright added a 3-for-4, one-walk outing, belting his second jack of the season and adding a double. Burns, a native of Fort Collins, Colo., added a hit to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games and Keenan Wiley went 1-for-4 to stretch his streak to 10 games, with Kapteyn's homer extending his streak to nine consecutive contests.
Kentucky returns to action Wednesday, hosting Wright State in the final non-conference tune-up before Southeastern Conference play begins over the weekend. First pitch Wednesday at Cliff Hagan Stadium is slated for 6:30 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Wright State, the defending Horizon League champions and 2009 participant in the NCAA Tournament, has had a brutally tough early-season schedule but managed to spring a 2-1 upset at No. 1 Virginia on March 5.
The win was the first for Murray State over Kentucky in 13 years, dating back to a loss in 1997 on the road. The win in Lexington for the Breds was just the second in program history and the first since the first-ever meeting between the two schools, 1952. UK still owns a 10-5 overall lead in the series, winning eight of the last nine meetings.
Cunningham, who entered the game as the school career-record holder in batting average (.396), led the way for Murray State, going 3-for-5 with four RBI in the game.
Murray State took a 1-0 lead with a single run in the top of the second, taking advantage of two errors in the inning. Laws led off by hitting a grounder to first base but the ball skidded away for an error. The next hitter, Colton Moore lined a perfect double play grounder at second base, but UK threw the ball into its dugout, allowing both runners to move into scoring position. After Lexington native Jonathan Craycraft popped out, Bryan Propst scored Laws with an RBI groundout.
UK answered in the bottom half of the inning behind Kapteyn, with the slugger belting a lead-off solo homer over the left-field fence, for his first homer of the year.
The Thoroughbreds plated three runs in the top of the third, as Cunningham ripped his sixth homer of the year, a three-run job into the video board in left-centerfield.
Murray State added three runs in the fourth inning, as Jonathan Craycraft reached on a lead-off error and Propst singled through the left side of the infield. After Cory Hodskins laid down a sacrifice bunt to move runners into scoring position, Brandon Elliot singled into rightfield to score Craycraft. UK then turned to Kapteyn, who hit the first batter he faced to load the bags and walked Elliot Frey to bring home a run and keep the bases loaded. Cunningham then added his fourth RBI with a single poked into rightfield. Kapteyn then got UK out of the jam by inducing a 3-6-1 ground-ball double play.
UK answered with a run in the bottom of the fourth, as Farris lined a one-out single off the glove of Cunningham into rightfield. Glad followed and with the third baseman playing deep on the left side, laid down a bunt single to put runners on first and second. Wiley then hit a grounder at first base but Cunningham committed a throwing error to load the bases with one out. Michael Williams followed and grounded out to Cunningham at first base, enabling Farris to score.
The Wildcats put up a run in the bottom of the fifth inning, cutting the Murray State lead to 7-3. After Lance Ray grounded out to second base, Wright drilled a 3-2 offering from Huff into the party deck in right-centerfield, for his second homer of the season.
Glad did more damage in the bottom of the sixth, ripping a lead-off homer into the video board in left-centerfield, his second jack of the season.