Kentucky Falls in NCAA Opener to Ball State
LEXINGTON – Ben Snyder was nearly flawless for eight innings in shutting down Kentucky’s powerful offense on Friday night to carry fourth-seeded Ball State to a 3-1 opening round upset over the top-seeded Wildcats on Friday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
A school-record 3,529 fans came out to see the first regional ever hosted by the Big Blue and got pitchers duel down to the final out. Snyder and UK starter Craig Snipp each performed magnificently with the difference being Justin Rogers two-run single in the eighth that snapped a 1-1 tie.
Snyder worked eight innings, allowing only one run on four hits while fanning nine. He constantly worked ahead of the Wildcat batters and threw just 107 pitches. His only blemish came when Shaun Lehmann doubled to open the fifth and came home on Collin Cowgill’s sacrifice fly.
With the win, Snyder improved to 8-5 on the year. Kyle Heyne pitched a scoreless ninth for his 12th save of the year.
Kentucky returns to action on Saturday at 2 p.m. against No. 3-seed Notre Dame in an elimination game. Ball State faces College of Charleston, which won a 16-inning epic earlier on Friday, in the winner’s bracket game at 7 p.m. Tickets are still available for both games.
Snipp matched Snyder zero for zero most of the way, giving up only a single run in the first seven innings. Three straight one-out singles loaded the bases before Snipp got a big strikeout of Matt Gard for the second out.
However, leadoff man Eric Earnhart bounced a single through the right side – the third groundball hit of the frame – for a 1-0 lead. From right field, Collin Cowgill gunned down Kyle Dygert going for a second run to end the inning.
In the decisive eighth, Matt Singleton grounded a single through the hole at third to leadoff. An out later, Brad Miller fought one off the handle which landed inches the left field line for a double. That ended Snipp’s night and brought on UK closer Andrew Albers.
Rogers got both men home as he reached out and slapped one the opposite way, just inside the bag for the game-winning single.
Kentucky produced a base runner in both the eighth and ninth, but could not mount a rally. In fact, UK’s biggest scoring threats came in the first and third, the only two times they put two men on base.
In the first, Cowgill reached on a one-out walk and Strieby moved him to third with a single. However, Sean Coughlin and John Shelby each struck out to end rally. Two innings later, an error, walk and double steal put runners on second and third for Coughlin. Again, Snyder got him to go down swinging and end the inning.