Baseball's Dream Season Ends in NCAA Tournament
LEXINGTON – The magic finally ran out on the Kentucky baseball team as College of Charleston ended the Wildcats storybook season on Sunday night with a 7-4 victory in front of a packed house at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
All season long, the Wildcats found ways to win, going 9-5 in one-run games and coming from behind 25 times in their school-record 44 wins. However, on Sunday, UK dug itself a 6-0 first-inning hole and could not find its way out.
Early on it seemed as if Kentucky would, once again, rally from an insurmountable deficit. The Wildcats chipped away at starter Danny Meszaros for one run in the first and three more in the second.
Senior Michael Bertram, playing what would be his last game in a UK uniform, drove in Antone DeJesus for UK’s first run. DeJesus pulled the Wildcats to within 6-4 in the second with a three-run homer to right. It was the fifth home run of the season for DeJesus, all coming in the friendly confines of Cliff Hagan Stadium.
With each out on defense, the crowd of 3,319 became louder and Kentucky’s future seemed brighter. At the plate, UK was doing as it had all season. In the third, Ryan Wilkes drew a one-out walk and Justin Scutchfield was hit by a pitch to bring the go-ahead run to plate.
At that point, College of Charleston coach John Pawlowski had seen enough and went to the pen. He brought on Quinn Monsma, who promptly walked the first batter he faced to load the bases with one out.
From then on, Kentucky could not get a break. DeJesus struck out and Collin Cowgill flew out to end the inning without a runner crossing the plate. For the game the Wildcats were just 6-for-22 with men on base, including 2-for-10 when they were in scoring position.
The Wildcats best scoring chance the rest of the way came in the seventh when they loaded the bases after three straight men reached with two outs. C of C closer Josh McLaughlin came on and Sean Coughlin got under a pitch, popping out to end the threat. He earned his 15th save of the year.
The dream season, which included the school’s first Southeastern Conference championship and first NCAA bid since 1993, ended in the ninth with a runner on first when DeJesus flied out to right. The man left was the 15th UK stranded in the game, a season high.
In the disastrous first, Aaron Tennyson began on fire. Starting for the first time in 16 days, he struck out the first two batters he faced, but the dam broke when Larry Cobb sent a the first pitch he saw over the scoreboard in right field. A pair of singles and a walk later, the bases were loaded. Tennyson proceeded to hit Graham Maiden to force in a run before Phillip Coker blasted a grand-slam to make it 6-0.
After two more infield singles, Tennyson finally got out of the inning when Chris Campbell – the 11th Cougar to come to the plate – flied out.
Monsma went on to work 4 1/3 innings, allowing only three hits to improve to 7-2. Kentucky was able to get men on base, drawing three walks off him. However, UK couldn’t bring them home, stranding at least one runner in each of the first seven innings.
Meanwhile, Zach Dials was brilliant in relief of Tennyson. He hurled the final eight innings of the game – a career best -- while allowing a single run on eight hits. Tennyson took the loss, falling to 4-3 on the year.
Dials’ only blemish came in the fourth when the Cougars pushed one run across. After back-to-back singles to open the frame, the Wildcats conceded a run to get the double play.
College of Charleston improved to 46-15 on the year and advanced to a Super Regional for the first time in school history. Kentucky’s season ended with a 44-17 record.