In what was a back-and-forth thriller, Kentucky fell just short of a massive series victory over the No. 1 team in the country, LSU. After the Tigers took the lead in the bottom of the eighth, the ‘Cats failed to respond in the top of the ninth to fall 7-6.
Even with the series loss, the ‘Cats showed that they can hang with anybody in college baseball, an extremely encouraging sign with postseason play on the horizon. After taking a 6-4 lead in the top of the seventh, UK failed to contain the stellar LSU offense. The decision to walk Dylan Crews to load the bases with Tommy White up to bat was definitely a questionable call that came back to bite the Bat Cats in the end.
LSU Jumps Out to Early Lead… Again
For the third consecutive game, LSU jumped to an early lead over the Wildcats. LSU’s Christian Little breezed through the top of the Kentucky lineup, quickly putting the Tigers back up to bat in the bottom of the second. After Kentucky starting pitcher Tyler Bosma quickly sat down the first two LSU batters of the inning, Jared “Bear” Jones stepped up to the plate. Jones, who is one of the most heralded freshmen in the nation, launched a deep home run to left field to get the Tigers on the board first.
LSU added to their lead in the bottom of the third in similar fashion. Once again, Bosma forced a quick two outs, bringing Tre’ Morgan up to bat. Morgan kept the inning going on a single through the left side. Superstar Dylan Crews built on this, smacking another single past shortstop Grant Smith to put runners on first and second for the Tigers. With Tommy White up to bat, this game had the potential to be busted wide open. White swung on the first pitch and chopped one to Jase Felker at third. Felker’s throw to first was off the bag, allowing Morgan to score. Crews got greedy and headed towards third but was thrown out by Gilliam to end the inning.
Just as they did on Friday, Kentucky fell behind early but mounted a quick comeback. After all nine Wildcat batters went down in order to start this one, signs of life began to show in the top of the fourth. LSU’s Christian Little, who was dominating early, began to struggle. Little walked the first two batters of the inning before recording an out. Following Pitre’s reach on a fielder’s choice, Little walked Gilliam, loading the bases for Devin Burkes. Little was replaced by Gavin Guidry, who immediately threw a wild pitch in the dirt. Jackson Gray darted home for the score, cutting the LSU lead in half. After walking Burkes, Guidry forced a strike out and a ground out to get out of an ugly inning for the Tigers.
Walks became contagious between the two starting pitchers as Tyler Bosma began the bottom of the fourth walking three Tigers with a strike out sprinkled in there. He was replaced by Austin Strickland, who forced a clutch double play to get out of the inning. The ‘Cats tied this game up with some small ball. Kentucky has repeatedly shown that they are the best small ball team in the country. After Nolan McCarthy walked and reached second on a wild pitch, back-to-back bunts from Grant Smith and Jackson Gray scored McCarthy knotting this one up at two midway through five.
‘Cats and Tigers Trade Punches
After Kentucky tied the contest, LSU regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Milazzo kicked off the half inning with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Milazzo advanced to third on a Tre’ Morgan ground out and scored on a Tommy White ground out to short. They built it piece by piece, but the Tigers managed to take the lead on just one hit from Alex Milazzo. As has been the trend this series, it didn’t take long for the ‘Cats to respond.
Devin Burkes and Jase Felker kicked off the top of the sixth with back-to-back singles putting runners on first and second with no outs. After Chase Stanke struck out, Nick Mingione pulled off a gutsy double steal of second and third. Burkes slid into third just in time setting himself up to score on a Nolan McCarthy groundout. Kentucky ties it back up at three, but that wouldn’t sustain.
After forcing a groundout to begin the bottom of the sixth, Austin Strickland quick pitched Jared Jones. Jones, who was visibly frustrated, made Strickland pay. Jones launched his second mammoth home run of the game (453 feet) to give the Tigers the lead once again. He *really* let Strickland know about that one, mouthing some not-so-nice words to the junior righty. The LSU bench received a warning, but that was it. Stricky got out the inning with just one run surrendered.
All Rise for the Captain
Many fans thought that Jared Jones statement home run might just swing momentum towards the Tigers, but that was not the case. These resilient Wildcats just don’t stop fighting. Jackson Gray kicked off the top of the seventh in style, doubling to left center field to get the Wildcat bats going. A walk by Pitre had runners on first and second for the slumping Hunter Gilliam. Gilliam, who came up to the plate with just two hits in nine at-bats this series, smoked a double to the right field wall, driving in two runs to give Kentucky the lead once again.
Devin Burkes flied out, but it was deep enough to move Gilliam to third. Jase Felker continued the hit parade knocking an RBI-single to right field to drive in yet another run for Kentucky. Suddenly, the Wildcats found themselves with a two-run lead midway through seven.
As has been the trend all game, no one team can lead for very long. Zack Lee made his first relief appearance of the season in the seventh and sat down back-to-back batters after a leadoff hit. With two outs in the inning, the relentless Tigers tied this game back up (again). On a 2-2 count, Jordan Thompson belted an RBI double down the third base line bringing the Tigers to within one. Cade Beloso was up to bat next and smacked an RBI single to right field on yet another two-strike count driving in Thompson to tie this game. Both teams refused to lose.
Intentional Walk Sinks ‘Cats
For the first time since the third inning, Kentucky failed to score in a frame. Heading into the bottom of the eighth tied up, LSU finally took control.
After Jobert and Milazzo reached to start the inning, Dylan Crews walked up to bat. Coach Nick Mingione made the gutsy decision to intentionally walk Crews, loading the bases for LSU’s RBI leader Tommy White. The crowd at Alex Box Stadium roared as White was plunked to drive in the winning run for the Bayou Bengals.
LSU’s Bryce Collins, who entered in the bottom of the seventh, allowed just one hit. Collins forced a Jase Felker groundout to end the game as the ‘Cats fall just short of a massive series victory.
With the loss, Kentucky falls to 28-7 on the season. The ‘Cats will be back in action on Tuesday when they host Xavier at Kentucky Proud Park for their first home game in two weeks. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. EST. Pack KPP.
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