“The sign when you walk into our dugout clearly says that victory needs to be earned every day and that’s what our team did. We’ve earned another opportunity to play.”
It may not have been easy, it definitely wasn’t pretty, but the Kentucky Wildcats clinched a spot in the SEC Tournament with a 6-3 win over the Auburn Tigers.
The ‘Cats get a gem from Mason Hazelwood
Regardless of what else they needed to go on around the SEC on Saturday, Kentucky was still in a position to control its own destiny. Looking at a win-and-in situation, Head Coach Nick Mingione had to go to arguably his most consistent and reliable arm.
Mason Hazelwood took the mound for the Wildcats and did everything he could to try and secure a spot in the postseason. Things got off to a bit of an inauspicious for the Salvisa, Ky. native as Hazelwood allowed an RBI double off the center field wall to give Auburn the initial lead in the first inning.
Hazelwood completely shut it down after the hit, retiring 13 straight batters before a near two-hour lightning delay knocked him out of the game.
“I was heartbroken,” Hazelwood put bluntly about having to leave his final start at home early. ‘It’s just been my dream here to have the ‘hats off’ last pitch here and it tore me up a little bit knowing this is where it ends.”
Once the ‘Cats went back onto the field, Tyler Guilfoil was now on the mound. The Lexington (Ky.) Lafayette High product continued his stellar season allowing two runs over the final four innings. His regular season ERA finishes at the 1.57 mark.
Bats wake up late to clinch a postseason birth
If taking it down to the last day wasn’t stressful enough for the BBN, the Bat ‘Cats made sure that we had to wait most of the game before feeling any sense of optimism. Heading into the sixth, Kentucky had only picked up three hits on the day and didn’t look particularly dangerous at any point.
That is until a four-hit, five-run sixth inning opened up the lead and a sense of hope resonated back within Kentucky Proud Park. Daniel Harris got it all started with a leadoff double to kick off the inning. He was then able to utilize his speed to the fullest, scampering home from second base on an errant throw.
Three walks later and the ‘Cats were set up with the bases loaded for Jake Plastiak. One of the seniors and de facto leaders of the team, it’s almost too perfect that he was the one to cash in on the opportunity. Plastiak lined a two RBI single just over the reach of the Auburn shortstop to give the Wildcats the lead.
“I don’t always have to hit a home run, my teammates did a great job getting on base for me so all I needed was a single,” Plastiak said after the win. “It felt really good to get it done for my teammates.”
Back-to-back RBI singles from John Thrasher and Hunter Jump increased to tally up to five for the ‘Cats.
The weekend was fun, but we’re going to have to run it back. The Cats are set up to play Auburn once again in the first round of the SEC Tournament on Tuesday.