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Kentucky downs Auburn 9-1 to clinch fifth straight SEC series win

IMG_8756by:Daniel Hager04/12/24

DanielHagerKSR

No. 8 Kentucky Baseball has officially opened conference play with five straight SEC series victories after taking down Auburn 9-1 Friday night.

The road warrior Cats also improved to 8-1 on the road in conference play, which is best in the SEC. Kentucky is now 29-5 (13-1) on the season.

Florida, who was the No. 1 seed in last season’s SEC Tournament, was 10-4 through its first 14 conference games. A top four seed and a potential first-round bye is entirely in play for the Wildcats as of now.

Eight different Wildcat batters finished with at least one hit and five different batters hit a home run. Ryan Nicholson belted two home runs for the second time in four games, and Ryan Waldschmidt and Nolan McCarthy both notched three hits apiece.

Kentucky’s 13-1 start to SEC play is the best in program history. The Cats have a chance to clinch their fourth overall and third consecutive conference series sweep on Saturday in the series finale.

Players of the Game

  • 1B Ryan Nicholson: Nicholson blasted two home runs for the second time in four games. He finished with three total RBI.
  • LF Ryan Waldschmidt: Waldschmidt went 3-4 at the plate Friday night with a solo home run and two RBI.
  • RHP Dominic Niman: Niman continued his recent dominance with 5 1/3 one-run innings. The left-hander has allowed just seven hits and one earned run over his last 14 1/3 innings pitched.

Bat Cats open game with three solo home runs

Kentucky entered the weekend tied for 12th in the SEC in total home runs hit, but showed its power prowess early on Saturday.

After a scoreless first inning, Ryan Nicholson continued his red-hot run at the plate in the top of the second.

On a 3-1 count, Nicholson lofted a solo home run to deep center field, bringing in Kentucky’s first run of the game.

The Cats came back up to bat in the top of the third, wasting absolutely zero time in putting more runs on the board.

Grant Smith swung at the first pitch of the inning, blasting it over the left field fence for his fourth home run of the season. All four of those long balls have come over the last seven games.

Ryan Waldschmidt kept the momentum flowing, following Smith’s home run up with one of his own on the next pitch from Auburn right-handed pitcher Chase Allsup. Two home runs on two pitches for the Bat Cats to open the third propelled them to a 3-0 lead.

Kentucky offense keeps on delivering

The runs didn’t stop after the back-to-back home runs, as Nick Lopez doubled down the first base line with two outs to prolong the third inning. Lopez is up to 14 doubles on the season, which ranks second in the SEC.

Mitch Daly followed Lopez with a double of his own, scoring Lopez from second for Kentucky’s fourth run of the game.

Kentucky tacked on two more runs in the fourth on a Nolan McCarthy solo home run and an RBI-single from Ryan Waldschmidt, marking his second RBI of the game.

Saturday marked the first time this season five different Wildcat batters have hit solo home runs.

Niman DOMinant once again

Just six days after pitching a complete game shutout against then No. 13 ranked Alabama, Kentucky left-hander and reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week Dominic Niman dominated once again Friday night.

Niman pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed just four hits and one earned run. He struck out four batters.

His earned run didn’t score until he was replaced in the sixth inning. A runner he put on base with a walk scored via an RBI sac-fly with Jackson Nove on the mound.

Niman’s scoreless inning streak reached 15 1/3 innings, which was his longest streak of the season.

Pitre and Nicholson longballs cement series victory

The Kentucky offense put the final nail in the coffin in the ninth to cement the series victory.

The Cats hadn’t scored since the fourth inning until Emilien Pitre led off the final inning with a solo home run, the fifth of the day for Kentucky. Pitre is up to five home runs this season, which is now tied for second most on the team.

If hopes of an Auburn comeback were on the mind of anyone, Ryan Nicholson completely shut those down.

Nicholson blasted his second home run of the game in the ninth, a two-run shot to propel the Cats ahead by eight. He’s up to nine home runs on the season in total, with five coming over the last four games.

Right-hander Cam O’Brien and lefties Jackson Nove and Evan Byers pitched the final 3 2/3 innings in relief for the Cats, allowing just two hits and no runs. For the second consecutive game, the Cats cemented the win with a game-ending double play.

What’s next for No. 8 Kentucky?

The Cats and Tigers finish out their weekend series Saturday at 3:00 p.m. EST. Game three will be broadcasted on SEC Network+.

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2024-05-23