Kentucky falls to Tennessee 13-11 to drop first SEC series of season

IMG_8756by:Daniel Hager04/21/24

DanielHagerKSR

No. 3 Kentucky fell to No. 4 Tennessee 13-11 in the series finale on Sunday, dropping its first SEC series of the season.

The game featured 28 hits, 24 runs, 10 combined home runs, and four lead changes. The Cats and Vols combined for 19 home runs over the three-game span.

Tennessee’s Christian Moore absolutely killed the Cats on Sunday. Moore went 4-5 at the plate with three home runs, a double, and six RBI. Moore is just one of seven Tennessee players ever to hit three home runs in a game.

“Our inability to minimize and lack of execution cost us,” Nick Mingione said postgame.

In positive news however, 6,797 fans attended Sunday’s game, bringing the weekend total to over 21,000 fans. That set a new Kentucky Proud Park record and a Kentucky Baseball program record.

With the loss, Kentucky dropped to 32-7 (15-3) on the season. The Cats however still remain three games ahead of Tennessee in the SEC East.

Players of the Game:

  • LF Ryan Waldschmidt: Waldschmidt’s tear at the plate bled into Sunday, as he went 2-5 with a two-run double. Waldschmidt looks well on his way to earning SEC Player of the Week honors.
  • SS Grant Smith: Smith’s two run home run in the sixth inning propelled Kentucky to lead.
  • 3B Mitch Daly: Daly went 3-5 at the plate on Sunday with two solo home runs.

Tennessee power surge continues

Tennessee blasted five home runs in its 9-4 win over the Cats on Saturday. The Vols picked up right where they left off early on Sunday, adding to their nation-leading home run total.

After a scoreless first two innings, Mason Moore sat the first two hitters down to start the third. He however walked the nine-hole hitter Cal Stark, putting a runner on with two outs for the red-hot Christian Moore.

The Tennessee second baseman made Moore pay, as he lifted a two-run home run over the right field wall to propel the Volunteers to an early 2-0 lead.

Cats tie game via the longball

Kentucky fell behind early just as they did on Saturday, but the Comeback Cats reared their heads on Sunday.

In the bottom of the third, a less than 100% Devin Burkes blasted a solo home run to pull the Cats within one, his third of the season and just his first in SEC play. With that hamstring continuing to bother him, it looked like prime David Ortiz was rounding the bases.

Ryan Waldschmidt and Emilien Pitre followed Burkes’ longball with back-to-back singles, which put runners on first and second with just one out. The Cats however failed to capitalize, continuing their struggles with runners in scoring position this weekend.

They did tie the game in the fourth inning however, thanks to a Mitch Daly leadoff solo home run over the right field wall. The wind was really carrying out to right, and willed Daly’s knock just over the fence. It traveled just 350 feet, one of the shortest Wildcat home runs of the season.

Kentucky takes lead on six unanswered runs

Following Mitch Daly’s game-tying home run, the Cats continued their big day at the plate with two more runs in the inning.

Ryan Nicholson singled and Nolan McCarthy was hit by a pitch, putting two more runners on. McCarthy flexed towards the Wildcat dugout after he was plunked, drawing an objection from Tennessee catcher Cal Stark. McCarthy and Stark exchanged pleasantries, which drew a warning from home plate umpire Eric Gorhay.

Devin Burkes was hit by a pitch as well, loading the bases for the scorching hot Ryan Waldschmidt. Waldschmidt delivered, as he roped a two-run double down the right field line to give Kentucky its first lead in the last 12 1/3 innings of game action.

The Cats tacked on two more runs on an Emilien Pitre RBI sac-fly and a Nolan McCarthy RBI-single in the fifth, taking a 6-2 lead.

Mason Moore’s rough exit puts stain on start

Kentucky right-hander Mason Moore made his 10th start of the season for the Cats on Sunday and had what was a quality start tainted by a rough sixth inning.

Over his first five innings pitched, Moore allowed just two hits and two earned runs with two strikeouts. He however ran into big-time trouble in the sixth, as he gave up four hits and three earned runs prior to his exit.

“This was a good example of just a lack of execution,” Nick Mingione said postgame. “When you have two good teams, both offenses made each other pay.”

After falling behind 6-2, Tennessee scored five runs in the top of the sixth inning to reclaim a 7-6 lead.

Grant Smith puts Cats back on top in sixth

Kentucky allowed five unanswered runs to the Volunteers in the top of the sixth, falling behind for the first time since the fourth inning. They didn’t trail for long however, as Grant Smith continued to thrive in the three-hole.

Smith replaced Devin Burkes in the third spot in the lineup to open the weekend and that decision by Mingione has paid off big time. The shortstop notched a hit in all three games of the series.

Burkes was walked to open the inning and eventually hobbled to second on a wild pitch. With two outs in the inning, Smith roped a go-ahead two-run home run over the left field wall to propel the Cats back in front, adding to of the wildest games of the season.

Tennessee’s Christian Moore however responded with a solo shot in the top of the seventh, his third of the series to tie the game up once again.

Vols ride Moore to series victory

After tying the game in the seventh, the Vols outscored Kentucky 4-1 over the final three innings to claim the weekend series.

Kavares Tears followed Moore’s solo shot with a two-run home run, giving Tennessee a 10-8 lead. Nolan McCarthy responded with a solo home run of his own in the latter half inning, but the red-hot Christian Moore put the nail in the coffin in the top of the eighth.

Moore, who had homered twice already, came back up to the plate with runners on first and third. In a situation where you might think about walking him to load the bases, the Cats decided to pitch to him. That decision would backfire, as Moore belted his third home run of the game, a three-run shot to put Tennessee up four.

The Wildcat offense came up to bat down four in the ninth and slugged two solo home runs courtesy of Mitch Daly and Ryan Nicholson, but were unable to tie the game. Devin Burkes represented the game-tying run following a Patrick Herrera single, but Burkes flew out to end the game. Series victory to Tennessee.

“This was an example of us not executing at a high level on a pitching and defensive side,” Mingione said postgame. “When you have two good offenses, we out-hit them we out-homered them, but the bottom line is they scored more runs than we did so they win.”

What’s next for No. 3 Kentucky?

The Cats don’t have a midweek game scheduled this upcoming week, so they won’t play again until they travel to No. 20 South Carolina for another top-25 conference series next weekend.

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2024-05-21