Kentucky falls to Tennessee 9-4 in front of record crowd

IMG_8756by:Daniel Hager04/20/24

DanielHagerKSR

No. 3 Kentucky fell to No. 4 Tennessee 9-4 Saturday afternoon, as the Volunteers evened up the weekend series.

Although the Cats didn’t come out with the win, 7,304 fans filed into Kentucky Proud Park on Saturday to set a new park record. KPP’s previous attendance record of 6,922 (set Friday night) lasted just over 19 hours.

“I actually did take a second to take [the crowd] in today,” Nick Mingione said postgame. “I took a second to look around and appreciate all the people. It was pretty awesome. I’m thankful for the Big Blue Nation and I wish we would’ve got them a win.”

Tennessee slugged five home runs, adding to their nation-leading total of 102. The Volunteer offense, which rates as the best in the SEC, chased Kentucky’s Dominic Niman in the first inning after scoring five runs. The Cats played from behind all game and were never able to overcome the early deficit.

Kentucky fell to 32-6 (15-2) following the Saturday loss, but remain four games ahead of Tennessee in the SEC East and two games ahead of Arkansas in the SEC following its loss to South Carolina. With the loss, Kentucky’s program record of 11 consecutive SEC wins was snapped.

Players of the Game:

  • LF Ryan Waldschmidt: Waldschmidt continued his tear at the plate, going 3-3 with a home run.
  • RHP Robert Hogan: Hogan pitched 3 2/3 innings of relief, giving up just three hits and two earned runs with four strikeouts.

Nightmarish first inning for Niman

Kentucky left-hander Dominic Niman made his 10th start of the season for the Cats on Saturday. Niman had been on a roll entering the weekend, as he had allowed just seven hits and one earned run in his last 14 1/3 innings pitched.

The lefty however ran into immediate danger on Saturday, as he gave up back-to-back home runs to Tennessee’s Christian Moore and Blake Burke to open the game.

After Billy Amick reached first on an error, UT’s Kavares Tears, Dylan Drilling, and Dean Curley hit back-to-back-to-back RBI doubles to put five runs on the board without recording an out.

Niman’s day had also come to an end without recording an out, wrapping up a rough day on the mound for the grad transfer.

“[Niman] has just been a warrior for us week in and week out,” Nick Mingione said postgame. “You know what, there’s times where you’re not gonna have your best stuff. Give [Tennessee] a lot of credit, they put some good swings on balls and hit some balls hard. That happens. When you start and go through all of his starts this year, this is not a typical outing for him. They found some barrels and did a good job, but he’ll be even more fresh and ready to go next week.”

Waldschmidt remains scorching hot

After falling behind by five before even getting to bat, the Wildcat offense needed a nice response in the bottom of the first. They got that from leadoff batter Ryan Waldschmidt, who has been one of the hottest hitters in the SEC over the past month of play.

On the first pitch he saw, Waldschmidt belted a solo home run over the left field fence to put the Cats on the board. With his long ball, Waldschmidt extended his hitting-streak to nine games and brought his season home run total to eight, which is tied for second most on the team.

Kentucky added one more run in the inning on an RBI-single from Mitch Daly to pull back within three after a brutal opening frame.

Tennessee cushions lead via the longball

The Volunteers extended their lead back to five thanks to solo home runs from Kavares Tears in the second inning and Dylan Dreiling in the fifth inning.

Christian Moore capped off the fifth with an RBI-single, bringing the Tennessee lead to 8-2. The Bat Cats however didn’t go down without a fight.

Ryan Waldschmidt continued to deliver, opening the bottom of the fifth with a single up the middle. Emilien Pitre followed Waldschmidt with an RBI-double down the right field line, which brought the speedy left fielder all the way around from first.

Grant Smith, who made his move to the three-spot this weekend, hit a line-drive into center field to bring in Pitre, Kentucky’s second run of the inning. The Cats had cut into the deficit but still trailed by four.

Volunteers even the series

Kentucky had a chance to make things interesting in the bottom of the seventh, as it put runners on first and second with no outs. The next three batters went down in order however, ending nearly all hopes of another improbable Wildcat comeback.

Tennessee’s Dylan Dreiling belted his second solo home run of the game in the top of the eighth, pushing the lead back to five to put the game on ice.

The Cats went down in the order in the ninth, granting the victory to the Vols.

What’s next for No. 3 Kentucky?

No. 3 Kentucky will attempt to take the series over No. 4 Tennessee on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. EST at Kentucky Proud Park. The game will once again be streamed on SEC Network+.

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2024-05-18