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Kentucky falls to Vanderbilt 12-4 in regular season finale

IMG_8756by:Daniel Hager05/18/24

DanielHagerKSR

No. 2 Kentucky fell in the regular series finale to Vanderbilt 12-4 on Saturday. With a win, Kentucky would’ve clinched its first sweep of Vanderbilt since 1988.

If there were any doubts that the Commodores would be in danger of missing their first NCAA Tournament since 2005, they shut those down with the win on Saturday.

“I just thought we had opportunities,” Nick Mingione said postgame. “We were playing the game we wanted to play until the sixth. Our inability to finish at-bats on the defensive and pitching side and our inability to make plays on the field really cost us.”

By failing to finish off the sweep, Kentucky left the door open for Tennessee to clinch its share of the SEC Regular Season Championship. The Volunteers finished off the sweep of South Carolina on Saturday with a 4-1 win, clinching a share of their fifth SEC Regular Season title in program history.

With a Tennessee loss, Kentucky would have claimed the No. 1 seed and would have played the winner of Tuesday’s 8/9 game on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. EST. With Tennessee’s win however, Kentucky falls to the No. 3 seed and will play the winner of the 6/11 game on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. EST. Big difference there.

Kentucky finished the regular season 39-12 (22-8) and totaled its most SEC wins in program history (22) along with at least a share of its second ever SEC Regular Season Championship.

Onto Hoover.

Players of the Game:

  • DH Nick Lopez: Lopez went 2-4 with an RBI-double on Friday. He finishes the regular season with a team-leasing .383 batting average.
  • 2B Émilien Pitre: Pitre went 1-3 with a solo home run, his eighth of the season.
  • 1B Ryan Nicholson: Nicholson blasted his team-leading 17th home run of the season and 15th against SEC competition, which ranks third in the conference. He also brought in a run on an RBI-double in the eighth.

Vanderbilt jumps out to early lead for third time in series

Vanderbilt claimed the first lead on Saturday for the third time this weekend. However, this was the first time it didn’t occur in the first inning.

After the first scoreless first inning of the weekend, Vanderbilt’s Matthew Polk and JD Rogers led off the second with back-to-back singles. Calvin Hewett then notched the third Commodore single of the inning, an RBI-single that just bounced off the glove of a diving Grant Smith into left field.

Kentucky however continued to respond immediately to Vanderbilt scores, as Ryan Nicholson belted his 17th home run of the season to open the bottom of the second. Nicholson has now hit 15 of his 17 home runs against SEC competition, which ranks third in the conference behind Georgia’s Charlie Condon (18) and Tennessee’s Christian Moore (20).

Following Kentucky’s run in the bottom of the second, the Cats had scored six times in the immediate half inning right after a half inning which featured a Vanderbilt run(s) in the series. Just once had Vanderbilt scored and Kentucky failed to respond in the following half inning (7th inning in Thursday night’s game).

‘Dores and Cats trade solo shots

After Kentucky tied it up in the bottom of the second, Vanderbilt came out in the top of the third and reclaimed its lead.

Davis Diaz, who homered in Thursday night’s game, belted a solo home run down the left field line to give Vandy a 2-1 lead. Diaz’s homer was a hard-hit line drive that just scraped over the wall.

For the first time this weekend following Vanderbilt’s score, Kentucky failed to respond in the coming innings. The Cats were held scoreless until the bottom of the fifth, when Émilien Pitre smoked a solo home run over the right field wall to tie the game at two apiece.

After hitting just one home run last season, the Quebec native is up to eight in 2024.

Vandy unloads in four-run sixth inning

Kentucky starting right-hander Mason Moore loaded the bases in the top of the sixth by giving up back-to-back singles to Colin Barczi and Matthew Polk and walking Braden Holcomb on a 3-2 count. After juicing the bags, Moore’s day came to an end.

The right-hander’s day lasted 5 1/3 innings, allowing 10 hits and two earned runs with six strikeouts. However, the three runs he put on would end up scoring, driving his earned run count to five.

It took right-hander Cam O’Brien, left-hander Jackson Nove, and right-hander Johnny Hummel to get out of the inning. After O’Brien and Nove allowed four runs to score on a Calvin Hewett two-run single, a Jonathan Vastine RBI bunt-single, and a Davis Diaz RBI-single, Hummel forced a double play to get out of the nightmare inning.

Kentucky loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the sixth, but Grant Smith grounded into a devastating inning-ending double play. The Cats trailed 6-2 through six.

Kentucky falls in regular season finale

After failing to convert with the bases loaded, Kentucky allowed two more runs in the top of the seventh.

Matthew Polk drove in a run on an RBI-double, then ended up scoring from third on a Devin Burkes passed ball. Kentucky responded with a run on an RBI-double from Nick Lopez in the bottom of the seventh, but still trailed by five.

Vanderbilt cemented its victory with a two-out, two-run double courtesy of Alan Espinal in the top of the eighth, extending the Commodore lead to seven runs.

A Ryan Nicholson RBI-double brought the deficit back down to six, but Vandy pinch-hitter Troy LaNeve belted a two-run home run in the ninth to bring in two more insurance runs.

The Wildcats notched two hits in the ninth, but were unable to overcome the eight-run deficit.

What’s next for No. 2 Kentucky?

Kentucky now has three full days to regroup until it plays on Wednesday of the SEC Tournament in Hoover.

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2024-07-13