Kentucky Holds Off Alabama in 12 Innings to Extend Win Streak
The #23 ranked Kentucky Wildcats traveled to Tuscaloosa on Friday and took game one of three in the series 4-3 in 12 innings. With the victory, the ‘Cats increase its winning streak to 16 games, still the longest in the nation. As of late, the offense has really showed up for Nick Mingione’s squad, but his pitching staff was the reason the ‘Cats come out on top in this one.
Senior RHP Logan Martin made his first start since March 4th on Friday and looked good in limited action. Martin pitched two innings, allowing no hits and striking out two batters. He has seemingly made great process and looks to be on his way back to being an integral part of the rotation soon. He was replaced by seventh-year RHP Darren Williams, who put the team on his back in this one.
D-Will was excellent in relief of Martin. Williams took over in the third, pitching five innings. In his stint, Williams gave up just three hits and one earned run, along with four strikeouts. He set things up nicely for Mason Moore, who took over in the bottom of the eighth inning.
‘Cats Scratch First
As they have for most of the season, Kentucky got on the board first. On just the second pitch of the game, Jackson Gray ripped a double to left center field to kickstart the Wildcats’ offense. Once again, as they’ve done for most of the season, Coach Mingione dialed up a bunt. Jase Felker layed down a nice bunt to the pitcher, which he beat out. Gray then scored on a throwing error from ‘Bama pitcher Ben Hess. Just two batters deep and the ‘Cats already held a lead.
Felker moved on over to second and eventually third thanks to a steal and an overthrow from Alabama backstop Guscette, setting Émilien Pitre up nicely. Pitre grounded out to second, but it was enough to score Felker from third. The ‘Cats took an early 2-0 through one.
Kentucky added to its lead in the top of the fourth inning. Devin Burkes started things off with a single and reached second thanks to a sac-bunt from Pitre. With a runner on second, “The Captain” stepped up to bat. Hunter Gilliam, who was suspended for Tuesday’s game against EKU, showed just how valuable he is. Gilliam roped a single up the middle, scoring Burkes from second to push the lead to three runs.
Resilient Tide Force Comeback
Things got hairy for Kentucky in the bottom of the fifth. The Crimson Tide, which had zero hits up to this point, finally got things going. Back-to-back singles to start the latter half of the inning put runners on first and third for the Tide. Alabama’s Johnson then advanced to second on a wild pitch, setting things up nicely for junior outfielder Andrew Pinckney.
Pinckney singled up the middle, scoring Williamson from third. With runners on first and third with no outs, the Tide smelled blood. Where this could have been a disaster for Kentucky, D-Will shut it down. After forcing an infield fly, Williams forced a huge inning ending double play, preventing Alabama from getting any closer.
Following this one score from the Tide, both offenses went cold until the bottom of the ninth, which was Alabama’s last chance to knot the game up. With Kentucky up 3-1 just needing three outs to close out the victory, things didn’t go as planned.
The Tide kicked off the inning with back-to-back singles, chasing Mason Moore out of the game. He was replaced by Seth Chavez, who immediately gave up another single, this time scoring a run from third. After forcing a strikeout, the second ‘Bama run of the inning scored on a wild pitch. Suddenly, this game was knotted at three apiece. After walking the bases full with just one out, Chavez’s back was against the wall. The senior delivered however, as he forced a strike out and a fly out to send this game to extras.
The Win Streak Lives
Following Alabama’s resilient comeback to extend this game into extras, their offense completely shut down.
After no hits for either team in extra innings through the top of the 12th, Kentucky’s Grant Smith got the gears churning after being hit by a pitch. With Smith on first, Jackson Gray came up huge once again. Gray singled through the left side, moving Smith all the way to third. The ‘Cats regained the lead on a wild pitch which allowed Smith to dart home for the score.
Ryan Hagenow entered in the bottom of the 12th and shut things down for the Tide. Hage struck out two of his three batters faced to earn his first save of the season. Just a gutsy, resilient win for the fighting Mingiones.
With Friday’s victory, Kentucky improves to 20-2 and wins its 16th game in a row. Alabama falls to 18-5 with the loss. Kentucky and Alabama will play the second of the three-game series on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. EST.