For the second straight night, the Bat ‘Cats got our hopes up before thoroughly dashing them. Despite building an early advantage, Kentucky fell 8-2 to no. 3 Vanderbilt and ace Jack Leiter, granting the Commodores a series victory and likely ending UK’s chances of crashing the Big Dance.
Unlike yesterday’s game where they were fighting from behind all night, things started brilliantly for the upset-hungry ‘Cats. T.J. Collett got things started with a deep shot off Leiter in the first inning, his 15th of the season, putting the ‘Cats on the board before Vandy even got a chance to bat this time. Clearly, Collett must have heard that he was losing the Senior CLASS Award voting to UT slugger Evan Russell and decided to take it out on the entire Volunteer state:
Collett with big boy juice.
— Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) May 21, 2021
Fast forward to the fourth inning, and it was Collett putting things in motion once again. He led off the frame with a single, and after a pair of strikeouts and a hit-by-pitch, came around to score an RBI rip from Chase Estep. That hit put Kentucky up 2-0, the same score they trailed by in yesterday’s game before coming back to tie it.
𝐂𝐇𝐀𝐒𝐄!!!@chasestep12 now does it in the box, falling behind 0-2 then battling back with an RBI single up the middle!
M4 | UK 2, Vandy 0 pic.twitter.com/IPAGGbucNw
— Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) May 22, 2021
Unfortunately, Vandy followed the same script. After allowing no runs and just two hits in the first five innings, lefty Dillon Marsh surrendered back-to-back singles to lead off the sixth, prompting Nick Mingione to give him the hook. Austin Strickland entered and hit the first batter he faced to load the bases, then nearly escaped the jam thanks to a timely force-out at home and a strikeout. However, a base hit through the left side by C.J. Rodriguez crushed those hopes, bringing in two runs in to tie the game.
From there, the wheels simply fell off. The Commodores added two more runs in the seventh on a base hit from junior Isaiah Thomas, then tagged on four more in the eighth thanks to a pair of deep homers by Jack Bulger and Troy LaNeve. In the blink of an eye, what looked like a promising start for the ‘Cats had turned into a six-run deficit entering the ninth.
UK put two on base in the final frame, but came up empty once again as a Zeke Lewis groundout ended the game. The loss was the sixth in seven games for the wayward ‘Cats, who dropped to 28-22 (11-18 SEC) with just one game left in the regular season. Barring a miracle in next week’s SEC Tournament, it would seem that the proverbial goose is cooked for their NCAA tournament chances.
The final line for Leiter, the son of former Major Leaguer Al Leiter, was six innings, three hits and two runs with eight strikeouts. He came up two Ks shy of teammate Kumar Rocker, who struck out 11 last night, for the NCAA lead with 127 on the season.
For Kentucky, Collett went 3-3 with an RBI and both runs scored, raising his season average all the way up to .312 in what could be one of his final games as a ‘Cat. If you haven’t already, give the guy a vote for this well-deserved senior honor. We can’t let him lose to a Vol.
Saturday’s game three is a 2 p.m. start time in Nashville (3 p.m. eastern). Who knows, maybe they’ll catch ’em by surprise this time.