Scout/Jeff Drummond

Kentucky Wildcats explode for early lead, beat rival Louisville Cardinals 11-7

Cats ride early lead, triple play to 11-7 win at sold-out Cliff Hagan Stadium.

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky wasted no time Tuesday in showing it was ready for a rematch with Louisville. 

In a spirited matchup between the Bluegrass State rivals, the No. 10 Wildcats raced to a 9-0 lead after three innings and energized a regular-season record crowd of 4,018 at Cliff Hagan Stadium by turning a triple play en route to an 11-7 win over the No. 2 Cardinals. 

"I loved the energy with our team coming out," UK head coach Nick Mingione said. "We talked with our team about a rematch, right, when you get an opportunity to face the same guy, you got a rematch, and you don't get that all the time in sports. I loved the way we came out swinging."

Kentucky (26-12) had dropped the previous meeting with the Cardinals 5-3 on April 4 in Louisville. In that game, UofL starter Shane Hummel (4-1) shut down the Cats with two innings of shutout work to get his team off to a strong start. This time, UK chased the right-hander after he recorded only one out and allowed five runs in the first inning. 

Tristan Pompey doubled off the top of the right-field wall and Evan White walked to open the bottom of the first. UK then got four consecutive singles by Luke Becker, Riley Mahan, Troy Squires and Tyler Marshall to take a 4-0 lead. A sacrifice bunt by Marcus Carson made it 5-0. 

It looked like Louisville may answer in the top of the second after Brendan McKay walked and Drew Ellis singled to open the inning against UK starter Zack Thompson, but the Wildcats responded with the first known triple play in program history.

It began when Colin Lyman flew out to left. The Cards' McKay attempted to tag and score from third but was thrown out by UK's Zach Reks. Squires, the catcher, then saw Ellis attempting to reach third and threw a strike to shortstop Connor Heady covering the bag for the third out, sending the sold-out crowd into a frenzy. 

The Cats stretched their lead to 9-0 in the bottom of the third, plating four runs with the help of a two-run homer by Heady. The lead swelled to 11-0 in the fourth with UK taking advantage of some sloppy UofL defense. The Cards finished with three errors and two wild pitches on the night. 

Louisville (31-5) started a comeback in the fifth inning, getting a pair of runs on a two-run double by Logan Taylor. The Cards added three more in the sixth when Ellis connected for a three-run homer against UK reliever Colton Clearly after Thompson had walked two batters to open the inning. 

The Cards, however, could get no closer in the final three frames against the strong relief work of UK's Chris Machamer, Zach Pop, and Logan Salow. Machamer and Pop delivered 1-2-3 innings in the seventh and eighth, and Salow sealed the victory with a scoreless ninth. 

"I told our guys, how fun is it to play behind guys who just attack the strike zone?" Mingione said. "... Every single pitch they threw, they were challenging the strike zone. The defense is engaged, our dugout is engaged, and that's what we need more of."

Thompson (4-2) earned the win, allowing four runs on three hits and four walks over five innings on the mound. The freshman left-hander struck out seven batters. 

"Too many of what we call tickets -- too many free bases there -- but his first four innings I thought were really good and showed what kind of pitcher he can be," Mingione said of Thompson. 

"It feels great to give your team a chance to win, especially against an opponent like that," Thompson said. "I good curveball command early on, a pretty good fastball, and I was able to get some swings and misses."

Eight of UK's nine starters collected at least one hit on the night, led by a 3-for-4, 2-RBI game by Marshall, a Louisville native. Reks, Becker, Mahan and Squires each recorded two hits for the Cats. 

Kentucky returns to action in a three-game weekend series against No. 8 LSU. 

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NOTES:

  • The crowd of 4,018 was a new Cliff Hagan Stadium record, besting the 4,009 set against Louisville on April 8, 2008.
  • UK is now 17-2 at home this season.
  • The 11 runs scored are the most for the Cats against Louisville since scoring 12 in a 12-11 on March 30, 2005.
  • UK now leads the series with Louisville 70-42-1, including 34-16 in Lexington.
  • Evan White now has 190 career hits, good for 17th on UK’s all-time career hit list. He has hit in 14 of his last 15 games.
  • Tristan Pompey now has hit safely in 25 of his past 27 games. He is 18-of-22 (.563) in his past eight games.


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