Batcats stay alive with 10-4 win over Irish

After a disappointing regional loss to Ball State on Friday, Kentucky made all the adjustments necessary to keep their season alive. The Batcats utilized an uncharacteristic 10 walks from Notre Dame's pitching staff to revitalize their offense, beating the Irish 10-4 in the Lexington Region's first elimination game on Saturday afternoon.

With their season on the line, Kentucky reverted back to playing what head coach John Cohen previously described as an overachieving style of baseball. All year long, the Wildcats have taken advantage of walks and hit-by-pitches in order to jump start their offense.

"I thought offensively we really got into ‘Hey, there are a lot of people here tonight' and ‘Boy this is thrilling'," Cohen said regarding Friday's loss, "instead of ‘let's get right back right back to what got us here'."

Playing the old way brought the old results. Kentucky picked up their first regional win, ending a four game losing streak.

"Obviously it's good that first win in the regional under your belt," senior third baseman Michael Bertram said. "But I don't think we are looking at it with a do or die attitude."

"I think we [pressed] a little bit last night. Today we were more relaxed, and we played Kentucky baseball. We didn't play Ball State baseball or Notre Dame baseball, we played our game the way we know how to play it, and it's going to be the same tomorrow and for the next game to come."

Kentucky fell behind early on Saturday, as Notre Dame struck in the bottom of the first inning, as Steve Andres grounded out to first base, driving in first run of the ballgame.

The Wildcats squandered a scoring opportunity in the second inning. With Billy Grace on first, shortstop Ryan Wilkes shot a single through the hole and into right field. The right fielder, Cody Rizzo, misplayed the ground ball. Grace rounded third hard and slipped as he tried to turn and go back to the bag. Alex Nettey, who was backing up Rizzo on the play, quickly threw the ball to the cut-off man who rifled to third to nail Grace and hold the Cats scoreless.

Kentucky drew their first walk in the fourth inning and from that moment on the offense just clicked. Kentucky drew back-to-back walks against Notre Dame starter Tom Thornton, the first time Thornton walked consecutive batters all season long. Michael Bertram laid down a perfect sacrifice that advanced the runners to second and third. Billy Grace smashed a ground ball through the middle of the infield for his second hit of the ball game, driving in both Wildcat runs.

With Grace on first, Shaun Lehmann belted a two-run shot that landed in the sea of Wildcat fans standing behind the right-center fence, pushing Kentucky ahead of the Irish 4-1.

Kentucky used a pair of walks to energize their offense again in the sixth inning. With Michael Bertram and Shaun Lehmann with free passes, Antone DeJesus hit a troubling grounder to first that the Notre Dame infield was unable to convert into an out. Bertram scored on the play and Lehmann advanced to third base. With two outs, Collin Cowgill ripped a line drive off the glove of leaping Irish third baseman Brett Lilley. Lehmann scored easily, and as the throw from left came into second base, Antone DeJesus rounded third and headed for home, sliding safely around Sean Gaston's tag, extending the Wildcat lead to 7-1.

Kentucky scored again on a fielder's choice in the seventh inning, making it 8-1.

Notre Dame battled back in the seventh inning. Pinch hitter Matt Bransfield hit a double in the right-center alley, scoring two Irish runs and narrowing Kentucky's lead to 8-3.

But Kentucky answered right back. After Notre Dame's pitching staff walked the bases loaded, Michael Bertram sliced a single to centerfield, driving in two more runs for the Batcats making it 10-3.

Jeremy Barnes led off the bottom of the eighth with a double and later scored on a fielder's choice to trim the deficit to 10-4. But the Irish would come no closer.

Greg Dombrowski was magnificent on the evening. He tossed the complete game, giving up just three earned runs off of nine Irish hits.

"Obviously we are really proud of Greg Dombrowski today," Cohen said. "He really pitched his heart out. As I understand, this is his 10th win, and it's the first time since 1987 that we have had a 10 game winner here."

Just like the offense, Dombrowski did what he has done all year long to pick up the win. He threw a lot of sinkers and got a lot of ground ball outs, letting his defense do most of the work.

Though Cohen does not know exactly who he will throw in Sunday's elimination game, he alluded that more than likely he will turn to senior Aaron Tennyson to keep the season alive.

The Batcats are scheduled to play Ball State in a repeat of Friday night's contest. The game will be an elimination game, scheduled on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

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