LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to register its first walk-off victory in the Nick Mingione era, defeating Western Kentucky 4-3 when pinch runner Cam Hill raced home on a passed ball to score the winning run.
Frustrated all night by three double play balls and no shortage of rockets hit right at WKU defenders, the No. 7 Wildcats finally broke the ice when junior outfielder Ryan Johnson homered on a two-strike pitch with one out in the ninth. Senior Luke Heyer followed with an infield single and junior Trey Dawson lined a two-out double into the gap to represent the tying run on second base.
Things got wild from there as senior Troy Squires fell behind 0-2 – including a rare instance where a run was taken off the board due to Squires’ bat being ruled to have hit the catcher’s glove – and fouled off a pitch before lining the two-run game-tying single right back through the box. After junior Ben Aklinski reached on an error to put the winning run at second, WKU pitcher Ryan Thurston uncorked a wild pitch to move Hill to third base. The next pitch got by catcher Colin Butkiewicz, scoring Hill and setting off a wild celebration on the field and in the crowd of 3,240 fans.
Zach Haake, making his UK debut, pitched a perfect top of the ninth while striking out the side with mid-90s heat to earn the win. He and freshman right-hander Jimmy Ramsey held the Hilltoppers scoreless over the final 2.1 innings to give the Cats an opportunity to stay close enough to mount the winning rally.
The win is Kentucky’s second late comeback in the season’s first nine games, having also roared back to knock off USC Upstate in extra innings on opening weekend. The team travels to Houston this weekend for games against No. 19 Houston, No. 20 Sam Houston State and a tough Louisiana club at the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park.
Top 2nd – Colie Currie doubled inside the LF line, moved to third on Sam McElreath’s SAC bunt and scored on Tyler Robertson’s SAC fly. WKU 1, UK 0.
Top 5th – Robertson singled to LF and scored on Ray Zuberer III’s home run off the RF pole. WKU 3, UK 0.
Bottom 9th – Ryan Johnson homered to RF. Luke Heyer reached on an infield single and advanced to third on Trey Dawson’s double to LCF. Troy Squires lined a single up the middle to score Heyer and Dawson. Ben Aklinski reached on an error by the 3B. Cam Hill pinch ran for Squires. Hill advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored the game-winner on a passed ball. UK 4, WKU 3.
- This is the first walk-off win under head coach Nick Mingione.
o It’s the second win this season when trailing after seven innings.
o It’s the third comeback win at Cliff Hagan Stadium in the past six games.
- Kentucky moved to 24-2 in non-conference home games under Mingione.
- The offense has hit a home run in all nine games this season.
- UK played without All-American OF Tristan Pompey for the fourth straight game. He is out with an ankle injury.
- Junior RHP Zach Haake made his UK debut in the ninth inning.
o Haake faced four batters, striking out three in the inning.
o Haake earned the win.
- Senior C/1B Troy Squires went 1-for-3 with a run, two RBI and two HBPs.
o Squires now has all 10 of his RBI this season in the past four games.
o Squires was hit by two pitches and now has been hit by seven pitches in nine games.
- Junior OF Ryan Johnson went 1-for-4 with a solo home run.
o Johnson has now homered in consecutive games.
o Seven of his 10 hits this season have been for extra bases (five doubles, two home runs).
The Cats travel to Houston for a weekend of games at Minute Maid Park, the home of the World Series champion Houston Astros. They open at 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday vs. No. 19 Houston. The games will be streamed at www.Astros.com and also will air on AT&T SportsNet SW.