Comments from Kentucky baseball coach Gary Henderson on the Wildcats’ 11-6 victory over Xavier, Tuesday at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
General thoughts: “We’re going to have to find out how to play better defense in the mid-week game. There’s no question about that. Really disappointed with our defense early in the game. Obviously, the second half was dramatically better. Put a lot of pressure on ourselves with poor defense and the number of walks that we created. Between those two things, we let them stay in the game a lot longer than we would have liked. Pleased that (Nick) Kennedy was able to find some poise late. And then our hitters got hits at crucial times. Especially the two-out hits in the sixth. Really pleased with Chad Wright’s at-bat after the two strikeouts, to come up and get a two-strike, two-run double.”
On using six pitchers: “And would have like to have used two or three more. But mid-week baseball, sometimes doesn’t do that for you. You’d like to use as many as you can. We got six of them in there. In all reality, Sam Kidd pitched much better than it looked, in my opinion. He was clearly nervous. Jordan (Cooper) was not sharp the first inning. Kyle Jackson clearly didn’t have it tonight. Nick Kennedy — four walks in 2 2/3 is completely out of character. And then ‘Kaz’ (Mike Kaczmarek) and (Matt) Little did a nice job.”
On Xavier having 13 runners left on base: “You can look at that in a positive way, no question. You leave that many guys on, it’s positive that your guys made pitches or your guys made plays — we got the two double plays when it mattered. But clearly you can’t have that many baserunners.”
On offensive balance: “I don’t know the number of two-out hits we got tonight. But we had some. And we had some from guys after they had had less-than-great starts, so I was really pleased with that. And we hit a lot of balls hard tonight. I don’t know how many it was, but we had several balls on the barrel and I’m clearly pleased to see that. We’ve played mid-week games before and it seemed like we struggled to get six or seven hits. So to be able to get 13 hits on the board, with a lot of them being hit well, you’re pleased to see that come around.”
UK batting leaders — Chris Bisson 3-for-5, 1 run, RBI, 2 stolen bases; Taylor Black, 1-for-1, sac bunt, hit by pitch, walk, 2 runs, 3 RBI; Chad Wright, 2-for-5, 2 runs, 2 RBI; Lance Ray, 2-for-2, 2 runs; Cory Farris, 1-for-4, run, 2 RBI; Marcus Nidiffer, 1-for-2, run, 2 RBI.
Winning pitcher: Nick Kennedy (1-0).
In the ninth, Matt Little struck out the first two batters he faced, then got John McCambridge to ground to first.
Xavier 6-12-0, 13 left on base
Kentucky 11-13-5, 6 left on base
Kentucky 11, Xavier 6: Both teams stranded a runner in a scoreless eighth. Going into the ninth, Kentucky made its fifth call to the bullpen, this time for Matt Little.
Kentucky 11, Xavier 6: UK defensive changes in the seventh: Marcus Nidiffer (pinch-hitter) remained in the game as catcher; Gunner Glad moved from third base to first; Andy Burns took over at third, batting in the No. 7 slot where 1B Lance Ray had been. Nothing for Xavier in the top of the inning.
Nidiffer’s two-run homer in the bottom of the inning, to left, increased UK’s lead to 11-6. Scoring ahead of him was Glad, who led off the inning with a double. Going to the eighth, a pitching change for UK: LH Mike Kaczmarek taking over from Nick Kennedy.
Kentucky 9, Xavier 6: For the fifth time in six innings, Xavier added to its score. UK’s Nick Kennedy sandwiched a pair of walks around a strikeout. Phil Bauer singled to center to score Neil Lindgren with the game-tying (6-6) run. That was all, though, as Kennedy struck out Matt Kleifges and got Ryan Bellamy to ground out.
The Wildcats got a one-out single up the middle by Lance Ray. Marcus Nidiffer, pinch-hitting for Luke Maile, flied to center. Ray moved to second when Taylor Black was nicked by a pitch. Ray and Black scored on Chad Wright’s second double of the game, this one to the left-field corner. Wright came home on Chris Bisson’s third hit of the game, a sharp single to right-center. Bisson advanced on his second steal of the game and Braden Kapteyn walked. Xavier went to the bullpen, calling on 6-foot-5, 260-pound RH Zac Richard, who escaped further damage.
Kentucky 6, Xavier 5: In the fifth, Xavier greeted reliever Kyle Jackson with back-to-back singles up the middle by Bobby Freking and Phil Bauer. Freking was forced at third when Matt Kleifges tried to bunt the runners ahead. Ryan Bellamy singled to shallow left, which should have loaded the bases. When Chad Wright bobbled the ball in left, though, Bauer was able to score. Nick Kennedy came in to take over from Jackson on the mound. Kennedy caught Bellamy straying from first but Bellamy broke for second and 1B Lance Ray’s throw to second hit the runner in the back. Kennedy caught Seth Willoughby looking at a third strike, but walked John McCambridge to load the bases. Kennedy left the bases jammed, striking out Drew Schmidt.
For the first time in the game, UK went down in order.
Kentucky 6, Xavier 4 — With one out in the top of the fourth, Xavier’s John McCambridge reached on a bunt single, stole second and took third on a groundout. He scored on Neil Lindgren’s grounder, which 2B Chris Bisson muffed for his second error of the game.
The tie didn’t last long. Lance Ray led off the bottom of the inning with an infield single. One out later, Taylor Black crushed his first homer of the season, far over the left-field wall, to make it 6-4. Xavier starter Brian Muransky struck out Chad Wright, then gave way to RH Josh Deeg.
To open the fifth, UK called to the bullpen for RH Kyle Jackson.
Kentucky 4, Xavier 3 — RH Jordan Cooper took over UK pitching chores from Sam Kidd to open the third inning. Cooper walked leadoff man Ben Thomas. Bobby Freking singled up the middle, Thomas taking second. Phil Bauer bunted the runners to second and third. Both scored on Matt Kleifges’ single down the right-field line. Kleifges tried to stretch the hit to a double, but was gunned down, RF Cory Farris to SS Taylor Black.
Kentucky came back in the bottom of the inning with Cory Farris’ one-out, two-run homer to right. Chris Bisson, who led off the inning with his second hit of the game, also scored.
This just in from Richmond …
Eastern Kentucky has defeated Miami (Ohio) 7-3 at Turkey Hughes Field. Both teams are 8-10 after the Colonels snapped a four-game losing streak. LH Greg Terry (2-1) worked six innings to get the win. Jayson Langfels, Richie Allen and Jacob Daniel each had two hits for EKU. Anthony Ottrando and Michael Garcia each drove in two runs.
Back to the Wildcats and Musketeers …
Kentucky 2, Xavier 1 — In the top of the second, back-to-back errors by SS Taylor Black and Chris Bisson to start the inning and a two-out hit batsman loaded the bases for Neil Lindgren. RH Sam Kidd caught Lindgren looking at strike three.
Keenan Wiley led off the UK second with a double to right-center, then took third on a wild pitch. Lance Ray walked. After Luke Maile took a called third strike, Taylor Black put down a sacrifice bunt to score Wiley.
Xavier 1, Kentucky 1 – Xavier scratched out a run in the top of the first. John McCambridge led off with a high-hop single that pitcher Sam Kidd couldn’t field cleanly. A groundout moved McCambridge to second. He scored on Neil Lindgren’s looping single down the right-field line.
UK countered in the bottom of the inning. Chad Wright led off with a double to the gap in left-center, then took third on Chris Bisson’s bloop single down the left-field line. Braden Kapteyn’s line-drive single to right scored Wright.
Kentucky (15-5) is taking on Xavier (4-14) at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
XAVIER — John McCambridge CF; Drew Schmidt 2B; Neil Lindgren C; Ben Thomas DH; Bobby Freking 1B; Phil Bauer SS; Matt Kleifges LF; Ryan Bellamy RF; Seth Willoughby 3B. Pitching — RH Brian Muransky (0-4, 10.66).
KENTUCKY –Chad Wright LF; Chris Bisson 2B; Braden Kapteyn DH; Cory Farris RF; Gunner Glad 3B; Keenan Wiley CF; Lance Ray 1B; Luke Maile C; Taylor Black SS. Pitching — RH Sam Kidd (1-1, 6.91).
Umpires — Keith Schartzer HP; Scott Kennedy 1B; Bob Howard 3B.