Cats down to last life after upset loss
So much for the theory of no place like home.
The Kentucky baseball team was hosting its first ever NCAA Tournament regional in front of a Cliff Hagan Stadium record crowd on 3,529 (including more than 300 fans standing beyond the centerfield fence), but played nothing like the team that had gone 29-4 in its home park this season, losing 3-1.
Ball State ace Ben Snyder handcuffed the Cats for eight inning, allowing only a single run on four hits to the Southeastern Conference's top offense. Although the Cardinals' offense did fair much better against the Cats, they pushed across two runs in the top of the eighth to shock UK and send the Cats to a Saturday elimination game against Notre Dame.
Ball State put together the winnign rally in the eighth inning off UK starter Craig Snipp and reliever Andrew Albers. Matt Singleton led off the inning with a single on a 3-2 count before Mike Sullivan flew out to left for the first out. Clean-up hitter Brad Miller, came into the game with 21 home runs and 75 runs batted in, then flared a ball to left that landed on the fair line for a double, moving Singleton to third.
UK relieved Snipp with defacto closer Albers, but the left-handed hitting Justin Rogers greeted the lefty Albers by slapping the ball down the left field line, plating both Singleton and Miller. UK short-circuited the rally when Lehmann gunned down Rogers trying to turn the hit into a double but the damage had already been done with ball State taking a 3-1 advantage.
The Cats had a chance in the bottom half of the eighth with the heart of their order coming up, but Snyder struck out Collin Cowgill to begin the inning. After Ryan Strieby singled to left, Snyder got Sean Coughlin to foul out to left field and then struck out John Shelby for the third time to end the threat.
The Cardinals got on the board first, plating a run in the second inning off Snipp. C.J. Webb smacked a one-out single up the middle to start the rally before Kyle Dygert bloped a single to right field and Chris Pestle singled past UK shortstop Ryan Wilkes. After a strikeout of Matt Gard, Ball State scored when leadoff man Eric Earnhart ripped a single to right that scored Webb, but the inning ended when Cowgill let loose a perfect one-hop throw to Coughlin to nail Dygert at the plate and end the inning.
UK nearly took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third when Antone DeJesus reached on a fielding error by Dygert. Cowgill then blasted a long drive to dead center field but the shot died on the warning track and was hauled in just in front of the 390-foot sign.
The two teams traded scoring threats in the fourth inning. The Cardinals put runners on first and third on a Wilkes' throwing error and single by Dygert. With Snipp laboring a bit, Pestle hit a rocket at UK third baseman Michael Bertram. Bertram lept high into air and made a snowcone catch of the drive then rifled a throw across to diamond to double off Dygert and end the inning. UK nearly got even in the bottom of the inning but Wilkes' shot to right was caught with a runner on third to end UK's threat.
The Cats finally tied the game in the fifth after ninth-place hitter Lehmann led off the inning with a double off Snyder. DeJesus followed with a sacrifice bunt to move Lehmann to third, then Cowgill hit a fly ball to medium center field, allowing Lehmann to tag up. Lehmann beat Mike Sullivan's throw with a diving slide to tie the game at one.