LEXINGTON, KY - Despite a ferocious rally in the top of the ninth, the Buffalo baseball team could not hold off the host Kentucky Wildcats on Sunday afternoon, losing 7-6 by the very closest of margins. A Dan Scahill home run and a Jon Mestas RBI single with two outs helped the Bulls force the 'Cats to bat in the home half of the ninth, but Kevin Crumb walked Thomas Bernal with the bases loaded on a full count.
Crumb walked the leadoff batter in the bottom of the ninth, but got the next two batters out before losing control of his command in the strike zone, allowing a single and walk to load up the bases. The senior reliever went up 1-2 on Bernal before three straight balls doomed the team to a walk-off loss and a winless opening weekend, while Kentucky moved to 6-0 through the first two weekends of its season.
The Bulls received another strong early outing from its starter, as senior Jeff Thompson allowed only one run through his first four innings of work while the offense put together another big inning that put UB on top early. After the leadoff batter was retired, Buffalo strung together four singles and a walk that plated three runs. Jon Mestas hit a first-pitch single that scored River McWilliams, and Tom Murphy continued his strong weekend with a two-run single that scored Jason Kanzler and Mike Burke.
Kentucky would eventually tie the game in the fifth thanks to back-to-back sacrifice flies after Thompson allowed the first three batters to reach base. Buffalo jumped back on top in the sixth inning thanks to a two-out RBI single from freshman designated hitter Tyler Mautner, who beat out an infield single that allowed Murphy to score from third with two outs in the inning.
The UB defense would have a minor lapse in the bottom of the frame that would cost the team its lead. After getting the first two outs, Thompson allowed a single and Burke then booted a grounder that extended the inning. After a five-pitch walk to load the bases, Thompson was lifted for Crumb, who allowed a line drive to right field that fell in front of a charging Scahill and squirted behind him, clearing the bases and giving Kentucky a 6-4 lead.
That would be just one of very few hits allowed by Crumb, who pitched three innings of relief and struck out three batters to keep the Wildcat offense at bay long enough to let the Bulls stage its rally in the ninth. Scahill took a 3-2 pitch from closer Trevor Gott to right field that brought the Bulls within one, 6-5. River McWilliams immediately followed with an opposite-field single before being lifted for pinch runner Russ Carone. A bunt and fly out moved Carone to third, and Mestas came through with a grinding at bat that led to a single up the middle to tie the game. After falling behind 1-2 in the count, the junior fouled off three straight pitches before his seeing-eye single.
The Bulls will remain in the Bluegrass State for an upcoming four-game series against Morehead State (4-3). Game one on Friday is slated to begin at 3 pm.