College baseball: Kentucky eliminates Valparaiso at NCAA Regional
By John Mutka Post-Tribune correspondent June 2, 2012 11:46PM
Valparaiso's Grant Yoder leaves the plate after striking out and losing to Kentucky in the NCAA Gary Regional Tournament at the Steel Yard in Gary, Ind., Saturday, June 2, 2012 | Guy Rhodes~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 7, 2012 8:13AM
GARY — Kentucky used five pitchers in a 21-inning marathon loss to Kent State on Friday.
Wasted after the 6-hour and 37-minute endurance contest? No big deal.
Not when Jerad Grundy was available for Saturday’s elimination game with Valparaiso.
“I tried to eat up as many innings as I could,” he said after the Wildcats ousted VU 8-1 in the Steel Yard.
Aided by two double plays, he limited the Crusaders to five hits in six innings, throwing 90 pitches before handing the ball to reliever Chandler Shepherd, who buttoned up the victory with three solid innings.
“That helped me keep the pitch count down,” Grundy said after Kentucky tied the school record with its 44th victory.
If the Cats were fatigued it sure didn’t affect them.
“It was a relatively short turn-around, though not as short as theirs’’ Kentucky coach Gary Henderson said.
That’s because the Purdue-Valparaiso game didn’t start until 10:37 p.m.
Which means Valparaiso coach Tracy Woodson didn’t get home until 2:15 a.m. Saturday.
“It evened out,” he said.
If anyone had a right to claim battle-fatigue it was Michael Williams. After catching all 21 innings against Kent State, he returned for nine more behind the plate. A.J. Reed could also make a case. He played first base again, mixing nine innings of relief pitching in between.
Valparaiso (35-25) came into the NCAA Regional billed as a strong defensive team, but was erratic afield again. In two losses the Crusaders committed eight errors, mostly of the throwing variety. They were outscored 15-3 with nearly all the runs coming after two outs.
In their late-night loss to Purdue, pitcher Tyler Deetjen was victimized by six unearned runs.
“Awful, just awful,” said Woodson, struggling to put a positive spin on a negative end to VU’s first regional appearance since 1968. “That’s not Valparaiso baseball.”
Through five innings the Crusaders kept it close. Starting pitcher Kevin Wild gave up a run in the fifth on freshman Austin Cousino’s RBI single, but Valparaiso countered with three hits in the bottom of the inning. Steve Scoby came home on Tanner Vavra’s hit to left.
Kentucky reacted to the 1-1 tie as if it had been stung by a killer bee.
The Wildcats erupted for five runs, two chased in by Cousino’s towering double which slammed off the wall above the 400-foot mark. J.T. Riddle also slashed an RBI double into the right field corner and scored on Matt Reida’s single to right.
“I felt like I pitched pretty well until the sixth,” said Wild, who finished his senior season with a 6-4 record. “It got away from me.”
Kentucky outhit the Crusaders 12-7, who had no answer for the five-run outburst. Leadoff hitter Andrew Bain provided most of VU’s firepower, boosting his average to .318 with three singles.
“The key was Grundy,” Henderson said. “It was nice to create a cushion so we didn’t have to use any more pitching.”
None of the Cats made much ado over the marathon loss, but Cousino dropped a hint.
“It was kind of like we never leff the field,” he said, flashing a grin.
VU’s Woodson all but promised the Crusaders would be back.
“We’re not one-year wonders,” he said. “We’re in good position to stay on top for the next few years. We can play with the biggies.”
Beating them is the problem.