The tried and true blueprint of pitching, defense and timely hitting rang true once again as host Kentucky blanked a pesky Ball State club, 4-0, in the Lexington Regional opener at Kentucky Proud Park on Friday afternoon.
The Wildcats (37-18) advance to the winner's bracket to face either West Virginia or Indiana on Saturday night at 6 p.m. ET.
Kentucky natives Travis Smith and Mason Moore produced just the third shutout by UK in NCAA Tournament history and the first in 74 years. Smith, a redshirt freshman who earned the start, worked around traffic into the fifth inning before giving way to Moore, who did not allow a hit the rest of the way.
Ball State, a familiar nemesis who upset the Cats in Lexington in the opener of the 2006 regional, got 7.1 innings and 119 outstanding pitches from ace Trennor O'Donnell but UK catcher Devin Burkes' line shot home run the opposite way to open the fourth inning was enough to spur the Cats. UK tacked on three runs in the eighth to relieve some of the lingering tension that remained in the crowd of 4,935.
"We are at our best when we're on the attack and we're super aggressive. We go for it. We just keep coming. That is us at our best," UK coach Nick Mingione said. "Overall, great game by both teams. I loved the way we defended. We talk about pitching and defense all the time. And we got that."
- UK Coach Nick Mingione is in his seventh season at the helm and now owns a 213-147 career record.
- UK is 5-3 in the month of June under Coach Mingione. Mingione is 5-3 in the NCAA Tournament, 5-1 in the Regional round.
- UK has won four straight Regional round games.
- Mingione now is 2-2 vs. Ball State. UK is 21-3 in non-conference games this season and 20-2 vs. non-Power Five foes.
- UK is 27-6 when scoring first this season.
- This was just the third shutout for UK in 38 NCAA Tournament contests and first since 1949.
- UK is hosting its third-ever regional, all three of which Mingione has been on staff (2006, 2017, 2023).
- Infielder Grant Smith went 1-for-1 with a walk, HBP and run. He owns a seven-game hit streak.
- Catcher Devin Burkes went 2-for-3 with two runs, a walk ans solo home run. He now is 18 of his last 35. He now has a career-long 11-game hit streak. He blasted his 7th home run of the season. He had his 18th multi-hit game of the season.
- Infielder Emilien Pitre had a two-run single. It is the 15th multi-RBI game of the season for him.
- Infielder Jase Felker went 2-for-4 with a run. It is his 18th multi-hit game of the season.
- Pitcher Travis Smith started and did not allow a run in 4.0+ innings. He allowed just three hits and struck out four.
- Pitcher Mason Moore earned the win with 5.0 shutout innings. He did not allow a hit.
Kentucky will face the winner of West Virginia/Indiana at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday night.