LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – I endorsed coach Gary Henderson’s decision not to use his best pitcher, A.J. Reed, in Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament opener against Kansas. I still do.
Beat a lesser team with secondary pitchers. Save your stud for Louisville – the regional favorite.
It simply didn’t work.
In fact, it was about as wild as a pitch can be. Kansas clubbed the Wildcats, 10-6, at Jim Patterson Stadium, scoring three times in the first inning and then three more in the second.
No way Reed gives up six runs in two innings. Reed has only allowed five runs in his last four appearances.
Now the Wildcats will have to do something that not one team did in the 2013 NCAA regionals – grind their way to four consecutive victories from the losers’ bracket, starting with their game Saturday at 1 p.m. against the loser of the Kent State-Louisville game.
“I did not know that stat,” said Reed, considered by many the nation’s best player.
Kentucky has not won four straight games since March 5.
“You lose the first game of a regional, you’re going to have to play some good baseball to get out of it,” Reed said. “We’re very capable of doing that. It all starts with tomorrow.”
Any chance the Wildcats were already thinking about playing Louisville, a team Kentucky beat twice this season?
“That was probably in the back of all our heads,” Reed said.
Is Henderson still comfortable with his decision to start sophomore Kyle Cody, who retired only two batters as the Jayhawks scored three times in the rain-interrupted first inning?
“Sure,” Henderson said. “I did not see (Cody’s struggle) coming. I certainly thought he was ready for the day.”
Considering Reed is a third-year player and clearly Kentucky’s best pitcher, I asked Reed if he and Henderson discussed the decision to save him for Saturday?
“We didn’t really talk about it,” Reed said. “I kind of assumed coming into it that I was going to throw today, but he thought it was best for us to go with Kyle today.
“I didn’t have any problem with that. Kyle’s a great pitcher. It just didn’t work out.”
Reed is left-handed and two of Louisville’s best hitters – Jeff Gardner and Cole Sturgeon – are left-handed. That had to drive the decision, along with the idea that Henderson thought Cody could handle a Kansas team ranked 43rd in the RPI.
“I think all of that had something to do with it – playing Kansas today and then looking forward to playing Louisville tomorrow, assuming they won,” Reed said. “I think that all factored into it. He felt that’s the best way to win. That’s what we went with.”
This was not your traditional baseball game. The delays (3 hours, 21 minutes) were longer than the actual time spent playing the game (3 hours, 14 minutes)
The game stopped before it actually started. A lightning delay pushed the first pitch back 20 minutes. The next delay – rain and lightning -- stretched 1:03. The final delay was two minutes short of two hours.
Kentucky simply played ugly baseball. Cody, Andrew Nelson and Chandler Shepherd allowed 13 hits. They walked four guys. They threw a pair of wild pitches. The Wildcats made a pair of errors.
Offensively, they were better, but not good enough. Of the Wildcats’ nine hits, six were singles.
A three-run home run by Ka’ai Tom tied the game in the bottom of the first, but Kansas scored three more in the top of the second.
“It definitely took a little of our mojo away,” Reed said. “We didn’t expect that kind of start.”