Diamond Aces fall to #8 Kentucky in weekend finale


It was a tough finish to a weekend that started out promising for the University of Evansville, as the Purple Aces fell to the eighth ranked team in the nation, Kentucky 8-4 , in Spartanburg, South Carolina Sunday afternoon.

The Wildcats got the jump on Evansville starter David Ellis, scoring the icebreaker in the first inning on Luke Becker’s double down the left field line, bringing in Tristan Pompey to make it 1-0. Then, in the second frame Troy Squires tallied from third base on a fielder’s choice, which put UE in a 2-0 hole.

“We came out in the first inning flat on the mound,” said University of Evansville baseball Head Coach Wes Carroll. “We just didn’t get ahead of hitters. They’re a good offensive unit over there.”

Sophomore first baseman Troy Beilsmith, who came in as part of a double switch, with Tanner Craig moving over to third base to replace an injured Sam Troyer, got the Aces on the board, drilling a solo home run to left, cutting the deficit to 2-1.

“We know we’re going to get a scrappy at-bat from Troy,” said Carroll. “For him to home run in two games opening weekend, it’s great to see for an offense that’s struck out at an enormous clip. Having 44 strikeouts over the course of the weekend, I think we broke some personal records. We’ve got to get better in the batters box, especially with two strikes. But to see him be a bright light over the course of the weekend was great to see, because we need versatile options in both our offensive and defensive units.”

However, it wouldn’t stay tight for long, as Kentucky answered in the bottom of the third, with a double from Tristan Pompey and a walk to Luke Becker, chasing Ellis from the game. Jimmy Ward came in in relief, but a flare to left off the bat of T.J. Collett got lost in the sun by sophomore outfielder Brendan Krob, dropping in for a double. That would score Pompey from second to make it 3-1 Kentucky.

Later in the inning, the Wildcats loaded up the bases on Ward, then Ryan Johnson unloaded them with a bases-clearing double down the right field line, bringing in a trio of tallies, giving UK a 6-1 advantage. That would close the book on Ellis, who went two innings, allowing four runs on three hits and three walks.

“He just wasn’t able to get his off-speed pitches over early in the count, and that was the game plan going in, and that’s what chased him out of the game”, said Carroll. “He’s going to continue to get better. He’s a young guy in our program, and the more innings he throws, the better his off-speed is going to come along. We’re real excited about his future.”

Evansville would cut into the deficit in the top of the 4th, as a throwing error would allow senior designated hitter Travis Tokarek to score, cutting the Kentucky lead to four. However, a sacrifice fly by T.J. Collett in the bottom of the frame would get the Wildcat lead back up to five.

Senior Dalton Horstmeyer would replace Ward in the fourth, and would give up an RBI sacrifice fly to T.J. Collett in the bottom of the frame. Then after a scoreless fifth, Luke Heyer would tag him for a solo home run in the sixth, increasing the UK lead to 8-2.

The Aces would attempt a rally in the seventh inning, loading up the bases on Kentucky reliever Daniel Harper. Sophomore outfielder Kenton Crews would slap a single up the middle, scoring both Craig Shepherd and Cooper Trinkle, drawing Evansville back to within 4.

“He’s (Crews) had some mechanical things going on in his swing that he was able to correct today and it was great to see,” said Carroll. “He’s such a great athlete, an elite athlete that he can make changes physically within a game, within an at-bat. It was great to see him make those adjustments, work back up the middle and get some big RBI hits. That’s what we’ve got to have out of our 3-hole, an explosive athlete and a dynamic hitter.”

However, the Aces would draw no closer, as they fell to 1-2 on the season. Kentucky improved to 4-0.

“I thought our hitters settled in and had some great at-bats later in the game”, said Carroll. “In winning time, I thought we had some winning at-bats. A lot of young guys got in there and got a  chance to get there feet wet this weekend. I feel like we got better as a team and I’m real anxious to see us play next week.”

Evansville is back in action next Friday, when they travel back down to the sunny South to face Kennesaw State for a four-game series. First pitch from Atlanta, Georgia is at 4 p.m. Central Time.