Junior Cam Hill fuels winning rally with hit by pitch, steal of third, scamper home on passed ball in ninth inning
LEXINGTON, Ky. – March 20, 2021
Cam Hill didn’t enter the game until the ninth inning, didn’t have a hit. a putout or even an official at-bat, yet pushed Kentucky to a dramatic 5-4 walk-off win over Missouri on Saturday afternoon at Kentucky Proud Park, securing a series win on opening weekend in the Southeastern Conference.
Hill, a redshirt junior outfielder, came in as a defensive replacement in the top of the ninth inning before leading off the bottom half by taking a pitch off the helmet. After convincing trainers and UK head coach Nick Mingione he was uninjured, he promptly scooted to second on a passed ball and stole third to sit 90 feet from victory. When Lukas Veinbergs’ pitch to Kirk Liebert popped out of catcher Chad McDaniel’s glove and caromed toward the Missouri dugout, Hill raced home, sliding across home plate with a headfirst slide to score the game-winner.
“He wore a ball in the head,” Mingione said. “Then his speed totally impacted the game. He steals third and then a ball barely gets past the catcher and he scores and we win the game with his legs. Totally impacted the game.”
Hill, known as a gritty, do-anything-it-takes teammate, didn’t hesitate to take the hit by pitch and set up the Cats’ first walk-off win since John Rhodes’ home run beat Murray State on Mar. 4, 2020.
“I saw it come out of his hands and toward (my head) and I said I wasn’t going to move,” Hill said.
The victory moved UK to 13-3 overall and 2-0 in the SEC for just the third time in the past 15 seasons. They’ll look to secure a sweep on Sunday, which would be the first league sweep since taking three from Tennessee on May 12-14, 2017.
Saturday’s win didn’t come easily but showed resilience. The Cats fell behind 3-0 in the second inning before tying it an inning later, punctuated by Austin Schultz scampering home on a groundout to the catcher by T.J. Collett. Schultz later saved a potential run with a diving catch in centerfield.
Top 2nd – Keefer walked and Swanger reached on a soaring fly ball that fell for a hit. Cepicky tripled to LCF, scoring both runners. Cepicky scored on a SAC fly. Missouri 3, UK 0.
Bottom 3rd – Coltyn Kessler and Ryan Ritter walked. Austin Schultz singled to load the bases. Oraj Anu hit a long single into the LF corner, scoring Kessler. John Rhodes grounded out to 3B, scoring Ritter. Schultz and Anu moved up. Schultz raced home on a groundout to the catcher. UK 3, Mizzou 3.
Bottom 8th – Trae Harmon walked. Jaren Shelby pinch ran for Harmon. Zeke Lewis executed a pinch hit SAC bunt to move Shelby to second. Reuben Church was intentionally walked. Kessler singled to LF to load the bases. Ritter hit a SAC fly to RF, scoring Shelby. UK 4, Mizzou 3.
Top 9th – Montgomery walked. Lancaster pinch ran. Keefer singled to RF. Cepicky hit into fielder’s choice, Lancaster to third. Peterson reached on a two-out, pinch hit infield single to SS, scoring Lancaster. UK 4, Mizzou 4.
Bottom 9th – Cam Hill was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a passed ball. Hill stole third. Hill scored on a passed ball. UK 5, Mizzou 4.
- UK is 2-0 in SEC play for the first time since 2017 and just the third time in the past 15 seasons (2008 and 2012).
- The last time the Cats won in walk-off fashion was vs. Murray State on March 4, 2020 when John Rhodes hit a solo home run.
- UK is 40-21 at Kentucky Proud Park under head coach Nick Mingione.
- The UK pitching staff has 30 consecutive games with seven or more strikeouts, including 24 with 10 or more.
- The UK pitching staff has struck out 184 batters and walked just 41 this season.
- The staff entered the game fourth the nation in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
- Junior IF/OF Austin Schultz went 2-for-4 with a run and a triple.
- Schultz has reached base safely in 71 of 76 career games.
- He currently has a career-long 12-game hit streak.
- He logged his ninth multi-hit game of the season and 24th career.
- Senior 1B T.J. Collett was hit by a pitch to extend his team-best reached base safely streak to 16 games. He also drove in a run with an RBI groundout.
- Senior C Coltyn Kessler went 1-for-2 with a run and two walks.
- Kessler walked his first two times to the plate, extending his streak to eight straight plate appearances where he reached safely (three hits, five walks).
- Junior OF Cam Hill entered in the ninth inning as a defensive replacement before his toughness and legs won it in the bottom of the inning.
- Hill was hit by a pitch, advanced to second on a passed ball, stole third and scored the deciding run on a second passed ball.
The Cats will look to sweep the opening SEC series on Sunday afternoon. First pitch is set for noon ET. The game will be aired nationally on the SEC Network. The radio call will be on the UK Sports Network.