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May 14, 2013

Indiana falls at Kentucky, 5-3

LEXINGTON, Ky.-Indiana Coach Tracy Smith tweeted after Louisville defeated his team six days ago that the Hoosiers gift-wrapped a win to the Cardinals. Against Kentucky, Indiana failed to open a sufficient amount of the gifts the Wildcats bequeathed to them. The Hoosiers' inability to capitalize cost them. UK overcame its four errors to defeat the No. 15 Hoosiers (38-12, 15-6) 5-3 Tuesday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

In four consecutive innings - the second through the fifth - the leadoff hitter reached base. In each frame, his teammates could not pick him up in support of freshman starting pitcher Will Coursen-Carr. Smith said in baseball, that stuff's going to happen.

"We didn't get the timely hit," he said. "There was no doubt about that. I'm not frustrated about that."

Only Dustin DeMuth's solo home run in the sixth sullied senior Wildcats' starting pitcher Jerad Grundy's final home start. The Johnsburg, Ill., native threw six efficient innings of one-run baseball, allowing four hits and walking two.

The Hoosiers' inability to record that hit was compounded by the lack of concentration defensively-though they were only charged with one error.

"(That) has been our Achilles' heel all year," the eighth-year head coach said. "We did it again tonight. You cannot do that against good opponents. What we have to understand is it isn't about the offense. It's about taking care of the baseball and making quality pitches when it counts."

Against the Wildcats' bullpen, after UK's fourth error in the seventh, Indiana seized the lead. Sophomore outfielder Ricky Alfonso's two-run single to shallow left field gave the Barrington, Ill., his first RBIs since the Hoosiers' 9-5 victory at Xavier on April 3.

Junior right fielder Casey Smith led off the inning with a line drive single to left. Freshman second baseman Nick Ramos grounded to second, but J.T. Riddle's throw was low and wide left of Wildcats' shortstop Matt Reida. Smith proceeded to third, and Ramos advanced to second.

Alfonso, pinch hitting for sophomore catcher Chad Clark, delivered.

"I was just trying to go in there looking for a pitch to hit early in the count," Alfonso said. "Coming off the bench, I knew he was going to try to get ahead early, so I just tried to put a good swing on it. It felt really good. I hadn't been able to get a hit in a little while. (It) felt good to come through in the clutch and give us a lead."

The lead lasted two pitches into the next half inning, as sophomore Luke Harrison hung a breaking ball that Wildcats' catcher Micheal Thomas clubbed to left field. Terre Haute South alum A.J. Reed, the Wildcats' sophomore first baseman earned his second RBI of the night with a single to center field that gave his team the lead they would not relinquish.

Reed said the win was good for the Wildcats' hopes of earning a berth in regional play. He also said that Thomas's home run was huge for the team.

"It was huge for him," he said. "It really builds a little confidence for him. He's been struggling a little bit. For him to get that ball, and put a good swing on it, it really helped him and it got some mojo going for our team."

UK scored first in the opening inning. Coursen-Carr was late to cover first on an infield hit smothered by sophomore first baseman Sam Travis. Coursen-Carr was wild with a pitch to the next hitter, and Clark's throwing error allowed Wildcats' right fielder Kyle Barrett to take third. Coursen-Carr threw his second wild pitch of the game-and the at-bat-on a 2-2 offering.

Reed homered to left center in the third to double the Wildcats' lead.

The Hoosiers created chances to cut into their deficit. Their best chance came in the third. Clark was caught stealing home on a ball in the dirt as Grundy pitched to sophomore designated hitter Kyle Schwarber.

"What I said to him was, 'Be 100 percent on a ball in the dirt,'" Smith recalled. "Being thrown out by five feet is hardly 100 percent with the best hitter in the country at the plate. Until we lock in mentally and eliminate those silly mistakes like that, the result's not that surprising."

Though the Hoosiers did not get the result they sought against a rival, they have a chance to play for a conference championship beginning Thursday at 6:35 p.m., a fact not lost on Smith.

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