LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Athletics) – A dream a long time in the making became reality on Tuesday when Kentucky baseball opened its new home – Kentucky Proud Park – on a picture-perfect afternoon. The result was even better, as the Wildcats defeated Eastern Kentucky, 7-3, in front of 4,074 fans eager to experience the facility.
“It was emotional,” UK head coach Nick Mingione said. “There are so many people, when you think about our ballpark and you think about the time and the effort and the years — this has been a long time coming.”
At 4:03 p.m. ET junior right-hander Grant Macciocchi delivered the first pitch, which was pulled into left field by Eastern Kentucky second baseman Ryland Kerr for a hit. That was just about all the Colonels could muster against Macciocchi, who retired the next 13 hitters and exited after 5.2 sparkling innings of one-run baseball.
The Cats (4-3) got a single run in the second after Dalton Reed doubled and scored before breaking it open in the fifth when junior designated hitter T.J. Collett sent a Jacob Ferris offering the opposite way and over the left-centerfield fence for a two-run home run.
UK added a third run in the inning when junior outfielder Jaren Shelby, a Lexington native, walked, stole second and third base and then swiped home. Shelby later stole second and third again on his way to five stolen bases in the game, the first UK player to steal four or more bases since Storm Wilson nabbed four against Richmond on February 14, 2015.
Freshman right-hander Hunter Rigbsy closed out the first win in the new ballpark by recording the final three outs to open a 12-game home stand.
FIRST AND FOREMOST
A list of notable firsts from the opening game in Kentucky Proud Park:
Time of first pitch – 4:03 p.m. ET
Who threw first pitch – Grant Macciocchi, Kentucky
First hitter – Ryland Kerr, Eastern Kentucky
First Hit – Ryland Kerr, Eastern Kentucky
First out – Chris Botsoe, Eastern Kentucky popped out (foul) to UK catcher Coltyn Kessler
First Hit by Kentucky player – Dalton Reed, double, bottom of 2nd inning
First Home Run – T.J. Collett, Kentucky, bottom of 5th inning, left-centerfield off EKU’s Jacob Ferris
First RBI – T.J. Collett, Kentucky, bottom of 5th inning
Run Scored – Dalton Reed, Kentucky, bottom of 2nd
Stolen Base – Jaren Shelby, Kentucky, bottom of 5th
Strikeout – EKU’s Will Johnson by UK’s Grant Macciocchi (leading off top of 2nd inning, looking)
Walk – Alex Rodriguez, Kentucky, bottom of 4th
Bottom 2nd – Dalton Reed doubled to LCF and moved to third on an Alex Rodriguez infield single. Cam Hill reached on a two-out throwing error by the 2B, scoring Reed. UK 1, EKU 0.
Bottom 5th – Ryan Shinn singled to LF and moved to second on a failed pickoff attempt. T.J. Collett homered to LCF. Jaren Shelby walked, stole second, stole third and stole home. UK 4, EKU 0.
Top 6th – Marcus Hill walked, advanced to second on a wild pitch and third on a wild pitch. Ryland Kerr grounded out to SS, scoring Hill. UK 4, EKU 1.
Bottom 6th – Zeke Lewis, Breydon Daniel and Shinn walked. Shelby reached on an error by the right fielder, Lewis and Daniel scored, Shinn to third. Shinn scored on a wild pitch. UK 7, EKU 1.
Top 9th – Nick Howie singled to open the inning. Will Johnson and A.J. Lewis walked to load the bases. Logan Thomason singled to LF with two outs, scoring Howie and Johnson. UK 7, EKU 3.
This was Kentucky’s first game and first win in Kentucky Proud Park.
The crowd of 4,074 was the 10th-largest in program history.
Kentucky has scored in 71 consecutive games and 147 of the past 148 dating to the 2016 season. The lone shutout came in a seven-inning game. The current streak is the eighth-longest in school history.
The Wildcats stole seven bases in the game, including five by junior OF Jaren Shelby.
The seven steals are the most for UK in a game since it swiped eight against Auburn on April 25, 2010.
Junior RHP Grant Macciocchi pitched 5.2 innings, giving up three hits, one run, walking one and striking out six.
It was Macciocchi’s first start and first win at Kentucky.
He retired 13 consecutive hitters after the leadoff batter singled to open the game.
Junior 1B/DH T.J. Collett went 1-for-5 with a run and a two-run home run.
Collett’s blast was the first in Kentucky Proud Park history.
It was his team-leading third of the season.
Junior OF Jaren Shelby went 0-for-4 with a walk, a run scored and five stolen bases.
Shelby is the first Wildcat to steal four or more bases in a game since Storm Wilson stole four against Richmond on Feb. 14, 2015.
Shelby stole second base twice, third base twice and home.
Shelby now has six steals in the Cats’ first seven games.
The Cats returns to Kentucky Proud Park on Wednesday against Northern Kentucky. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET and will be aired on SEC Network Plus. Audio coverage can be found via UKathletics.com.