Kentucky Catches Texas Tech In A Squeeze
At the major league level, the sacrifice bunt by non-pitchers is almost extinct. In just this decade, the number of non-pitchers sacrifice bunts has been cut in half, to less than 500 last season.
At the major league level, the analytics have spelled out that the strategy of trading outs for a run is only useful in very limited situations, especially in a league where most every non-pitcher is capable of hitting home runs.
There has been much less analytical study of what attempting to sac bunt does to run expectancies at the college level. Defenses aren't as capable of converting sacrifices into outs. The caliber of hitter varies more than it does in the majors.
So while the bunt has disappeared in the big leagues, it's still used regularly in college baseball. And few have pulled off a better day of bunting than what Kentucky did on Saturday.
Tied 5-5 in the sixth inning of their game against No. 5 Texas Tech, Luke Heyer advanced to third on Ryan Johnson's double. With runners on second and third, Kentucky coach Nick Mingione called for Trey Dawson to bunt. He did successfully, pushing it down the first base line. Texas Tech pitcher Dane Haveman scooped and threw home but Heyer beat the tag in a plate at the plate.
So Kentucky now had the lead and there still was only one out.
So Mingione tried it again. Troy Squires pushed the bunt toward first base again. This time Haveman couldn't field the bunt cleanly immediately and no one covered first so Johnson scored and Squires reached with a bunt single.
Going back to back on bunts to score a run was pretty remarkable. But Mingione decided to try to go 3-for-3. Ben Aklinski was asked to do the same. Again the batter bunted down the first base line. Again Texas Tech failed to cover first base and again the run scored.
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Three squeeze bunts. Three runs scored. No outs recorded and the bases were loaded with three bunting batters.
Three-for-three was enough. No. 3 hitter Tristan Pompey wasn't asked to bunt. Instead he walked to end the squeeze streak. The Wildcats ended up scoring five runs in the inning to blow open what had been a tie game.
In this case, going for the sac bunt actually led to a big inning.