LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sean Hjelle pitched 7.2 hitless innings and the offense backed him with its best effort of the season as No. 8 Kentucky dominated Oakland 10-1 in front of 3,154 fans in the opener of a three-game series.
Hjelle, who recorded his 17th career victory, did not allow a hit until Jordan Jackson lined a clean single to left field with two outs and two strikes in the eighth inning. He set a career-high with 13 strikeouts, recording two in each of the first five innings, and did not walk a batter. The only trouble he faced all afternoon was when the fifth inning started with a pair of errors but he retired the next three hitters and cruised from there.
In his first two outings of the season the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Year has two wins while pitching 13.2 innings, giving up just three hits, one run, two walks and striking out 16.
“It was a special night, but I’m trying to get the job done every night,” Hjelle said. “(Jackson) earned it. I grooved a two-strike pitch and he had a good two-strike approach. He was squaring balls up on me all night. His first at bat, without the wind, that ball was going out. He has a good swing.”
The Cats (5-1) backed the virtuoso pitching performance with eight early runs, including a five-run second inning where five different players recorded an RBI. Senior catcher Troy Squires drove in three runs, while sophomore designated hitter T.J. Collett homered in his second consecutive game and for the third time this season and junior outfielder Ryan Johnson counted two doubles among his career-high three hits.
The Cats return to the diamond on Saturday afternoon with sophomore lefty Zack Thompson taking the hill in the middle game of this weekend’s three-game series.
Bottom 2nd – Kole Cottam walked and Ryan Johnson doubled to LF to start the inning. Ryan Shinn reached base when the first baseman came off the bag early, scoring Cottam and advancing Johnson to third. Alex Rodriguez executed a SAC bunt that scored Johnson. Trey Dawson walked. Troy Squires doubled into the RF corner, scoring Shinn. Ben Aklinski reached on an infield single. T.J. Collett singled to RF, scoring Squires. UK 5, Oakland 0.
Bottom 3rd – Johnson doubled to LF and Shinn singled to CF. Shinn stole second. Dawson walked. Squires singled to CF, scoring Johnson and Shinn. Squires was caught stealing, Dawson scored. UK 8, Oakland 0.
Bottom 6th – Collett homered to RF. Cottam doubled off the RF wall. Johnson singled to RF, scoring Cottam. UK 10, Oakland 0.
Top 9th – Ryan Fitzgerald doubled off the RF wall and scored on Ben Hart’s single to LCF. UK 10, Oakland 1.
- Kentucky moved to 21-2 in non-conference home games under coach Nick Mingione.
- The Cats are 22-0 when scoring 10 or more runs under Mingione.
- Uniform watch: UK is now 12-1 in the past two seasons when wearing blue jerseys with blue hats and white pants.
- Junior RHP Sean Hjelle pitched 7.2 IP, giving up one hit, no runs and striking out 13.
o The 13 strikeouts are a career-high, besting the 10 he had vs. LSU on 5/25/17 at the SEC Tournament.
o Hjelle retired the first 12 hitters he faced before back-to-back errors to start the fifth inning. He then retired the next 11 before Jordan Jackson’s single.
o Hjelle now has 17 career wins, tying him for 12th on UK’s career list.
o His career winning percentage of .733 ranks third on UK’s career list.
o In his first two starts this season, Hjelle has pitched 13.2 IP, giving up just three hits, one run, two walks and striking out 16.
- Junior OF Tristan Pompey missed the game due to injury, ending a streak on 85 consecutive games started for the Cats.
- Sophomore C/1B T.J. Collett went 2-for-5 with a solo home run and RBI single.
o Collett’s third home run of the year gives him four extra-base hits among his seven total hits.
o For his career, Collett now counts five of his nine career hits as extra-base hits, including four home runs.
o Collett has homered in back-to-back games, the first UK player to do that since Marcus Carson did so against Indiana and NC State in last season’s NCAA Regional.
- Senior C/1B Troy Squires went 2-for-4 with a double, a run scored and three RBI.
o Squires’ on-base percentage is .538, second only to Tristan Pompey’s .542.
- Junior OF Ryan Johnson went 3-for-4 with two doubles, two runs and an RBI.
o It was a career-high in hits for Johnson.
o He has back-to-back multiple hit games.
- Redshirt freshman P Brett Marshall pitched 1.0 inning, giving one run and striking out a batter.
o It was Marshall’s career debut after missing the 2017 season with an arm injury.
Kentucky returns to The Cliff on Saturday, Feb. 24 with a 1 p.m. first pitch for the middle game of a three-game series with Oakland. Fans can listen on the UK Sports Network via UKathletics.com and iHeart Radio, as well as on 98.5 FM. The game will air on the SECN+.