HOOVER, Ala. – Kole Cottam delivered a two-out, two-strike, game-tying RBI double in the ninth inning in the Southeastern Conference Tournament opener but No. 21 Kentucky fell 4-3 in 11 innings to No. 22 Auburn in a tightly-contested elimination round game.
The Cats now await their NCAA Tournament fate, which will be announced on Monday, May 28. A strong resume against one of the nation’s most difficult schedules that included non-conference wins against Texas Tech, Indiana, Louisville, Houston and Sam Houston State.
Cottam showed why he was voted First-Team All-SEC by the league’s coaches, destroying his 19th home run in the first inning to give the Cats a 1-0 lead. He was robbed of an RBI single in his second at bat on a brilliant defensive play by Auburn shortstop Will Holland. Cottam later smoked a single inside the first base line and then delivered his game-tying hit against Auburn closer Cody Greenhill.
Meanwhile, junior right-hander Sean Hjelle turned in arguably his best performance of the season, coming on in relief of starter Daniel Harper with the Cats trailing 3-1. He pitched 7.1 shutout innings, giving up just four hits and striking out nine to give the Cats a chance to win.
Top 1st – Kole Cottam homered to LF. UK 1, Auburn 1.
Bottom 1st – Will Holland homered to LF. Auburn 1, UK 1.
Bottom 3rd – Holland walked and advanced to second when lead runner thrown out attempting to steal third. Steven Williams singled to RF, scoring Holland. Brett Wright doubled to RCF, scoring Williams. Auburn 3, UK 1.
Top 5th – Tristan Pompey walked to start the inning. Cottam doubled inside the 1B bag, moving Pompey to third. Luke Becker grounded out to 1B, scoring Pompey. Auburn 3, UK 2.
Top 9th – Ryan Shinn doubled to RCF. Alex Rodriguez pinch ran for Shinn and moved to third on Trey Dawson’s SAC bunt. Cottam doubled to RCF, scoring Rodriguez. UK 3, Auburn 3.
Bottom 11th – Wright singled to RF and Brendan Venter walked. Cade Evans pinch ran for Wright. Eduard Julien singled to CF, scoring Evans. Auburn 4, UK 3.
- Kentucky has scored in 64 consecutive games and 140 of the past 141 dating to the 2016 season. The lone shutout came in a seven-inning game at last year’s SEC Tournament.
- Several Cats extended impressive reached base safely streaks …
o Junior C/1B Kole Cottam has reached safely in 19 straight games and began a new hit streak after his career-long 16-game streak ended Friday. He has a hit in 29 of the last 32 games.
o Senior INF/OF Luke Heyer has reached in 19 straight games and 24 of the last 25 games.
o Junior OF Tristan Pompey has reached in 11 straight games.
o Senior INF Luke Becker has reached in 53 of 56 games (and 97 of 100 including 2017 summer ball).
o Junior INF Trey Dawson has now reached base safely in 25 of his last 27 games.
- Junior C/1B Kole Cottam went 3-for-5 with a double, home run and two RBI.
o The home run was his 19th of the season and 27th of his career.
o He now has a team-high 24 multi-hit games and 16 multi-RBI games.
o It was his 16th multi-RBI game of the season and 31st of his career.
o Cottam had a two-out, two-strike game-tying double in the ninth inning.
- Junior RHP Sean Hjelle pitched 7.1 innings, giving up four hits, no runs, no walks and striking out nine batters.
o It was his 22nd multi-hit game of the season and 26th career.
The Cats will return to Lexington and await word on an NCAA Tournament berth, which will be announced Monday, May 28 at noon ET.