Kentucky remains undefeated with doubleheader sweep over Milwaukee


Kentucky Wildcat John Rhodes (1) hits the ball during the University of Kentucky vs. Miami Ohio game on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 5-1. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Eric Decker

Kentucky was able to continue their perfect start and finish out a weekend series sweep of Milwaukee with consecutive victories in a Saturday double-header.

The Cats were able to comfortably demolish Milwaukee 9-3 in seven innings in the noon game behind a four RBI performance from John Rhodes. The preseason All-American got it going for Kentucky with a three-run shot to left-center in the second inning. It the first home run of the season for him and second of his career, with the other a walk-off against Murray State last season. He later walked with the bases loaded, contributing to a four-run fourth inning that helped seal the game.

Zack Lee, a highly regarded prospect looking to bounce back after a rough 2020 freshman campaign, was on the mound for Kentucky in game one. Lee ended the game with a pretty appealing stat line: seven strikeouts in five and a third innings of work with only one walk. Lee’s pitches were moving well, which was a good sign to head coach Nick Mingione.

“I was really excited to see that he could go that deep into the game this early,” he said after the game. “That his stuff was good enough to where he could just keep moving the game along.”

It wasn’t a perfect performance though. At times, Lee’s control seemed to be an issue. Some wild pitches allowed for Panther scoring opportunities. In the third inning, Milwaukee was able to get men on second and third with no outs. Jake Novak cleared them off the bases with a double down the left field line. But overall, his coach was pleased.

“He went five and two thirds,” Mingione made sure to note. “One walk, seven strikeouts… that’s a seven to one walk to strikeout [ration], so that was good.”

RBI’s later in the game from Austin Schultz, TJ Collett and Alonzo Rubalcaba pushed the game further out of Panther reach.

The Cats were able to complete the weekend and doubleheader sweep in relatively quick fashion in game two, taking an early lead and managing to not relinquish it. However, this one was a little closer the previous few.

The middle infielders were able to generate scoring in the second inning for the Cats. A sac bunt by Ryan Ritter and an RBI single into right field off the bat of Zeke Lewis pushed Kentucky out to a 2-0 lead.

Mason Hazelwood took the hill for game two and quickly solidified why he should still be a key part to this rotation, finishing four innings of work while striking out six. His lone blemish was a two-run knocked over the bullpen in left field that temporarily tied the game. Despite the home run allowed, Mingione was maybe even more pleased with his start than Lee’s earlier one.

“That was as good as he’s thrown the ball in a long time,” he said. “He was in complete control, the guy hit a home run on what I thought was a good pitch from the dugout.”         

A throwing error by the Milwaukee shortstop on an attempt to turn two allowed Collett to give Kentucky the lead again just a half inning later.

Reuben Church blasted a deep home run to left field for an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. He went 4-6 on the day, demonstrating an ability to spray the ball around that Mingione complimented.

“I love how [Church] used the whole field,” he said. “When hitters do that, obviously there’s a lot of hits in there.”

Sean Harney was brought on for the two inning save in his first appearance for Kentucky. He gave up only an infield single, striking out five of the seven batters he faced.

The Cats next take the field at Kentucky Proud Park this upcoming Tuesday for a matchup against Eastern Kentucky. First pitch is set for 4:00 p.m. E.T. with the broadcast available on SEC Network Plus.