Kentucky drops series finale to UNC Wilmington


Sophomore pitcher Braxton Cottongame runs after a foul ball during the game against Southeastern Missouri State on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Chase Phillips | Staff

Eric Decker

UNC Wilmington pulled off the sweep of Kentucky in their weekend series, taking Sunday afternoon’s finale 7-4. It’s the second time the Cats have been swept this season, including the season-opening series versus TCU.

“We just gotta play better. You can’t get down,” coach Nick Mingione said. “It’s happened too many times where we get down and we’re trying to claw back.”

Zack Lee’s first collegiate start didn’t go as planned. The freshman was only able to record four outs before getting pulled, allowing seven hits. Six of them came in the second inning, resulting in five earned runs.

A double to the wall in right center off the bat of Trevor Marsh drove in two. He later scored on a Brooks Baldwin single. Another RBI single, this one from Matt Suggs, ended Lee’s rough day. Despite the performance, his teammates still remain confident in his ability.

“He’s a guy I have 100% full faith in him moving forward,” reliever Alex Degen said. “For a freshman to go out there and make his first start is tough for anybody.”

Degen came in to relieve Lee and put up another spectacular outing. He went four innings, giving up three hits and one earned run while striking out four. The earned run was the first of the season for Degen through 10.2 innings of work. His ERA is sitting at 0.84.

“No matter what inning I go in it’s a starter mindset… have the approach that you’re gonna go for a long period of time,” he said. “Don’t waste all your bullets early on. Just pace yourself and expect to be going 10 innings.”

Kentucky (5-6) scored its first runs of the weekend in the third by way of back-

to-back home runs. Austin Schultz cleared the left field fence with a two-run blast, and TJ Collett smashed the very next pitch past the right field bullpen.

John Rhodes – whose batting average stands at .361 after a 2-for-4 day – cut the deficit to two in the bottom of the sixth, knocking in Jaren Shelby. Later in the sixth, the Cats had men on first and second with one out, but failed to score.

Shelby returned to the lineup after a three-game absence, which resulted from his collision with teammate Cam Hill. He played center field, and stole second and third in the sixth inning before Rhodes drove him in.

Kip Brandenburg provided the final UNC Wilmington (9-3) run in the top of the seventh with a home run to left.

The Cats look to get back in the win column on Tuesday when the Cincinnati Bearcats come to Kentucky Proud Park. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.