Cats open weekend series against Raiders with a win


Kentucky junior Zack Thompson pitches during the game against Canisius College on Friday, Mar. 1, 2019, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Hailey Peters

The Kentucky Wildcats baseball team opened its weekend series against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders on Friday. With the combined strength of field defense, multiple home runs and strong pitching, the Cats sailed to a 4-1 victory.

Middle Tennessee scored the first run of the game in the second inning from its third batter off one double hit and one fly out RBI.

The Raiders’ pitching was the largest hurdle for Kentucky’s batters, as their starter successfully struck out seven batters in six innings, leading to several of the Cats’ pitfalls early on.

Although the Cats didn’t score a run in the first three innings, they showed potential with their hits. Senior Ryan Shinn hit his team-high eighth double of the season and sophomore Coltyn Kessler extended his career-best hitting streak to seven games.

Throughout this entire season thus far, pitching has helped Kentucky come out with many of its wins. During this game, UK’s starting pitcher Zack Thompson pitched for the Cats for a career-high-tying seven innings and struck out eight batters while only allowing four hits and no walks.

“I just went out there and tried to give our guys a chance to win,” Thompson said. “Our defense was great, Kessler behind the plate was a wall, and they just helped keep our pitch count down and save our pen for the rest of the weekend.”

Sophomore Cam Hill brought the scoring edge for the Cats with a two-run line drive homer into the opposing team’s bullpen, sending him and Kessler home for a 2-1 lead in the fourth. This was Hill’s first home run of his career.

Kentucky’s next run was also brought by a homer into the same bullpen in the fifth as junior Breydon Daniel hit his third home run of the season to propel Kentucky further past the Raiders.

In the sixth, the Cats scored their first and only run not resulting from a homer. Redshirt junior Zeke Lewis’s single allowed Kessler to run home again with the assistance of stolen bases and two other hits loading the bases prior to Lewis’s bunt RBI.

“[MTSU’s] earned runs are under three a game,” said head coach Nick Mingione. “They are not giving up runs. It’s hard. The home runs were big… that was obviously crucial. We’re going to try to keep that energy for the rest of the weekend.”

The Cats will continue their series against the Raiders on Saturday, March 9. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.