Senior night success: Cats take game one of big weekend series

University of Kentucky Baseball seniors are recognized prior to the game against Mississippi State on Friday, May 11, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. The seniors included Charlie Haunert, Luke Becker, Luke Heyer, Alec Maley, Brad Schaenzer, and Troy Squires. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Charlee Schaefer

A beautiful night in Lexington brought out a rowdy crowd for senior night at Cliff Hagan Stadium for the No. 21 UK baseball team. The fan support helped the Cats to a 9-6 win in the series opener against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

“What a home field advantage, what a home field advantage. I cannot tell you enough,” head coach Nick Mingione said.

Mingione also said how much the fan support means to the players; it pushes them to be better and perform for the Big Blue Nation. 

The pregame ceremonies started a half hour before the first pitch and honored the seniors who have dedicated four, or in some cases five, years to the program and the university.

To start out, a video was shown of the players talking about their experiences at UK and what the stadium means to them.

They were given framed jerseys and while they were being announced, the highlights of their collegiate careers were shared. Each senior had the honor of throwing out the first pitch to start the historical weekend.

The evening was the perfect setup for the Cats to pull out a win, and they did just that. 

The Bulldogs got on the board first, wasting no time after starting pitcher Sean Hjelle threw five balls before coming up with a strike. They put up two runs after a ball barely passed second baseman Luke Becker for the game’s first points.

The Cats put their own run up in the bottom of the inning with an RBI double from senior Luke Heyer. 

Hjelle nailed a batter in the second and loaded the bases. Shortly after, a single down the left field line brought another two runs home. Hjelle labored very early as he statistically has in the first few innings this season, and it came back to haunt him.

Hjelle allowed six runs before passing the ball to closer Chris Machamer, but the offense picked up late and secured the win. 

Becker in particular gave the Cats the much-needed insurance in the eighth when he lined a single through the infield to give his team a three-run lead.  Mingione said it was the play of the game.

The seniors continue to make an impact on this team every day and will be missed by both the club and fans alike.

Only two games remain at The Cliff and the Cats will look to claim the series with a win on Saturday.