Pitching struggles hurt UK baseball in Arkansas


Kentucky Wildcats pitcher Sean Hjelle takes a moment prior to the start of the second game of 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s Baseball Super Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium on Saturday, June 10, 2017 in Louisville, KY. Photo by Addison Coffey | Staff.

Charlee Schaefer

In the first top-five series at Baum Stadium since 2009, the No. 4 UK baseball team fell to the No. 5 Arkansas Razorbacks in the Friday nightcap by a final score of 8-2 in front of a vocal crowd.

Coming into the weekend, the Cats were 25-28 overall versus the Hogs since 1989. They played Arkansas in 2016 in Lexington, when they lost the series and only won one game.

In a night that was expected to be a battle of the aces, both starting pitchers seemed to be off. UK’s ace, junior right-handed pitcher Sean Hjelle, got the start and had what would be his worst outing of the year thus far.

Hjelle opened SEC play on the road last year with his first-career shutout, in what became the first sweep of Texas A&M in College Station in the club’s history. He also came into the game with four walks this season in 26.2 innings pitched but walked six batters in the lineup. He also threw two wild pitches and hit one batter in his first loss of the year.

Hjelle was in a jam early on and was having trouble getting the third out. He faced seven batters in two different innings.

The Friday outing was his shortest of the year as he usually lasts about seven innings, but the pitching staff decided his command was not there. It was a combined recovery effort from the bullpen, but the damage was already done and it was a lost cause.

The Hog’s offense took advantage and was on fire.

Overall, they had multiple doubles and singles and three home runs. Grant Koch had a huge night, hitting two home runs in back-to-back at-bats.

It was a night full of missed opportunities for the Cats. In the end, they fell short and could not come back from such a large deficit.

“You just embrace it. I mean you just have to go in knowing that it’s the SEC. Especially in the SEC West they’re just, they’re into it. They’re rowdy and they love their baseball. You just have to accept that,” Hjelle said after the game. “You’re going to hear some things that may rub you the wrong way or you may even think is funny. You just have to stay locked in on the game plan and honestly just accept it.”

The Cats will finish the series on Saturday in a double header due to expected inclement weather on Sunday. The first game will start at 3 p.m. EST and both will be nine innings. The starting pitcher has not been confirmed, but Justin Lewis will make an appearance.