UK opens season at Cliff Hagan for final time on Tuesday


Kentucky Wildcats right fielder Tristan Pompey hits a single during 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

For the first time since 2012, No. 8 UK baseball is 4-0 to start its season. The Cats will look to keep their undefeated record intact when they host Xavier on Tuesday. 

The 50th and final home opener at Cliff Hagan Stadium has been moved up a day due to expected inclement weather. The Cats will face the Musketeers at 6 p.m. on Tuesday instead of Wednesday.

The Xavier club will be looking for its first win of the season after suffering a sweep at Florida State this past weekend under first-year head coach Billy O’Conner.

Coming off of a four-win weekend, the Cats have the momentum they need to beat Xavier in front of their fans. The pitching and offense were both superb and are expected to give UK an edge this season. 

 Read: Cats start season strong in South Carolina

Both veteran and rookie pitchers shined under pitching coach Jim Belanger’s influence. Two of the weekend starters, Sean Hjelle and Justin Lewis, each recorded their first win and pitched a combined 12 innings with 12 strikeouts.

The rookies stepped up and stunned as well. In their debut with the Cats, Daniel Harper, Mason Hazelwood, Trip Lockhart, Aaron McGeorge and Jimmy Ramsey played a major role in UK’s success.

From behind the plate, Tristan Pompey, Ben Aklinski, Luke Becker and Kole Cottam all had a very impressive showing.

Although the starting pitcher has yet to be determined, fans need not worry about that aspect of the game. Head coach Nick Mingione and coach Belanger have a wide range of options and can count on whoever is chosen.

Players to watch 

Tristan Pompey (left fielder, Jr., UK): Pompey had a phenomenal weekend in South Carolina, where he hit .471 and scored six runs. Pompey moved to left field this season and has immensely improved from a defensive standpoint.

Ben Aklinski (center fielder, Jr., UK): Aklinski is a force in the outfield and hit .412 in his first weekend with the Cats. He hit a double, a home run and had two RBIs.

Podcast: Interview with Ben Aklinski

Conor Grammes (third baseman/pitcher, So., Xavier): Grammes makes an impact from both sides of the plate. Not only is he a third baseman, he has also thrown an inning for the Musketeers this season, allowing no runs while recording a strikeout. Grammes also hit a double and home run in Xavier’s opening weekend against Florida State.

The Cats will look to win their fifth game on Tuesday in preparation for the series against Oakland this weekend.