Cats beat Grizzlies with combined pitching and offensive prowess


Kentucky Wildcats pitcher Sean Hjelle delivers a pitch during the first inning 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

2017 SEC Pitcher of the Year Sean Hjelle led the No. 8 UK baseball team to its fifth win of the 2018 season on Friday evening, defeating the Oakland Grizzlies 10-1.

Right-handed Hjelle recorded a career-high 13 strikeouts in 7.2 innings, while allowing only one hit and no walks. His previous career high was 10 strikeouts. 

While the pitching was exemplary, the offense was stellar as well. The Cats scored a total of 10 runs off of 13 hits, proving that losing their offensive powerhouses last year will not impact the way they play this year.

Head coach Nick Mingione discussed the importance of quality at-bats after the game.

“We chased a lot of balls out of the zone on Tuesday night. We were just really excited, me included. We wanted that game really really bad,” Mingione said. “Today we only chased seven balls out of the zone and on Tuesday we chased over 40 pitches. We were just trying to do too much.” 

“When this team shows when we command the strike zone, offensively, it can help. When you’ve got a bunch of new guys that haven’t really played in that type of environment, in front of all of those people, it definitely helps to get them back out there today,” Mingione said.

Ryan Shinn, Ryan Johnson, Trey Dawson and Kole Cottam all scored two runs apiece, while TJ Collett and Troy Squires each had one.

Right-hander Trip Lockhart replaced Hjelle in top of the eighth after the Grizzlies’ Jordan Jackson hit a two-strike single and ended Hjelle’s chance of a no-hitter. Right-hander Brett Marshall followed soon after, making his collegiate debut after being redshirted last year because of rehab from Tommy John surgery.

Marshall pitched one inning and allowed one run off of three hits, crushing the possibility of a shutout for Hjelle. 

Before Hjelle left in the eighth inning, fans at Cliff Hagan Stadium started singing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” in tribute to the 2017 regional win where Hjelle closed and secured the win for the Cats. In the regional, the crowd continued to sing even after the music was turned off, motivating Hjelle to get the win for the fans. 

“I walked out there, I got the ball and started smiling. It was really cool because it just brings back memories of what we’re able to do,” Hjelle said after the game. “It’s cool to have that in the memory bank.” 

The Cats continue their series against the Grizzlies tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Cliff Hagan.