Cats trump Terriers in baseball season opener


Sean Hjelle delivers a pitch in Kentucky baseball’s season opener at Wofford in Spartanburg, S.C. on Feb. 16, 2018. Hjelle pitched for six innings and gave up two hits. Photo by Wofford Athletics.

Charlee Schaefer

No. 8 UK Baseball started its season off with a win against the Wofford College Terriers on Friday evening by a final score of 6-1.

Wofford’s pitching struggled against Kentucky’s offense, which had six runs off of nine hits, three of which were home runs.

Right-handed pitcher and SEC Pitcher of the Year Sean Hjelle took the mound for the Cats and recorded his first win with three strikeouts. Hjelle threw six innings and 83 pitches while walking only two batters.

Luke Heyer hit a three-run home run to right-center field in the top of the second inning to open up the game after Kole Cottam was walked and Troy Squires was hit by a pitch. Tristan Pompey hit another home run to right-center in the top of the third to bring the score to 4-0. 

Pompey and Cottam both had multi-hit games, Pompey with a home run and a single and Cottam with a home run in the fourth, and reached first in the sixth on a throwing error.

Wofford would get on the board in the sixth inning after Mack Nathanson doubled to bring in Alex Malsch. That was the Terriers’ only run of the game. 

Wofford made a pitching change after the fifth with freshman right-hander Clay Schwaner replacing starter Adam Scott.

Carson Coleman replaced Hjelle in the bottom of the seventh, getting his first collegiate relief appearance. Coleman recorded five strikeouts and only one walk through two complete innings. Coleman was redshirted last year. 

Veteran pitcher Alec Maley replaced Coleman in the ninth inning to close things up for the Cats. He struck out the three batters he faced.

Hjelle, Coleman and Maley had a combined 11 strikeouts for the night.

“They came in and they struck out eight of the nine batters they faced and they just rammed the ball in the strike zone and moved the game along,” head coach Nick Mingione said after the game. “Anytime we have a lead, that’s what our bullpen has to do. We’ve gotta move the game along and pound the strike zone and those guys did that.” 

The Cats have a busy weekend ahead of them and will play two games on Saturday, both against USC Upstate in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The first will start at 1 p.m. with the nightcap at 5 p.m.

On Sunday, they will face Evansville at 11 a.m. before they head back to Lexington for the home opener on Wednesday versus Xavier.