UK baseball prepares for upcoming season with Fall World Series


Pitcher Zack Thompson throws a pitch during the game against the Louisville Cardinals on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated Louisville 11-7.

Charlee Schaefer

After scouring the country for talent and bringing in 26 new players, UK baseball head coach Nick Mingione and his staff have difficult decisions ahead that could alter the club’s dynamic as they head into the new season. With 46 current players, only 35 can make the cut. Returning players, freshmen and transfers are fighting for their position on the 2018 roster.

“When we first started it was really difficult… where we started 45 days ago with our team practice to where we are at right now, it’s remarkable how much our team has grown,” Mingione said.

Pitching looks to be very strong again this year and the rotation should be effective with SEC Pitcher of the Year Sean Hjelle, freshman All-American Zach Thompson and 2017 MLB draftee Justin Lewis returning. Right-handed junior college transfer Zach Haake is expected to complete the starting rotation. There will be strength in the bullpen as well, with the return of Alec Maley, Austin Keen and Brad Schaenzer.

The Cats have a few holes to fill offensively, due to the loss of key players to the 2017 MLB draft. Clutch hitters such as Luke Becker, Kole Cottam and Tristan Pompey will be expected to produce offensively to have a successful season in hopes of making another postseason run.

On Friday, Hjelle and Maley had a combined no-hitter through seven innings of play to propel the Blue team to a 2-0 victory. Thompson had a great outing as well but the Black team lacked offensively.

In game 2 of the series, Tristan Pompey and TJ Collett both recorded multi-run home runs to push the Blue over Black yet again with a final score of 6-3. Freshman right-hander Jimmy Ramsey had an impressive outing and received the win.

In game 3 on Sunday, the Black team recorded an astonishing 15 runs to surge their win over Blue and take the Fall World Series Championship title. Fans can expect another captivating season out of the 2018 club.

The Cats head to Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on Feb. 16-18 for a season-opening tournament and begin SEC play on March 16 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, vs. the SEC-West rival Arkansas Razorbacks.