Cats drop series at Florida, earn No. 3 seed for SEC Tournament


Junior Evan White watches his ht during a game against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Carter Gossett | Staff

Charlee Schaefer

Despite a tough series loss marked by several defensive errors and base-running mistakes in Gainesville against the Florida Gators, the Cats still have a lot of baseball remaining if they want to make it to Omaha for the College World Series.  

“Every weekend from here on out, we’re playing for a championship,” UK baseball head coach Nick Mingione said.

The Cats will go into the SEC tournament as the No. 3 seed, receiving a first-round bye and avoiding single-elimination play, with their first game being on Wednesday morning. 

On Thursday evening in game one of the series at Florida, starting pitcher Sean Hjelle had a rocky start, throwing 57 pitches in the first two innings alone.

After a grand slam from Tristan Pompey, Hjelle’s confidence was boosted and the offense kept things rolling, recording a total of 20 hits, and secured Hjelle’s ninth win of the season. 

In game two on Friday evening, Zach Logue only went three innings, allowing six runs.

After Mingione was ejected from the game in the 5th inning, the team had a hard time keeping it together, eventually falling to the Gators 14-3, the biggest loss UK has suffered this season. 

“We are going to learn from this,” Mingione said. “There are a lot of things that we did not do very well tonight and when you don’t do things well that is what’s supposed to happen, you’re supposed to get beat.” 

On the Saturday afternoon rubber match, the Cats took an early lead in the top of the first with back-to-back doubles by Evan White and Luke Becker. They scored again in the 3rd inning with a single from Zach Reks, which scored White. 

Sophomore right-hander Justin Lewis had three strong innings but was hit by a line-drive in the leg and seemed to have lost his focus and command after the injury. 

Freshman pitchers Chris Machamer and Zach Thompson stepped up for their team after Lewis pitched 4.1 innings and kept the run deficit at a manageable level. 

UK rallied and scored two more runs in the top of the 8th inning, but fell short with a final score of 6-4. 

Despite Hjelle’s win on Thursday, the Cats did not have their best showing in Gainesville and will need to maintain composure and regain focus as they head to Hoover, Alabama for the SEC Tournament. They have a few days off to regroup before they make their tournament run.