After opening night win in Gainesville, UK becomes tied for conference lead


Outfielder Tristan Pompey hits the ball up the middle during a game against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Carter Gossett | Staff

Charlee Schaefer

No. 6 UK baseball took the series opener with their win over the Florida Gators on Thursday evening, dominating them by a final score of 12-4. 

The Cats came to Gainesville with something to prove, playing the top team in the SEC East, and the No. 5 team in the country. 

Sophomore right-hander Sean Hjelle recorded his ninth win of the season after a rough start in which he walked five, allowed three hits and three runs, all in the first two innings of play. 

“I was searching a little bit too much within myself and so, those first two innings I was just trying to do too much myself,” Hjelle said. “I was just going out there the rest of the game trusting my defense and trusting my offense was really key for me.”

Hjelle pitched 5.2 innings with one earned run, which brought his ERA down to 3.07 after his last regular season, start. 

UK’s offense provided a confidence boost for Hjelle and recorded 20 hits throughout the game, including Tristan Pompey’s two-strike two-out grand slam in the fourth inning, a pivotal moment that altered the momentum and allowed Hjelle to settle in and secure the win for the Cats. 

Riley Mahan went 3-5 with a single, double, and a home run, while his teammate Marcus Carson also had a big day at the plate, going 3-4 with all singles.

After UK’s victory over the Gators, as well as LSU’s win over Mississippi State, these three teams are tied for 1st place in the conference. All with .679 winning percentage, the results of this weekend will determine seeding for the SEC tournament next week in Hoover, Alabama. 

When asked how this win will effect the rest of the series, coach Nick Mingione replied, “One thing I love about this team is we have moved on, whether it’s a win or a loss, we’ve been able to just flush it and move on. Tomorrow is a whole new day and as we’ve said all year, victory has to be earned every day.”

With two games remaining in the series against the Gators and in the regular season, the Cats are one step closer to realizing their goal of becoming SEC champions. Zach Logue will take the mound on Friday in game 2 where he will face Brady Singer, Florida’s right-handed pitcher.