Cats sweep weekend series over USC Upstate


Junior infielder Javon Shelby (5) hits the ball during the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats on Tuesday, March 8, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won the game 8-4. Photo by Hunter Mitchell | Staff

Chris Angolia

UK Baseball improved its record to 12-3 Saturday, completing the sweep of the USC Upstate Spartans.

The Cats continued to stay hot and the weekend sweep brought UK’s current winning streak to nine games.

On Friday, the Cats came from behind for the third time in their last four games after trailing 3-0 early on. In the sixth inning, the Cats would respond with five runs, two of which came from the sizzling hot bat of Evan White who delivered a go-ahead two-RBI single. Sean Hjelle came on to get the save and close out the Cats’ 5-3 win.

After taking the first game of the series Friday, UK headed into the Saturday double header looking for the sweep.

Led by the pitching of seniors Dustin Beggs and Kyle Cody, the Cats swept the Spartans picking up victories of 3-0 and 3-1.

Beggs continued his terrific start to the season in game one, pitching seven and two thirds shutout innings allowing six hits while striking out seven Spartans.

Beggs is now 4-0 on the year with a 0.94 ERA, and over his 28.2 innings pitched. He has struck out 30 hitters over that time.

In the Cats’ game-one victory on Saturday, Riley Mahan, Gunnar McNeill and Tyler Marshall each picked up an RBI. Marshall, who was filling in for JaVon Shelby at third base, belted his first career homer. Hjelle went on to pick his second straight save in as many games by keeping the score at 3-0.

Cody got the start in game two of the doubleheader looking to rebound after struggling in his previous two starts. Cody pitched six innings Saturday, allowing one unearned run, on just two hits while striking out seven Spartans.

All three of UK’s runs came courtesy of McNeill, who hit his fourth homer of the year in the first.  The two run homer gave UK a 2-0 lead. In the third, McNeill hit a sac-fly which brought the lead to 3-0. After the Spartans picked up a run in the fifth which brought the score to 3-1, Justin Lewis came on in the ninth and wiggled out of a jam to pick up his second save of the year.

Both White and McNeill extended their hitting streaks to eight and nine games respectively in the series.  They are now both hitting over .375 on the year while also being the top two RBI guys for the Cats.

Marshall filled in nicely for the absent Shelby, starting all three games of the series at third base and going 4-10 with two runs scored and an RBI.

Hjelle has also emerged as a good candidate for the closer job, picking up his second and third saves of the year over the weekend. He has also appeared in other games in the later innings and has thrived in each of his six appearances. It will be interesting to see if Henderson keeps Hjelle in the ninth inning slot moving forward.

The Cats close out their ten game home stand Tuesday when the face off against Western Kentucky at 3 p.m. at Cliff Hagan Stadium.