Cats win series in SEC debut


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

Amidst all the madness in college basketball, UK Baseball opened its SEC slate this past weekend by taking two of three games from the Georgia Bulldogs.

After dropping its mid-week game with Western Kentucky, the Cats were looking to rebound, and there was no better way than getting off to a good start in conference play. On Friday, the Cats dropped their second straight after falling to the Bulldogs 5-2.

Georgia was able to take the opener from UK, thanks to a three run fourth, which would in turn, hand junior Zack Brown his third loss of the year. Brown was solid regardless of the loss, going eight innings, striking out seven, while allowing the five runs on eight hits.

The Cats ended their two game slide on Saturday by picking up an 11-4 victory. Dustin Beggs continued his historic start Saturday and with the victory, he became the first pitcher in UK Baseball history to win his first five starts. On offense, Gunnar McNeill, Evan White and Kole Cottam each picked up multiple RBI.

The rubber-match Sunday was an important one for both teams  — a win would secure a series victory in the first SEC series of the year.

Senior Kyle Cody got the start and struggled early, but the Cats’ offense was able to pick up Cody by plating seven runs in the first four innings. The offense would continue to thrive and after the fourth inning, the Cats outscored the Bulldogs 7-0 which led to a 14-6 series-clinching victory.

Although the pitching has struggled at times this year, both Beggs and Justin Lewis have thrived in their roles. Beggs is now 5-0 on the year with a 1.77 ERA over in 35.2 innings, allowing just seven runs and striking out 32. Lewis has thrived out of the bullpen this year boasting a 0.61 ERA over 14.2 innings and picking up two victories and three saves.

On Sunday JaVon Shelby broke out of his cold spell and exploded for a 3-5 day from the plate with seven RBI, two homers and a triple. Shelby also took a share of the conference lead in homers with his performance.

With the outbreak from Shelby, the Cats offense now looks extremely potent heading into this week. White and McNeill each boast hitting streaks of ten-plus games and now that Shelby has joined the party in the middle of the lineup, the offense is looking as good as it has all year.

UK will need to take its momentum from Saturday and Sunday into this upcoming week when it welcomes in the No. 1 Florida Gators to Lexington with a weekend series beginning on Friday.