Kentucky baseball records statement 21-3 win over Southern Illinois for second series sweep


Travis Fannon

Kentucky Wildcats infielder Hunter Gilliam (14) swings his bat during the Kentucky vs. Indiana State baseball game on Saturday, March 4, 2023, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 4-2. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff

Jonathon Bruner, Reporter

Kentucky Baseball (14-2) slugged its way to its 10th straight win and a series sweep as it mercy-ruled the Southern Illinois Salukis (6-10) by a score of 21-3 in seven innings on Sunday. 

The story of the day was the offense, as the Cats scored 20-plus runs for the first time since 2018. 

The offense got started early as leadoff man, senior Jackson Gray, started the game off with a base hit up the middle before redshirt sophomore Devin Burkes, senior Jase Felker and sophomore Émilien Pitre all walked, bringing home Gray to make the score 1-0 for the Wildcats.

Kentucky Wildcats infielder Jase Felker (2) stands in the infield during the Kentucky vs. Indiana State baseball game on Sunday, March 5, 2023, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 7-6. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff (Travis Fannon)

Redshirt senior Hunter Gilliam lined out to left field, but Felker tagged up and came home to make the score 2-0 for the Wildcats.

Still in the first inning, redshirt freshman James McCoy walked to bring home Burkes and increase the lead to 3-0 before a passed ball by the Salukis’ catcher would bring home Pitre and make it 4-0 for the Wildcats after one inning.

After a three-run rally by the Salukis in the second inning, Gilliam doubled to left center to bring home Pitre and extend the Wildcats lead to 5-3 after three innings. 

The Wildcats got back on the scoreboard in the fourth inning after Gray reached base on a fielding error by the Salukis’ third baseman that allowed senior Grant Smith to score and increased the lead to 6-3 for the Wildcats.

Kentucky was not done scoring in the fourth either as Burkes hit a single to right field to bring Gray to the plate and make it 7-3.

The fifth inning was a special one for the Wildcats as they would put 14 runs on the scoreboard, which marked the most a Kentucky team has scored in one inning under head coach Nick Mingione.

The scoring began when Gray reached on a fielder’s choice that brought McCoy to the plate and the lead to 8-3. Felker would then hit a sacrifice fly to center field that brought home junior Reuben Church and made the score 9-3. 

The floodgates really opened when Burkes sent a three-run home run over the right center field fence that brought home Gray and Smith along with himself to bring the score to 12-3.

The record inning continued when Gilliam doubled to left field to bring home Pitre to put the Wildcats up 13-3 before the second homer of the inning came off the bat of sophomore Ryan Waldschmidt and brought home Gilliam to give the Wildcats two more runs.

Kentucky Wildcats outfielder Jackson Gray (51) swings his bat during the Kentucky vs. Wright State baseball game on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 15-0. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff (Travis Fannon)

The next player to come home was McCoy after Gray was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, which made the score 16-3 for the Wildcats. 

The hits kept coming as Felker sent a single to right field to bring Smith and Church to the plate and make the score 18-3. 

Pitre continued his busy series at the plate with a double down the right field line which plated Gray and made the score 19-3. 

Gilliam would be responsible for the final two runs of the inning and the game when he singled to center field and brought home Pitre and Felker to bring the score 21-3.

Senior Zack Lee started on the mound for the Wildcats and went four of the seven innings in the ballgame. Lee gave up three runs on five hits with no walks and one strikeout, enough to be granted the win and bring his record to 3-0 on the season.

The first pitcher out of the Wildcat bullpen was redshirt sophomore Evan Byers, who pitched for one inning and gave up no hits, no walks and recorded one strikeout. 

The Wildcats would then send junior Austin Stickland to the mound, with Strickland going on to also give the Wildcats one inning of work. Despite giving up a hit, he recorded two groundouts and one fly out during his inning of work. 

Redshirt sophomore Zach Hise came onto the mound for the final three outs of the game, which was shortened due to the mercy rule. He gave up one walk but quickly erased it with a double play before striking out the final hitter of the game to secure the victory for the Wildcats. 

With the win Kentucky is set to take on the Indiana Hoosiers at Kentucky Proud Park on Tuesday March 14, at 6:30 p.m. EST. The game will be streamed on the SEC Network+.