Hunter Gilliam’s two bombs help boost No. 13 Kentucky baseball over Xavier 13-2


Travis Fannon

Kentucky Wildcats infielder Hunter Gilliam (14) swings his bat during the No. 18 Kentucky vs. No. 25 Missouri baseball game on Sunday, April 2, 2023, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 3-1. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff

Parker Scott, Reporter

No. 13 Kentucky baseball (29-7) defeated Xavier (22-15) by a score of 13-2 at Kentucky Proud Park on Tuesday.

The win kept the Wildcats undefeated in mid-week games, bringing their total to 9-0.

“I tip my cap to that team,” head coach Nick Mingione said at the conclusion of the game. “That’s a good team and we held them to three hits. That is hard to do.”

Travis Smith, a redshirt freshman from Walton, Kentucky, started on the mound for the Cats, seeking his third win of the year.

Following three straight defensive outs to begin the game, the Wildcats scored four runs in the bottom of the first, coming from an RBI single by sophomore Emilien Pitre and a three-run home run by redshirt senior Hunter Gilliam.

Only one runner reached base for either team in the next one and a half innings, with the lone runner being Kentucky senior Jackson Gray from a single.

Kentucky scored two more runs in the bottom of the third from an RBI double by sophomore Nolan McCarthy and an RBI single by senior Chase Stanke, both of which occurred with two outs.

The Musketeers added two afterward from a sacrifice groundout and an RBI double to put the score at 6-2 in favor of the Cats in the middle of the fourth.

Redshirt sophomore Devin Burkes hit a single that scored Gray in the bottom of the fourth to add one more run for Kentucky and make the score 7-2.

After little action for the next inning and a half, the Wildcats picked up three runs in the bottom of the sixth, the first two of which came when Pitre hit a single before advancing two more bases following a fielding error that allowed both Burkes and senior Grant Smith to score.

Gilliam then hit a sacrifice fly that scored Pitre to extend Kentucky’s lead to 10-2.

An RBI single from Smith brought in one more run for the Cats to give them a nine-run lead going into the eighth inning.

Closing pitcher Colby Frieda, a sophomore from St. Johns, Flaorifa, retired three straight Xavier batters to maintain the big lead Kentucky had built up.

Following a Pitre walk to begin the bottom of the eighth, Gilliam hit a walk-off home run to end the game by run rule.

Travis Smith was credited with the win, bringing his record to 3-0 on the season. As a whole, the pitching staff pitched five perfect innings and only allowed three hits to a team known for having big bats.

“I thought our pitchers were A-plus,” Mingione said after the game. “We just challenged our guys to just believe and trust in their stuff.” 

Gilliam’s two home runs brought his total to eight on the year, extending his team lead.

“Being able to get back in the facility, spend a lot of time in the cages, get things tuned back in, it was a good feeling,” Gilliam said of the team’s return home from the weekend road series against LSU. “I kind of knew tonight was gonna go the way it was, but before the game, I’m like, I feel way better, everything felt good.”

Kentucky will begin its home series against Texas A&M on Friday, April 21 at 6:30 p.m. EST at Kentucky Proud Park.