Tristan Pompey’s fourth inning grand slam sparked No. 6 Kentucky to a 12-4 series-opening win over No. 5 Florida in Gainesville, taking out one of the Southeastern Conference’s top starting pitchers in the process.
UK’s 38 wins are the sixth most in school history and most since the 2012 team won a school-record 45. The Cats’ 19 SEC wins trail only the 2006 championship team’s 20 for most in a season.
The Cats pounded out 20 hits against the Gators, tying for the most they’ve had in a conference game this season. UK scored in five consecutive innings after Florida (38-15, 19-9) took an early 3-0 lead, piling on insurance runs after Pompey’s two-out blast over the right field wall changed the momentum of the game.
UK’s win, coupled with LSU’s road victory over Mississippi State, created a three-way tie for first in the SEC standings with two games remaining on the schedule. The Cats control their own destiny and with two wins would claim at least a share of the second championship in school history.
UK starter Sean Hjelle was erratic in the first two innings, but minimized the damage to give the league’s top offense a chance to get the Cats back in the game. With two outs in the fourth, the Cats loaded the bases off Alex Faedo and Pompey fought off several two-strike pitches before sending a laser screaming out to right field. The shot opened the floodgates and helped push Hjelle to his ninth win on the season, tying him for sixth on UK’s single-season list.
The teams return to the diamond Friday night for a 7 p.m. start at McKethan Stadium. Zach Logue will get the ball for UK and square off with Florida’s Brady Singer.
Bottom 1st – Ryan Larson reached on an error and moved to second on Dalton Guthrie’s groundout. JJ Schwarz reached on infield single and Nelson Maldonado walked. Austin Langworthy hit a SAC fly to score Larson. Jonathan India singled home Schwarz. Florida 2, UK 0.
Bottom 2nd – A pair of walks and a SAC bunt set up Guthrie’s RBI groundout, scoring Mark Kolozsvary. Florida 3, UK 0.
Top 4th – Kole Cottam doubled, Marcus Carson was hit by a pitch and Connor Heady singled, all with two outs. Tristan Pompey hit a grand slam to RF. UK 4, Florida 3.
Top 5th – Riley Mahan doubled and scored on Troy Squires’ single. UK 5, Florida 3.
Top 6th – Carson singled, Heady walked and both advanced on Pompey’s groundout. Evan White hit a two-run single to CF. UK 7, Florida 3.
Top 7th – Luke Becker and Mahan singled to start the inning, moving up a base on Squires’ SAC bunt. Kole Cottam singled in both Becker and Mahan. Carson singled and Heady lined a two-run single up the middle to bring home Cottam and Carson. UK 11, Florida 3.
Top 8th – Mahan homered to RCF. UK 12, Florida 3.
Bottom 9th – Maldonado and Langworthy walked. India singled home Maldonado. UK 12, Florida 4.
· Kentucky’s 38 wins on the season are the most since the 2012 team won a school-record 45. It’s also the sixth most in school history.
· UK’s 19 SEC wins are the second most in school history, just one shy of the 2006 team’s 20 victories in league play.
· UK now has 17 wins against ranked teams, second only to the 20 the 2006 team had. The Cats are 17-10 vs. ranked foes this year.
· Kentucky has gone 73 games without being shutout, the eighth-longest such streak in school history.
· Sophomore RHP Sean Hjelle pitched 5.2 innings, giving up three runs (one earned), walking five and striking out five.
o Hjelle’s nine wins move him into a tie for 6th place on UK’s single-season wins list.
o He’s allowed one earned run or less in six of his last seven starts.
· Junior 1B Evan White went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBI.
o White now has 218 career hits, moving him past Austin Cousino (2012-14) for 9th on UK’s all-time career hit list.
o White has a hit in 28 of his last 31 games.
o He extended his reached base safely streak to 21 games.
o He has multiple hits in six of his last eight games.
o He has 24 multi-hit games this season and 68 in his career.
· Sophomore OF Tristan Pompey went 1-for-6 with a grand slam.
o Pompey now has hit safely in 39 of his past 43 games.
o He has reached base safely in 25 straight games.
o All nine of Pompey’s home runs this season have come in SEC games.
· Senior OF Zach Reks went 2-for-5.
o Reks has a 10-game hitting streak.
o Reks now has 23 multi-hit games this season and 34 for his career.
o Reks has six straight multi-hit games.
o Reks has reached base safely in 24 consecutive games.
· Junior IF Riley Mahan went 3-for-5 with a double, home run, three runs and an RBI.
o Mahan’s 23rd multi-hit game of the season and 40th of his career.
o Mahan has a 10-game hitting streak.
o Mahan has an extra-base hit in seven of his past eight games.
o He has a team-leading 14 home runs on the season.
o He’s homered in six of his past eight games.
· Senior OF Marcus Carson went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and a hit by pitch.
o Carson was hit by a pitch for the 18th time this season, moving into a tie for 6th on UK’s single-season list.
· Junior C Troy Squires went 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI.
o The SAC bunt moved Squires up both the single-season and career sacrifices charts. Squires’ 12 sacrifices this season is tied for fourth on the single-season chart with teammate Connor Heady and Mike Brown (2007) He moved into 10th place on the career list with 20, tying Chris Wade (2008-09).
Kentucky and Florida play the middle game of their series at 7 p.m. on Saturday and fans can listen on the UK Sports Network via UKathletics.com and iHeart Radio, as well as on 630 AM WLAP, and watch on the SEC Network.
Follow along with the Cats on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and on the web at UKathletics.com.
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