Kentucky opened its second Southeastern Conference home series with a 10-3 win over No. 22 Vanderbilt in front of 2,465 fans on a windy day at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The Wildcats are now 14-1 in Lexington in Nick Mingione’s first season at the helm and have won 20 of their past 23 games.
The No. 16 Wildcats (20-7, 6-1) are off to their best start in SEC play in 25 years after Friday’s win. The 1992 club began SEC play 7-0 on the way to an 8-1 start through the first three weekends of league play.
The Cats’ offense touched up Vanderbilt starter Patrick Raby – who entered the game with a 1.40 ERA in six starts – for nine hits and seven runs in five innings. A five-run second inning gave the Cats an early cushion and then a pair of exquisitely executed safety squeeze bunts tacked on two more runs in the third before Tristan Pompey’s three-run home run in the sixth capped UK’s scoring.
UK starter Sean Hjelle carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and tied a career-high with nine strikeouts in seven innings against a Vanderbilt team that had scored 66 runs in its past seven games. Despite yielding Jason Delay’s two-run home run in the seventh, Hjelle moved to 4-2 after going giving up five hits, three runs and just one walk in seven innings.
AT THE PLATE
The Cats unleashed a barrage of well-placed balls all over the field on Friday night. Tristan Pompey picked up his tenth multi-hit game and sixth multi-RBI game of the season after he went 3-for-4 at the plate with a three-run bomb that extended UK’s lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. Evan White finished with two hits and an RBI that helped fuel the Wildcats dominant second inning. Riley Mahan nabbed two hits and added two runs.
ON THE MOUND
In seven innings of work, Sean Hjelle tied his career high in strikeouts (9) that he previously set at Texas A&M earlier this season. With one scoreless appearance already this year, the 6-foot-11 sophomore didn’t surrender a hit until the sixth inning. Freshman righty Chris Machamer entered in the eighth inning and closed things out for UK after he allowed just one hit and struck out three in his two innings on the mound.
Bot 2nd – Riley Mahan led off with a single to left field and advanced to third on a double that Tristan Pompey smacked off the LF wall. Tyler Marshall walked to loaded the bases. Still with no outs in the inning, Mahan crossed the plate after Troy Squires was hit by a pitch. Shortly after, Marcus Carson stepped up, singled to left field and scored Pompey from third. With the bases still loaded, Evan White added another run when he brought Marshall in to score on a single to center field. Zach Reks reached on a fielder’s choice, and Carson advanced to third base but scored on a throwing error from the shortstop. Squires also scored on the play. UK 5, VU 0
Bot 3rd – Mahan again led off the inning with a hit – this time a double to right field. Pompey then singled to left field, which moved Mahan to third base. Marshall entered and laid down a squeeze bunt, which scored Mahan and moved Pompey into scoring position. Squires followed Marshall’s at bat with a hard-hit ball off the right field wall that advanced Pompey to third base. For the second time in the inning, the Cats called for a squeeze bunt to try and bring a runner home – it was successful. Connor Heady laid down a nice dribbler that scored Pompey. UK 7, VU 0
Top 6th – Vanderbilt led off with back-to-back singles from JJ Bleday and Connor Kaiser. Bleday advanced to third base on a groundout from Jeren Kendall. With one out, Stephen Scott singled to shallow center field and scored Bleday from third base. UK 7, VU 1
Bot 6th – With one out, Reks walked after a good at bat and stole second base. Luke Heyer, who pinch hit for Luke Becker, reached on a fielding error by the first baseman. Two batters later, Pompey blasted a three-run home run over the left field wall. UK 10, VU 1.
Top 7th – Alonzo Jones bunted for a base hit and Jason Delay homered to left field. UK 10, VU 3.
· The Cats are now 14-1 at home this season.
· The Cats’ 6-1 start in SEC play is the best since the 1992 team began league play 7-0 on its way to an 8-1 mark through the first three weeks of conference play.
· Kentucky is now 9-4 against ranked opponents this season, having won nine of the past 10.
· UK has won 18 of the past 20 and 20 of past 23 games.
· Junior 1B Evan White went 2-of-5 with an RBI single.
o White now has 174 career hits, moving him into a tie for 19th on UK’s all-time career hits list with Kyle Barrett (2013-15).
o White’s career batting average is .354, good for sixth on UK’s all-time career average chart.
· Sophomore OF Tristan Pompey went 3-of-4 with a home run, three runs scored and three RBI.
o Pompey’s three RBI and three hits each tied a season-high.
o Pompey now has three home runs on the season and 10 for his career.
o Pompey has had a hit in seven straight and 15 of the past 16 games.
o This was Pompey’s 10th multi-hit game of the season and 17th of his career.
o This was Pompey’s sixth multi-RBI game of the season and 14th of his career.
· Sophomore RHP Sean Hjelle picked up his fourth win of the season, tying his win total from 2016 when he was one of the Cats’ top relievers.
o Hjelle matched his career high with nine strikeouts, which he set in his complete game shutout at Texas A&M on March 17.
Kentucky will attempt to win its third straight series over a ranked SEC team on Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Fans can listen on the UK Sports Network via UKathletics.com and iHeart Radio, as well as on 630 AM WLAP. The game will be aired on SECN+.
Follow along with the Cats on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and on the web at UKathletics.com.
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