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Baseball

Three-sport UK Letterman Lowell Hughes passes away

Three-sport UK Letterman Lowell Hughes passes away

The Kentucky Basketball, Football, and Baseball families lost a former player this week. Lowell Hughes, one of only six three-sport lettermen at Kentucky since World War II, passed away at the age of 81 on Sunday in Ocala, Florida.

Lowell was a member of the 1958 NCAA Championship basketball team, the starting quarterback for the football team, and also a member of the baseball team. A Prestonsburg, Kentucky native, he played basketball for Prestonsburg High School and went on to graduate from UK Law School. He also served two terms in the Kentucky State Senate before moving to Florida in 1982 to run a horse farm.

A visitation will be held tomorrow from 10-11 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Ocala. To read his obituary, please click here.


Former Kentucky pitcher James Paxton makes MLB history

Former Kentucky pitcher James Paxton makes MLB history

Photo credit: @YESNetwork

A former University of Kentucky pitcher made New York Yankees history on Tuesday night.

James Paxton, who played at Kentucky from 2007-09, became just the third Yankees pitcher to have three games with 12-plus strikeouts and one walk or fewer in a season.

The only others to ever do it? Mike Mussina (2001) and Masahiro Tanaka (2017).

Looking at the list of historic Yankees pitchers such as Whitey Ford, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemons, and C.C. Sabathia, this accomplishment is pretty darn impressive.

In seven innings, Paxton managed 12 strikeouts, one hit, one walk, and zero earned runs.

Here are the highlights:

In his first year with New York – he played his first six years in Seattle – Paxton is 12-6 with an ERA of 4.16. Since August 2, the former Wildcat has managed an ERA of 2.98, 51 strikeouts, and a .170 BAA in 42.1 innings, including a record of 7-0.

Back in 2009, Paxton became the first UK player selected in the first round of the MLB Draft since World Series Champion Joe Blanton was picked by the Athletics in 2002. During his final year with the program, the 6-foot-4 pitcher out of Richmond, British Columbia ranked third in the NCAA in strikeouts per nine innings, fanning 13.22 hitters per nine innings pitched.


Photo: Little League

Bowling Green eliminated in the Little League World Series

Photo: Little League

Bowling Green’s Little League World Series dreams have unfortunately come to an end.

Following the team’s 6-1 loss to New England this afternoon, Bowling Green East has been eliminated from contention.

Bowling Green – who turned into Great Lakes for the LLWS – managed just two hits on the day, while New England ended game with eight total, led by three from Lucas Tanous.

New England’s Owen Pfeffer pitched a complete game, finishing with seven strikeouts, two hits, two walks, and zero earned runs.

As for Great Lakes, Jameson Napper and Luke Idlett made up the team’s two hits on the day.

Kentucky made its 10th LLWS appearance overall and its first since 2016, with the state’s record now moving to 14-20 all time in the event. Bowling Green East made its third trip to Williamsport, with all three of them coming in the past five years alone. Led by manager Rick Kelley, Bowling Green won two games in both 2015 and 2016.

The team had been a perfect 14-0 going into the weekend, including a 3-0 finish at Regionals.

Great Lakes lost on Friday afternoon to Minnesota in the double-elimination event.


Former Kentucky pitcher Chandler Shepherd makes MLB debut

Former Kentucky pitcher Chandler Shepherd makes MLB debut

Former Lawrence County standout and Kentucky pitching star Chandler Shepherd made his MLB debut last night.

Pitching for the Baltimore Orioles in a relief effort against the Yankees, Shepherd finished with a final line of five hits, one earned run, and two strikeouts in four innings. Out of 68 total pitches, 41 of them were strikes for the former Wildcat.

Here was his very first strikeout as an MLB pitcher, which came against none other than Aaron Judge:

The Orioles recalled Shepherd from Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate Norfolk prior to Tuesday’s game against the Yankees.

Before his professional career, Shepherd was a star at Kentucky from 2012-14. As a sophomore, the former Wildcat served as a dominant reliever, appearing in 26 games with one start, posting a 2.77 ERA and a 5-0 record over 55? total innings. He finished 3-0 with a 0.44 ERA over his last 11 appearances and was selected to the 2013 Cape Cod League All-Star team.

His junior year, Shepherd returned from a forearm injury to finish with a 3-1 record, a 3.83 ERA, and one save, winning Baseball America honors as the top prospect in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.

To close out his Kentucky career as a senior, was rated the No. 70 player in the 2014 Baseball America Preseason NCAA Top-100. He then made 16 pitching appearances, finishing with a 5-5 overall record and a 3.66 ERA in 76? innings, including nine starts and one saved game.

Shepherd was then selected by the Red Sox in the 13th round of the 2014 MLB Draft, where he lasted until this year. After being waived in May, the former Wildcat had a short four-day stint with the Chicago Cubs before being released and claimed by the Orioles.

Now, three months later, Shepherd is officially an MLB pitcher.


Former Kentucky baseball star Sean Hjelle promoted to Double-A

Kentucky Athletics (SEC Sports)

Back in June of 2018, former Kentucky pitcher Sean Hjelle was drafted in the second round to the San Francisco Giants.

Just 13 months later, the former Wildcat has already been promoted four times, with his most recent coming yesterday afternoon.

Hjelle, who had been with the San Jose Giants (Class A-Advanced) since May, is now set to move up to Double-A with the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

In San Jose, Hjelle posted an impressive 2.78 ERA in 14 starts with the team. This comes after posting a 2.66 ERA to go with 44 strikeouts and just nine walks in 40.2 innings the stop before.

According to MLB.com, the former Kentucky star is the No. 6 overall prospect for the Giants and the third-best pitcher they are grooming in the minors before making the jump to the MLB.

On his official MLB.com prospect scouting report, they raved about the 6-foot-11 pitcher’s unique size, control, and pitch selection:

Hjelle doesn’t fit the prototype of a tall pitcher because his polish stands out much more than his power. His fastball sits at 91-94 mph and peaks at 96, with the unusual angle he creates with his extra-large frame more notable than his velocity. He has outstanding body control for someone his size, allowing him to repeat his delivery with ease and throw strikes with all of his offerings.

Hjelle’s best pitch is his low-80s knuckle-curve, which earns plus grades from some evaluators. He also uses a cutter/slider to give him a harder breaking ball and shows feel for a changeup. While he still could add some strength to his lanky frame, his floor stands out more than his ceiling and he’s likely to settle in as a No. 4 starter.

Hjelle still has two jumps to go before he’s officially taking the mound as an MLB pitcher, but he’s certainly knocking on the door.


ECUpirates.com

Dan Roszel to be the new Pitching Coach at Kentucky

ECUpirates.com

ECU pitching coach Dan Roszel is leaving Greenville and headed to Lexington to join the Kentucky Wildcats coaching staff, per HoistTheColurs.net.

Roszel was with the Pirates for nine years and is leaving the program after a 47-18 season where they hosted a regional for the second straight year and made the program’s fifth all-time Super Regional appearance before falling to Louisville.

He will join a Kentucky team coached by Nick Mingione, who going into his fourth season at UK. In his first three seasons, Mingione holds a record of 104-84, and his Wildcats missed the SEC tournament in 2019 along with the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons, which is what brought the coaching staff changes.

Last season, Kentucky’s pitching posted an ERA of 5.10 and opponents were batting .257 against the Cats in a season that saw them finish 26-29.

Roszel will look to better those numbers, and he has the resume to do it with 19 seasons under his belt.

During his time at East Carolina, he was responsible for developing the program’s highest-ever draft pick in starting pitcher Jeff Hoffman, who was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays ninth overall in the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft. Roszel also coached Major League Baseball All-Star Chris Sale as an assistant at Florida Gulf Coast.

Roszel’s 2019 staff led The American in eight statistical categories including wins (47), strikeouts (595), innings pitched (577.2), shutouts (six) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.79) while ranking second in the AAC in ERA (3.96) and WHIP (1.32). The Pirates also set the AAC record for league wins with 20.

For a Kentucky program that has been predicated on dominant pitchers, such as Sean Hjelle, Justin Lewis, and Zack Thompson; this hire was crucial for a Kentucky program that took a massive step back last year. Hopefully, this hire will put the Wildcats back in the right direction.


Photo via @UKBaseball Twitter

Former Wildcat lighting up Lexington Legends

Photo via @UKBaseball Twitter

Former Kentucky catcher/first baseman Kole Cottam is back in town with the Greenville Drive, a single-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.

The Drive play in the South Atlantic League and compete in the southern division alongside the Lexington Legends. The teams are two games into a three-game series, and Cottam has performed well in both so far. On Friday night he went 1-3 with a walk and scored a run in a 5-4 Legends win, and last night he went 2-4, smacking his fifth home run of the season and scoring twice as the Drive won 6-2.

After batting .352 with the Cats his junior year, the Red Sox selected Cottam in the fourth round of the 2018 MLB Draft. This has been the 22-year-old’s first full season with the Drive, and as he did against stiff SEC competition, Cottam has more than held his own. Working mostly behind the plate, Cottam has played in 56 games and currently has a .249 batting average.

Something about playing on the road, particularly in the Bluegrass, elevates Cottam’s game. He’s batting .276 in away games this year, and two of his five homers have come in Whitaker Bank Ballpark.

The rubber match of this series is currently underway in Lexington. Drive Manager Iggy Suarez has given Cottam a day off but may decide to let the former Wildcat try and stay hot in a pinch-hit opportunity.


UK athletics

T.J. Collett finishes in the 2nd Round at the College Home Run Derby

Image

Last night, Kentucky’s T.J. Collett competed in the 10th annual College Home run derby.

Collett managed to get to the second round of last night’s contest clobbering 16 balls out of TD Ameritrade Park, but unfortunately, his second round performance couldn’t get him into the one on one final for the College Home Run Derby Championship. However, Northen Kentucky’s Griffin Doersching won the contest with a whopping 51 home runs on the night.

Regardless of where Collett finished, he said it was one of the best times he’s ever had in his baseball career.

Collet had so much fun, that the left-handed slugger even decided to hit from the right side of the plate in last night’s derby.

Check out all of T.J.’s best moments at the College Homerun Derby: