Tristan Pompey’s grand slam in the fourth inning gave #7 Kentucky their first lead of the night and carried UK to a 12-4 win over #5 Florida. The Cats are a win away from the SEC East crown and potentially the overall title. UK’s offense tallied 20 hits as Florida was unable to keep up on Thursday.
Sean Hjelle struggled with command in the first two innings, but he also had some bad luck. Florida loaded the bases on an error, infield single, and a walk with one out. Austin Langworthy delivered a sac fly to center for the first run and Jonathan India knocked in one more on a RBI single. Hjelle’s command was rough in the bottom of the second. The sophomore walked three in the second and allowed one run to come across as Florida lead 3-0 thru two.
Hjelle settled down in the third and pitched his first zero of the night. On the other end, Alex Faedo was also watching his pitch count rise early. The consensus first rounder had 49 pitches thru two innings but was still controlling the Cats.
The only time UK could get to Faedo early was with two outs. The first nine hits for UK came with two outs in an inning. In the 4th inning, Faedo really struggled to find the third out. Kole Cottam doubled to center to get the rally going. Marcus Carson was barely nicked by an inside slider before Heady blooped a single to right to load the bases. Tristan Pompey delivered maybe the biggest hit of the year for the BatCats. Faedo put a slider on the outer half that Pompey tagged for a grand slam to right. It was Pompey’s ninth home run of the year.
GRAND SLAM in Gainesville!!!!
– SEC Network (@SECNetwork) May 19, 2017
The grand slam completely changed the vibe of Thursday’s game. The offense began to break through and Hjelle began to feel comfortable on the bump. For Florida, it all fell apart. Faedo allowed a RBI single to Troy Squires in the fifth before UK broke through the levy in the sixth. A two-RBI single by Evan White chased Faedo after 5.1 innings. The Preseason All-American allowed a career-high 13 hits and seven runs in his shortest outing of the season.
For Hjelle, the offense’s production seemed to calm him down on the mound. After allowing the three early runs, Hjelle held Florida scoreless for the next 3.1 innings. Hjelle finished with a line of 5.2 innings, three runs (one earned), six hits, five walks, and five strikeouts. Hjelle exited with runners at the corners and two outs in the sixth. Zack Thompson entered and got a big third out to slam the door.
Kentucky continued to step on the Gators’ throats in the seventh. Cottam singled home two runs to chase Nick Horvath with one out in the frame. The wheels continued to fall off for Florida as Connor Heady brought in two more runs with a single to center. UK lead 11-3 thru seven.
Riley Mahan crushed his 14th home run of the year in the eighth to give UK a nine-run lead. Colton Cleary closed the game out with only one run allowed in the ninth to give UK a 12-4 win in Gainesville.
The importance of this win cannot be underappreciated. The Cats now control their own destiny and are a win and a LSU loss away from locking up the SEC regular season title. Tonight’s win will go down as one of the biggest in UK Baseball history. The offense was ridiculous (everyone had one hit, seven guys had two or more) and it was all against a top five team. The Cats did it all on national TV and embarrassed Florida at home.
The Cats go for the SEC Title tomorrow at 6 ET.