Kentucky’s offense demolished Tennessee in a 15-5 rout on Friday night. The BatCats used four home runs and 19 total hits to improve to 34-16 (16-9) on the season. While the offense dominated, Sean Hjelle went seven innings and kept the Vols quiet in Friday’s win.
UK was off and running from the jump. The BatCats scored one in the first, three in the second, two in the third and four in the fourth to open up a 10-1 lead on Tennessee. It was evident early on that the ball would be flying against the Vols’ starter Hunter Martin. Evan White hit his seventh home run of the year with one out in the first. White went 2/4 tonight and now totes a .400 average headed into the final six games of the regular season.
Kentucky gave Martin more of the same in the second inning. Troy Squires collected his first of three hits with a leadoff double. Tyler Marshall singled to put runners at first and third with no outs before Connor Heady delivered a one-out RBI single to score Squires. White brought in a pair of runs with two outs when he doubled down the line to give UK a 4-0 lead thru two.
Tennessee never really had a chance to keep up with the BatCats on Friday. Squires and Marshall both drove in runs on sacrifice flies in the third before UK dropped an onslaught in the bottom of the fourth. After Jeff Moberg put Tennessee on the board with a solo home run, UK scored four in the bottom half of the inning. Luke Becker and Mahan slashed RBI singles with one out in the frame as UT had to go to their bullpen. Eric Freeman was unable to stop the bleeding in the fourth as one run scored on an error and Marcus Carson singled to score Marshall and give UK a 10-1 lead into the fifth.
If you like home-runs: you’re in the right place.
— KYwildcatsTV (@KYwildcatsTV) May 13, 2017
Sean Hjelle’s job was easy on Friday. Moberg’s home run was the only blemish on Hjelle’s stat line against Tennessee. The Vols only collected one other hit off Hjelle and reached base a total of four times as the Wildcat starter lowered his ERA to 3.12 of the season. Hjelle is now tied for the team lead in ERA and he leads the team in strikeouts and innings pitched.
The Vols held UK’s offense at bay for the first time in the fifth inning. That lasted for roughly 20 minutes. Mahan and Squires hit back-to-back jacks in the sixth. For Mahan, it was his team-leading 11th of the season. But for Squires, it was his first career home run at UK. Squires has been a glue guy for UK in 2017. When the team needs a sac bunt or gritty play on defense, no one steps up faster than Squires. With a 3/3 day on Friday, Squires is now batting .333 on the year.
Just for good measure, Zach Reks hit a two-run home run in the seventh and Kole Cottam added an RBI-groundout later in the inning. Kentucky’s offense had been effective as of late, but hadn’t been scoring like they did tonight. It was a brilliant showing of offensive execution by the BatCats.
After Hjelle exited in the 8th with a 15-1 lead, Coach Mingione went with some rarely used members of his pitching staff to finish the game. Alec Maley pitched a scoreless eighth in his ninth appearance of the season. Josh Smith and Austin Keen allowed a combined four runs in the ninth before Brad Schaenzer entered to close out a 15-5 win for the BatCats.
Evan White, All-American- I understand that he missed 13 games because of injury, but come on. White is now hitting .400 in 146 at-bats with seven bombs and 29 RBIs. His dominance on offense matches up well with his perfect fielding percentage at first base. It will be fun down the stretch to see if White can finish the year over .400.
Stephen Johnson threw out the first pitch- The UK Quarterback and Governor’s Cup legend delivered a first pitch strike to open tonight’s game. Here’s video:
— Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) May 12, 2017
Riley Mahan has found his power- Mahan has now homered in three straight SEC games and is the first UK player to double-digit bombs this year. The junior now leads SEC second basemen in home runs.
Kentucky will look for a series win at 2 ET at the Cliff. Zach Logue takes the ball as UK will try and tie Florida for the SEC East lead.