There is no better way to test the greatness of a team than to see their attitudes after a tough loss. After losing two of three at home to Georgia, the #9 BatCats went 4-0 this week with a midweek win over Indiana and a sweep of Tennessee. The offense looked more lively than they had in weeks as the team preps for a postseason run.
Kentucky 5 Indiana 2- Zack Thompson set a career-high in strikeouts as he sat down ten Hoosiers’ over six innings on Tuesday night. Indiana came in as the hottest team in the Big Ten with wins in eight of their last ten. Thompson’s strong performance and big nights from Tristan Pompey and Evan White pushed UK over Indiana.
Kentucky 15 Tennessee 5- UK’s offense blasted four home runs on Friday night in support of Sean Hjelle to take game one of the weekend series. UK had the Vols down 15-1 headed into the 8th inning as they scored at least once in all but two innings. Troy Squires hit his first career home run as the Cats tallied 19 hits in the win.
Kentucky 8 Tennessee 3- The offense didn’t falter after a big night on Friday. Evan White hit his second home run of the series and Riley Mahan added two more dingers to give him the team lead with 13. Mahan and White combined to go 5/9 with seven RBIs and four extra-base hits on Saturday. As I mentioned last week, Chris Machamer is a weapon that hasn’t been used adequately this season. In his longest outing of the season, Machamer went 4.1 perfect innings to collect the win out of the bullpen.
Kentucky 7 Tennessee 2- The BatCats got their brooms out on Sunday to finish off the Vols. Zach Reks, Pompey, and Mahan all picked up three hits in the win. Zack Thompson and Logan Salow combined to throw the final 5.2 innings on the mound. The Vols only reached base five more times as the UK bullpen slammed the door and finished off the sweep.
— KYwildcatsTV (@KYwildcatsTV) May 14, 2017
Notes from the week
Sean Hjelle is owning the Friday night role- There were concerns early in the season that Hjelle would not handle the transition from closer to starter well. That’s not an issue any longer. After throwing seven innings of one-run ball against Tennessee, Hjelle sits at 8-2 with a 3.28 ERA. Take away a couple blemishes early in the season, and that ERA is well below three. I love Hjelle’s emotion on Friday nights. That’s the kind of guy you want starting the first game of a regional or a super. His strikeout to walk ratio is solid and he does a good job of maintaining control even in big situations.
Squires dominates behind and at the plate- It’s never really been in doubt that Squires is superb behind home. He is third on the team in fielding percentage (for qualifying players) and is now hitting .331. Squires picked up seven hits in the series against UT and gives the Cats a nice spark from the bottom of the lineup.
Kentucky’s offense comes back- UK’s offense looked a little down against Georgia and the results showed it. UK had no issues on offense against Tennessee this weekend. UK outscored the Vols 30-10 in the three-game series.
Evan White is now in the top ten all-time in hits- After another huge weekend, White tied Chad Green for tenth all-time at UK with 215 hits. There is a real chance White could move into the top five by the end of the season if he keeps his current pace.
UK sends off the senior class of 2018- Saturday was Senior Day for seven players and manager Sean Mann. The seven guys threw out the first pitch to their mother’s. Congrats to all the guys on their careers at UK.
— KYwildcatsTV (@KYwildcatsTV) May 13, 2017
We are one week from the travel day for the SEC Tournament, and the picture for the title is still murky. Florida has a one-game lead over Kentucky and LSU with Mississippi State sitting at fourth. UK can take the East crown with a series win over Florida next week. If they were to finish tied with LSU, UK would have the tiebreaker as they have a better win percentage and took two of three from the Tigers. The top four seeds all get byes in Hoover. Arkansas is currently fifth and would need a lot to happen to shake up the picture.
The week ahead
UK has their final home game before the postseason this week against Northern Kentucky. After the midweek, UK will take on Florida starting on Thursday. UK took the series against the Gators in 2016, but this is a new Florida club. We will have more on the huge series on Wednesday and on this week’s podcast.
New Podcast on Tuesday
Former All-American and current SEC Network Broadcaster Chris Burke will join the show this week to talk about the final weekend of conference play as well as the SEC Tournament and his playing days. I will be headed to Hoover next week, so make sure to follow @TreyHuntsmanKSR for updates on the SEC Tournament.