Baseball is a game of adjustments. Thanks to the season being so long, players will rise and fall several times over the course of a season. No one knows this better than Kentucky outfielder Tristan Pompey. Regarded as one of the top outfielders in the 2018 class, Pompey hit a rough patch in April. But the uber-talented junior is waking up at the plate right now. Pompey has four consecutive multi-hit games, including a huge night last night in a series-opening win over Mississippi State.
“It’s been about a week and a half-two weeks now to where it’s just like, he has gotten it going,” head coach Nick Mingione said. “I think all of you know, that when he’s going right it just sets the table for our team. The fact that he’s got it going lefty and righty now makes him really dangerous.”
UK needs Pompey to be the guy that sets the tone at the top of the order every night. It appears that the switch-hitting outfielder is coming into his own in that role at the right time. After a 6/36 spell in April and early May, Pompey’s constant adjustments began to help him click at the plate last weekend in Knoxville. Pompey went 2/4 in each of the final two games of the Tennessee series before going 2/5 with a home run in the midweek against Indiana.
Pompey credits the recent stretch of good plate appearances to some adjustments he has been making at the plate. “Not chasing as much, having my hitting zone way smaller than the strike zone. I’m looking for a pitch to hit when there’s less than two strikes, and then when two strikes happen I’m more just trying to make contact now more so than swinging and missing.”
UK needed Pompey to stay hot against Mississippi State on Friday. He did that and more in the series opener. The hot-hitting leftfielder set the tone from the top of the lineup all night for the BatCats. UK got into an early hole against Mississippi State, but the clutch-hitting Pompey brought them back in the middle innings. Trailing 4-1 in the second inning, Pompey ripped a two-run double off the high wall in right field to cut the Dogs lead to one.
“I was really trying to sit on an off-speed pitch, so that’s why the first I hit the fastball the other way because I was waiting for the off-speed,” Pompey said. “Then the second at-bat, it was an off-speed pitch, so I pulled that.”
The second at-bat that Pompey mentioned came just two innings later. After UK tied the game at four in the fourth inning, Pompey drove a ball down the leftfield line for his second two-run double of the game. Pompey’s go-ahead double in the fourth boosted UK to a 9-6 win on Friday. The Bulldogs did not get Pompey out once in the series opener as he reached base in all five of his at-bats.
“When you sit there and think about his three walks and four RBIs and he scored two runs, that’s the type of player he’s capable of being,” Mingione said. “And you know what? I’m glad he’s playing the way he is right now, this time of the year.”
The big night was a culmination of the hard work Pompey has put in over the last few weeks. UK needs Pompey to hit well from both sides of the plate and to be the tone-setter from the leadoff spot. If the last four games are any indication, Pompey has made the necessary adjustments at the plate to be successful moving forward.