Dorian Hairston, via UKAthletics
The Mother’s Day crowd at Cliff Hagan Stadium got quite the show on Sunday afternoon. Gary Henderson’s No. 28 Kentucky team needed to make a statement to help their postseason prospects, and the Batcats delivered with more late-inning heroics. After rallying from one-down to force extras, senior Dorian Hairston decided to take matters into his own hands with a leadoff bomb to right in the bottom of the twelfth. The Cats (29-19, 13-11) walked off 5-4 over No. 2 South Carolina (36-11, 16-7), and clinched a huge series win. Let’s get to the box score and some notes from the W.
Kyle Cody wasn’t his usually Sunday-Stopper self, but it’ll do. Turning to the final game of this pivotal series, all eyes were on the senior RHP to come through with another signature performance on the mound. Allowing two runs (one earned) on eight hits through only 5.1 innings of work isn’t exactly what led the Cats to the win, but keeping the Gamecock lineup at bay when they got runners on base and allowing the Kentucky offense to rack up a three-run lead to start the afternoon shouldn’t be overlooked.
Sean Hjelle was dominant. The freshman has proven himself in plenty of clutch situations throughout 2016, but none may be as impressive (or needed) than his four innings of two-hit, shutout baseball against a top-ten lineup. It wasn’t an easy outing my any means – Hjelle had to work around a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the top of the 11th – but the lanky 6’11 RHP confidently sent Carolina’s Madison Stokes down on strikes for his third of the inning, and didn’t look back from there.
JaVon Shelby goes yard…again. For an SEC-leading eleventh time this season, the standout third basemen played long-ball with a two-run shot to left in the bottom of the third. In an important rubber match, getting on the board first is a huge momentum boost, and you have to like Shelby doing all that he can as of late to get the Wildcat offense going.
Late-inning drama at home…again. After South Carolina rallied to take its first lead of the game in the top of the eighth, Zach Reks promptly answered with a solo shot to right field to even things up again 4 a piece. Hjelle took over on the mound and held things steady through the bottom of the twelfth from there, and Dorian Hairston’s walkoff shot to right started/ended the bottom half of the frame with a bang. Cats win, moms win, everyone wins.
That’ll do it for this weekend. The Batcats hit the road this week for a matchup at Indiana on Tuesday at 6:00 p.m., then travel to Oxford, Mississippi to face Ole Miss. It’ll be another big week of baseball with the SEC Tournament only drawing closer and Kentucky needing all the wins they can get to set up a deep tourney run and a ticket to the NCAA’s. Stay tuned to KSR for all the coverage.