The BatCats responded well after a 0-3 weekend against with a series win over #9 Auburn and a 3-1 overall record this week. #6 Kentucky (17-7, 2-4) saw their offense give Auburn the business in big situations as they won their first SEC series of the season. Here is everything you need to know about UK Baseball on this week’s Baseball Notebook.
Kentucky 20 Xavier 4 (Eight Innings)
The Cats responded after a rough weekend in Arkansas with an offensive outburst against Xavier on Tuesday. The Musketeers actually hung close for the first four innings, but the Cats were looking for blood after Xavier cut the lead to one in the fourth. UK outscored Xavier 15-0 in the next three innings as they got their revenge for their loss in February to the Musketeers. Luke Heyer and Kole Cottam both hit a pair of home runs in route to the Cats’ first win of the week.
Kentucky 5 Auburn 4
There is something about being down late that this UK team seems to gravitate to in 2018. After Auburn took a 4-2 lead in the seventh, the BatCats responded with a loud bottom of the ninth. Luke Heyer hit a two-run home run to tie the game at four before the wheels flew off for the Tigers. Ryan Johnson and Kole Cottam hit singles to put two on for pinch hitter Marshall Gei in the ninth. Gei never had to put the ball in play as Auburn pitcher Elliott Anderson threw a ball to the backstop that allowed UK to score the winning run on Friday. It was the second time this season that UK had recorded a walk-off on a ball that got away from the catcher.
Auburn 4 Kentucky 3 (Seven Innings)
It didn’t take long for Auburn to deliver their revenge for Friday night’s loss. The Tigers took game one of Sunday’s doubleheader 4-3 after trailing for the first six innings. Auburn used six hits in the top of the seventh to score four runs against Chris Machamer and UK. Trailing 4-1, the BatCats attempted yet another late comeback. Ben Aklinski hit a two-run home run but it was too little, too late as UK dropped the second game of the series 4-3.
Kentucky 13 Auburn 3 (Seven Innings)
The climax of the week came in Sunday’s finale. The BatCats erupted against Auburn for 13 runs in the seven-inning affair. Tristan Pompey’s four hits and five RBIs led the charge for an offense that collected 15 hits overall. All nine batters in UK’s lineup reached base at least once in support of their starting pitcher Justin Lewis. The junior righty allowed just one run in five innings of work while picking up the win.
Player of the Week: Luke Heyer
SEC play has not seemed to faze Heyer. The senior third baseman is first in the SEC and second nationally in home runs (11) after he smacked three more bombs this week. Heyer drove in ten runs in the four games this week for the Cats. Heyer attributes his power surge this season to a variety of changes he has made. “Being more aggressive, getting up early so I can get down on time, and just trying to find barrels as much as I can,” Heyer said of his change at the plate. Heyer now leads the team in home runs, RBIs, and slugging percentage.
Play of the Week: Ben Aklinski
Without Aklinski’s catch on Friday, the Cats would not have gained much-needed momentum heading into the bottom of the ninth. The leaping grab at the wall took a run off the board for Auburn and kept the game within reach as the Cats came to the plate.
You know about our comeback last night but did you know @benithen’s catch while running full speed into the wall saved a run and ended the top of the 9th? No fear. #WeAreUK #WilltoWin pic.twitter.com/V4j3SPtQoE
— Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) March 24, 2018
Zack Thompson Still Out With An Injury- The Saturday starter for UK missed his second consecutive start due to a flexor strain. The coaching staff is still taking it a day at a time and he could be back next weekend against Alabama.
UK Faced the SEC’s Top Arm on Friday- I would be remiss to not mention Casey Mize’s performance in this post. Auburn’s All-American pitcher struck out 12 in seven brilliant innings on Friday. The projected top-five pick has struck out 63 batters and walked only three this season. I am still amazed that Luke Becker got around on a fastball and hit a ball over 430 feet against Mize on Friday.
Zach Haake Made His First Start at UK- With Thompson out and Daniel Harper starting against Xavier, UK turned to JUCO transfer Zach Haake in game one of Sunday’s doubleheader. Haake, a top fifty national prospect, went 3.2 innings against Auburn. The junior struck out two and allowed one hit while walking four.
The Week Ahead
Kentucky will play four games once again next week. Miami (Ohio) comes to town Monday before the Cats head to Alabama for a three-game series. The Tide are 1-5 in SEC play following a hot start against non-conference opponents. Former UK assistant Brad Bohannon will have his guys ready to play next weekend as they look to upset the Cats in Tuscaloosa.