Luke Becker delivered an RBI single in the 8th inning to give Kentucky a 3-2 win over Austin Peay. The Governors lead 2-1 after after a two run fifth, but Kentucky’s bullpen navigated several tight jams to keep the game alive headed into the eighth. Gunnar McNeill tied the game with an RBI single to the left field gap to score JaVon Shelby. Becker drove home Tristan Pompey and give UK the late inning win. Here are some takeaways from Kentucky’s home opening win.
Riley Mahan continues to impress- The sophomore shortstop went 1/3 with a double and some solid defensive plays. Even his outs were well-hit balls to the outfield. Having Mahan hitting over .400 from the eight spot in the lineup is huge for a team that has questions on offense. He is driving the ball well and getting more extra base hits than he did last season. Mahan made obvious improvements during his time in summer ball.
Zach Pop made his first career stop- The Canadian sophomore went 3.1 innings and did not allow a run. Gary Henderson has Pop on a pitch count early in the season, so we didn’t see him go deep in this game. Pop stayed around 91-93 on his fastball and struck out two in his first start.
Walks plagued Kentucky- UK’s pitchers walked a total of eight batters against Austin Peay. The Govenors did walk a single player. Justin Lewis pitched two shutout innings, but walked three batters and threw 42 pitches. Zach Strecker and Sean Hjelle were the only pitchers not to give a free pass.
Gunnar McNeill is a power bat- McNeill hit his second home run of the year in the 4th inning. He doesn’t walk much (he hasn’t taken four balls in an at-bat this season), but he is third on the team in hits and drove in two big runs today.
Is Sean Hjelle the closer?- It is starting to appear that way. The 6’11” pitcher has not allowed a run in three appearances with six strikeouts. He picked up his first career save tonight.
Kentucky showed their grit against Austin Peay- UK’s bullpen continually got out of jams with men in scoring position early in innings. The obvious showing of grit was the late comeback. McNeill and Becker delivered huge hits with two outs to put UK ahead. Becker was a pinch hitter for Connor Heady when he delivered the groudball single in the eighth. This team is deep and has guys who can make big plays despite their age.
UK is back home this weekend against Buffalo. The normal weekend rotation is expected for all three days. If you can’t make it to the Cliff, catch the games on SECN+.