Despite multi-hit games from Zach Reks and Evan White, Kentucky dropped the opening game of the 2017 season 3-1 at North Carolina. Reks and White combined for five of the Cats’ seven hits as All-American and Team USA pitcher J.B Bukauskas struck out ten over six scoreless innings for the Tarheels.
In the top of the first, Reks led off the game with a single to center on the first pitch thrown by Bukauskas. With one away, White found the outfield grass to put runners at first and second. Bukauskas was able navigate out of the jam in the top of the first by inducing an easy groundout and flyout.
– Hudson Belinsky (@hudsonbelinsky) February 17, 2017
Sean Hjelle made his first career start in a UK uniform. The 6’11” sophomore struggled early when the #13 Tarheels came up in the first. UNC used three first inning singles, including an RBI knock by Zack Gahagan, to test Hjelle early. Hjelle allowed two more runs over the course of five innings. The Minnesota-native allowed 11 hits and struck out two in the longest outing of his collegiate career.
UNC added a runs in the third and fourth to extend their lead to 3-0. Bukauskas did not allow another hit after the second inning on his way to a dominant performance. Hjelle left the game in the sixth and was relieved by newcomer Colton Cleary. Combined with Brad Schaenzer, Cleary and the bullpen allowed only one hit in three innings of scoreless baseball.
The offense could never recoup after the three early runs. Reks drove in Luke Heyer in the top of the ninth to trim the lead to 3-1, but Josh Hiatt shut the door by striking out Kole Cottam to end the game.
Mingione drops game one. It was a tough start to the Nick Mingione era at Kentucky. The new head coach will look for his first career win as a head coach tomorrow at UNC.
Reks and White shined. It’s important to have your stars shine early in the season. Reks went 3/4 with an RBI and the All-American White was 2/4 with the team’s lone double. White collected both his hits against his Team USA teammate Bukauskas.
Bukauskas was phenomenal. The #6 overall prospect for the MLB Draft this season struck out ten in six innings for the Tarheels. The junior righty can touch the mid to upper 90s on his fastball. As UK saw today, he also can use his changeup and slider effectively.
– Michael Lananna (@mlananna) February 17, 2017
There was little consistency in the lineup. Outside of White and Reks, the Cats went 2/26 with no extra base hits on Friday. Bukauskas, Rodney Hutchison, and Hiatt combined to strikeout 15 Cats.
Game Two Tomorrow- The Cats have a shot to even the series tomorrow at 2 ET. Zach Logue will take the bump for the BatCats against Jason Morgan and UNC on WatchESPN. Follow along on Twitter for update @TreyHuntsmanKSR.