Grant Koch and #5 Arkansas (14-4) broke out offensively to beat Sean Hjelle and #4 Kentucky (14-4) 9-4 in Friday’s SEC Opener. Koch and company scored nine runs on 11 hits, seven walks, and three home runs as Arkansas took game one of the series.
Arkansas’ offense was in attack mode early against Hjelle in the first. Arkansas took a 3-0 lead in the first on a solo home run by Eric Cole and RBIs from Dominic Fletcher and Jordan McFarland.
Hjelle never found his flow in his fifth start of the season. The junior pitcher walked five, hit two batters, and threw two wild pitches in his shortest outing of the year. After 83 pitches in 3.1 innings of work, Hjelle exited with UK trailing 4-1.
UK’s offense nearly kept the team in the game. The Cats collected 12 hits and hit .364 with runners in scoring position. Kole Cottam hit his sixth home run of the season and Troy Squires went 3/5 in a losing effort.But each time the Cats would get within striking distance, Arkansas would respond. After trailing by three early, the closest UK would get to tying the game would be in the fifth inning. The Cats chased Blaine Knight and scored their second run of the game on a Luke Becker RBI walk. But before UK could blink, the Razorbacks had doubled their lead. Grant Koch hit his first of two home runs in the bottom of the fifth as Arkansas took a 6-2 lead.
Koch was the bain of UK’s existence on Friday. The Arkansas catcher hit a pair of home runs and drove in four runs in Arkansas’ victory. Koch’s second home run of the day came in the seventh inning when the Razorbacks pushed their lead to six against the UK bullpen.
The Cats hung a crooked number on the Razorbacks’ bullpen in the eighth when Squires and Pompey drove in a pair of runs, but it was too little, too late. Arkansas’ consistent success at the plate was too much on Friday night as the Hogs took game one by a score of 9-4.
The Cats will be back in action tomorrow when they take on Arkansas in a doubleheader beginning at 3 ET. You can watch live on SECN+ or tune in on 98.5 FM.