After last night’s loss to N.C. State, UK baseball is at a pivotal point in their season. Thankfully, the BBN is more fired up than ever about Kentucky Baseball. Before you head out to the Cliff this afternoon to watch the BatCats take on Indiana, read up on one player who’s already made significant contributions this season: freshman Zach Thompson.
The left-handed pitcher came to Kentucky from Selma, Indiana, where he attended Wapahani High School. Here, he helped his team bring home the 2A State Championship trophy during his sophomore season, and he was named First-Team All-State for three consecutive years. He owns the school record for career strikeouts (405), strikeouts in a game (20) and season slugging percentage (1.154).
At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Thompson joined the Wildcats as a part of the No. 9 recruiting class. He was ranked the No. 23 left-handed pitcher and No. 134 overall player.
Last summer, Thompson had the opportunity to completely forgo a collegiate career. The recent high school graduate was drafted in the 11th round by the Tampa Bay Rays, and therefore had to decide between playing baseball in Florida while cashing in a nice paycheck or going to college. Luckily for the Cats, he decided to enroll at UK.
“There’s no other atmosphere like college baseball,” Thompson said. “I’m not going to see this at the next level.”
Just like another recent student-athlete, Thompson’s decision to delay his professional career in order to play at Kentucky came down to the wire. The pitcher pushed his announcement right up until the signing deadline.
“I just felt like college was the best fit for me,” Thompson said. “I’ll be able to develop here. I know [assistant coach Jim] Belanger does a really good job with pitchers. Every pitcher he’s ever had has improved his draft stock.”
Against Indiana, his home state, Thompson struck out a career-high 10 batters through six innings. He gave up just two runs on three hits and two walks.
Coach Mingione acknowledged the attitude that often comes with playing against your home state, noting that Thompson didn’t get “all caught up in Indiana.”
“I felt like he was locked in in what he was trying to do,” said Mingione. “And that’s not common for freshmen.”
In another standout game, the freshman pitched a career-best 6.2 innings of shutout baseball in the Cats’ win over UT Martin on April 12. In the victory, the lefty tied a career-high eight strikeouts and lowered his season ERA a full run.
Thompson has not seen any action so far this weekend, but, after Saturday’s loss to N.C. State, Mingione said it is likely that Thompson will start in today’s matchup against Indiana. Make your way to Cliff Hagan Stadium by 1 p.m. to catch Thompson — and the rest of the BatCats — in action.