Sean Hjelle allowed one run in 7.1 innings to boost Kentucky (5-5) to a 2-1 win over #23 UC Santa Barbara. The BatCats gave Hjelle two runs early and they were enough to give the sophomore righty his first win of the season.
Santa Barbara’s Noah Davis spun scoreless frames through the first couple innings before UK got to him in the third. Luke Becker and Connor Heady singled to put runners at the corners with one away for the hot hitting Marcus Carson. The centerfielder delivered with his ninth RBI of the season on a single to right field. Heady would come into score on a wild pitch to give UK a 2-0 lead through three.
UCSB responded in the top of the fourth. The Gauchos used small ball to get Colton Burns in to cut the Cats’ lead to one. Hjelle was dominant following the run-scoring fourth inning. The sophomore went 7.1 innings and allowed only one run on six hits and a walk while striking out eight.
Both teams struggled to reach base following the fourth inning. Davis was excellent for UCSB after allowing two early runs. The freshman of the year in the Big West last season threw a complete game and allowed only five hits. Davis never hit over 90 on the radar gun, but he had excellent movement on his fastball and curveball to shut down the Cats’ lineup for his last five innings.
Hjelle and Davis battled against each other until the eighth when Colton Cleary came on in relief for UK. With runners at first and second, Cleary used a strike-’em-out throw-’em-out to end the threat in the eighth. The Cincinnati-transfer stayed on for the ninth and retired the meat of the Gaucho lineup in order to wrap up a 2-1 win for UK.
– Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) March 3, 2017
Cats win in a pitcher’s duel- Early in the season, UK struggled to win close games. The offense had put up 29 runs in their last two games, but Davis shut down UK for the most part. It was the first time that UK had pulled away in a one-run game and finished it off late.
Hjelle had his first great start of the year- Hjelle entered Friday with an ERA over 11. The sophomore was phenomenal in the win. He utilized his curveball very well and got nine ground ball outs.
The bottom of the order picked up the slack- Evan White, Zach Reks, and Kole Cottam all did not collect hits in today’s win. Luke Becker went 2/3 with a run and Heady, Mahan, and Carson all had hits.
UK will look to win the series tomorrow at 1 ET. It should be a warmer day tomorrow at the Cliff, so come out and see Zach Logue and the BatCats take on UCSB. The game will also be available on SECN+.