On Texas Independence Day, the Kentucky offense was let loose in Houston. The Cats mercy-ruled #24 Houston 14-2 in the first game of the Shriners Classic at Minute Maid Park. From top to bottom, Kentucky’s lineup was impeccable against UH. The BatCats tallied 14 runs on 12 hits, including four home runs against a Houston pitching staff that had allowed only 20 runs in the team’s first eight games.
The onslaught began early in Houston. In the second inning, Luke Heyer delivered his first of two home runs to the back of the left-field bleachers at Minute Maid Park. Houston starter Trey Cumbie (1.50 ERA entering tonight) struggled to regain any momentum he had after Heyer’s hit. Following the home run, Ryan Johnson doubled, Alex Rodriguez reached on an error and Troy Squires walked after a ten-pitch at-bat to load the bases. Ben Aklinski served a two-out double against the 2017 American Conference Pitcher of the Year to give UK a 5-0 lead in the second. Aklinski went 3/5 with four RBIs to lead the charge for UK.
Houston was never able to recover after the second inning. Johnson followed his second inning double with a two-run home run in the third inning against Cumbie. Houston’s Friday Starter lasted only 3.1 innings against UK tonight.
The Houston bullpen had the same amount of success in trying to corral UK’s offense as their starter did. Luke Becker drove in a run on a 409-foot triple to dead-center and Kole Cottam hit a two-run home run that put UK up by ten against reliever Trevis Sundgren in the fourth inning.
While one conference pitcher of the year struggled, another soared. Sean Hjelle (3-0) allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits in six innings tonight. Hjelle had to battle more tonight than in his previous starts, but the junior kept Houston quiet while his offense continued to extend the lead.
The ten runs in four innings put Kentucky over their average production in 2018. Even with Tristan Pompey out with an ankle injury, UK’s lineup was unstoppable on Friday. The Cats had seven of their nine starters collect at least one hit while all nine scored at least one run in the blowout win.
Houston tacked on a pair of runs against Hjelle in the middle innings but the comeback was all for naught. Houston could not get the lead under ten to prevent a mercy-rule as UK ran away with a 14-2 win on Friday night.
Friday’s blowout win was UK’s most impressive victory of 2018. The offense ran wild after an off night against Western Kentucky on Tuesday. With the national spotlight on them on Friday, UK showed that their offense has not dropped off any since last season and that their lineup can do damage to the best of pitching staffs.
— KYwildcatsTV (@KYwildcatsTV) March 3, 2018
The Cats will be back in action tomorrow at 1 ET against Sam Houston State. The video feed for the game can be found here or you can tune in on 98.5.