Kentucky Baseball has seen a good amount of doubt from their fan base this week. Tonight was their way of proving not to count this team out so early. The #9 Cats beat South Carolina 14-1 to open their weekend series at the Cliff. Tristan Pompey and Troy Squires both drove in five runs as UK flexed their muscle against USC’s ace Adam Hill.
“It was obviously really fun,” Squires said. “It shows if we just stick to our game plan and stick to doing us than we can do something special.”
The Cats dominated across the board tonight. Sean Hjelle tossed seven strong innings to give the team his best start in SEC play.
UK’s offense had struggled to give Hjelle much run support in conference play. All that changed tonight against South Carolina. With Hill struggling with his command early, the Cats worked the bases loaded to start the bottom of the second. Trey Dawson delivered his first of two RBIs on an infield single that gave the Cats their first lead of the night. Following Dawson, Pompey singled up the middle to score the second run of the inning against Hill. A third run came home on a throwing error.
The suffering would not stop there for Hill and company. After Dawson walked with the bases loaded to score a run, the Cats got the hit that blew the lid off in this game. Pompey ripped a ball off the right-field wall to score three runs and give UK a 7-0 lead after three innings.
Pompey tied a career-high with five RBIs tonight. The junior outfielder collected three hits and stole a base in tonight’s win. The big night for Pompey helped the Cats blow past the Gamecocks.
“I thought Tristan Pompey was the table-setter for that,” head coach Nick Mingione said. “I thought he had phenomenal at-bats all night long.”
The BatCats scored nine runs all last weekend against Alabama. Tonight proved to be a complete reversal of last weekend. UK kept their foot on the gas in the middle innings against USC as they bested their total from last weekend in one night. Squires drove in five combined runs in the fifth and sixth innings, including a grand slam that gave the Cats a 13-0 lead. The grand slam Squires’ first career grand slam and 100th career hit.
“My at-bat before Coach John T. Shelby at first base was telling me ‘hey, you’re dropping your hands a little bit” and I was like okay. So then I hit a couple fouls balls and dropped my hands and felt it. After that, I told myself ‘don’t do that’. Luckily, the wind picked up and I got it in the air,” Squires said about his home run.
Squires’ battery mate Hjelle was one of the lone UK players that gave fans something to celebrate last weekend. The only issue was that he got minimal run support in last Friday night’s loss. The offense gave Hjelle all the run support he needed tonight and the junior righty pitched with all the confidence in the world. Hjelle struck out eight in seven one-run innings as he picked up his fifth win of the season.
“Each run (of support) is just a weight off my shoulder,” Hjelle said. “It’s just nice, even for the defense, we just go out there and play loose and have fun just like we’re meant to.”
Hjelle and the offense combined to play a near perfect game tonight. The BatCats worked 11 walks and had three players either tie or set a career-high in RBIs. The big night paired with Tuesday night’s win over Louisville will help to erase the memory of last weekend’s loss at Alabama.
The teams will be back in action tomorrow night at 6 ET tomorrow night. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network.
T.J Collett walked four times in his return to the lineup. The sophomore DH sat out several games during a slump that saw him hit below .150 in the first two weekends in SEC play. Collett returned tonight and walked a career-high four times and scored a pair of runs in the win.
A night of firsts. I wish there was room in the game recap for all the highlights from tonight’s win. So, here are all the individual accolades from tonight.
- Troy Squires set a career high with five RBIs. He also hit his first career grand slam and collected his 100th hit.
- Tristan Pompey tied a career-high with five RBIs.
- Marshall Gei collected his first career extra-base hit.
- T.J Collett walked a career-high four times.
- Luke Heyer’s eighth-inning home run put him into a tie with Kole Cottam for the team lead with 12.
- Trey Dawson set a career-high in RBIs (2) tonight.