The BatCats had no answer for Vanderbilt’s pitching staff as they lost the series opener in Nashville by a score of 8-1. The loss dropped UK into a tie for ninth in the SEC heading into the final two games of the regular season.
VU starter Drake Fellows had the Cats’ number all night. UK hit four balls out of the infield against Fellows in tonight’s loss. The sophomore righty struck out six and induced 15 groundouts as he cruised to his sixth win of the season. The Dores hung four runs on UK starter Sean Hjelle before Pat DeMarco put the game out of reach with a two-run home run in the seventh.
The UK bullpen was without Zach Haake, Chris Machamer, and Carson Coleman tonight. Nick Mingione’s group needed a lengthy outing from Hjelle to keep their bullpen rested for the weekend. Vandy did their best to drive Hjelle’s pitch count up early. The Cats’ starter threw 20+ pitches in the first two innings. In the top of the first, the Commodores scored their first run of the game when Philip Clarke doubled home a run.
Vanderbilt would score their first crooked number of the game in the fifth against Hjelle. Clarke doubled in his second run of the game before Connor Kaiser and Stephen Scott drove in runs to break the game open. By jumping out to a 4-0 lead, Vandy was the eighth SEC team to score four or more runs against Hjelle in a game.
Hjelle would come back out in the sixth and empty the tank. The UK starter stranded two runners in the sixth to finish the day with a line of six innings, four runs, eight hits, three walks, and nine strikeouts. Brett Marshall entered in the seventh in relief. DeMarco greeted the Cats’ reliever with a two-run home run over the green monster in left. He didn’t need it, but the homer gave Fellows a six-run cushion.
Fellows was in complete control tonight. The Dores’ starter held UK scoreless in the first seven innings of tonight’s game, thanks in large part to UK bouncing into 16 groundball outs. UK would not put a run on the board until the top of the eighth. Ben Aklinski led the inning off with the Cats’ third hit of the night. Tristan Pompey continued his hot-hitting stretch with a two-out double to drive in Aklinski. The RBI double extended UK’s streak of not being shutout to 61 games.
The Cats’ bullpen has been depleted by injuries over the last week. Trailing 6-1, Mingione elected to save what was left of his bullpen and subbed outfielder Ryan Johnson in on the mound. The JUCO transfer threw hard, but could not control his pitches. Vandy hung two runs on the Cats’ newest pitcher in the eighth as they polished off an 8-1 win over UK.
UK will need a win tomorrow to force a rubber match on Saturday. Zack Thompson will try to silence the Commodores’ lineup and keep the Cats’ hosting chances alive.