It took a boatload of runs and an early comeback, but Nick Mingione and Kentucky picked up their first run of 2017. The BatCats used a seven run fourth inning to lead the way to a 16-9 win over St. Joseph’s on Friday afternoon. Luke Becker drove in four runs in support of Zach Pop in relief. Pop shutout the Hawks in 3.2 innings of relief to pick up the win.
Much like the first four games of the season, UK fell behind early. Peter Sitaras blasted a grand slam off Sean Hjelle in the second and Dominic Couci followed with a solo blast in the third. Already down by a crooked number, the Cats clawed back starting in the third. Zach Reks scored Tyler Marshall on a sac fly and Connor Heady scored the first of his three runs on an RBI groundout by Riley Mahan.
The offense backed up Hjelle in a big way in the fourth inning. Trailing by three, the Cats reached base nine times in the top of the fourth and tallied seven runs off SJU’s Pat Vanderslice. Marcus Carson and Kole Cottam both reached base twice in inning as Kentucky used six singles and three walks to break the game open.
The Hawks were able to answer back in the fifth. Couci homered for the second time, this time a three run shot to cut the lead to one. Matt Maul singled in another run to tie the game and chase Sean Hjelle in the fifth.
The Cats had enough of the back and forth nonsense following St. Joe’s rally in the fifth. Pop entered the game and shut down the Hawks over 3.2 innings in relief. After Pop entered in the fifth, St. Joe’s looked despondent. The sophomore struck out four and allowed two hits in relief.
Kentucky used some big two-out hitting to regain the lead in the sixth. Luke Heyer took a bases loaded walk to make the score 10-9 before Luke Becker brought everybody home with a double off the leftfield wall. The Cats used more outstanding two out hitting in the 7th as their lead grew to 16-9 when Marcus Carson tripled down the line to score Mahan.
The first two weeks have been about new guys making their debuts for UK. Chris Machamer made his debut in style today when he struck out the final batter of the game to give Kentucky their first win of the season.
– Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) February 24, 2017
Kentucky’s offense showed out. It was a group effort today as four different players had multiple RBIs, including Marcus Carson’s three and Luke Becker’s four. UK had incredible plate discipline today as they reached base ten times on walks to go with their fourteen hits. All of this was without Evan White, who is still out with a groin injury.
Pop continues to be impressive. It is understandable why so many people see Pop going in the first few rounds of the MLB Draft. He has a high ceiling with a fastball in the high 90s and a couple of other plus pitches. He is yet to allow a run in 5.2 innings this season. If he pitches like this against SEC opponents, look for Pop to make a push into the rotation.
Congrats to Coach Mingione on his first win. The first win of the season is always the hardest in baseball. Mingione got his first win as a head coach today in Norfolk. The first few losses were by a close five runs, but Mingione and the Cats are now in the right direction.
Catch the Cats tomorrow at 4 ET against Old Dominion on 98.5 with Dick Gabriel. Zach Logue will look for his first win of the season on the mound.