Nick Mingione wants to do things at Kentucky that have never been done before. The second-year coach did just that on Friday when he led his team to their first season-opening win under his leadership with a 6-1 win over Wofford. Luke Heyer, Kole Cottam, and Tristan Pompey all hit home runs as the Cats won their first opening game since 2015.
The SEC’s leader in hitting last season, UK wasted no time putting up a crooked number against starting pitcher Adam Scott. After Kole Cottam and Troy Squires reached base in the second, senior Luke Heyer launched a three-run home run to give UK their first runs of 2018.
While the UK offense was rolling, junior pitcher Sean Hjelle was settling in on the mound. The reigning SEC Pitcher of the Year retired the first nine batters of the game. Hjelle showed mastery of his three pitches early. Wofford did not manage a base hit until the fourth inning against Hjelle.
The BatCats kept their foot on the gas early. Tristan Pompey and Cottam launched home runs in the third and fourth innings respectively Scott had issues keeping the ball in the park. Ben Aklinski added an RBI single in the sixth as UK scored in four straight innings to build a 6-0 lead over Wofford.
Super quick box score from my book. pic.twitter.com/85r3BBxpG3
— Trey Huntsman (@TreyHuntsmanKSR) February 17, 2018
Wofford could never find consistent success on offense against UK’s staff. Mack Nathanson delivered both of the Terriers’ base hits on Friday, including a double to score their only run of the game in the sixth inning.
Opening Day is all about putting your best foot forward. UK’s pitching staff did just that. Hjelle cruised thru six innings of one-run ball to pick up his first win of the season. The junior pitcher allowed one run on two hits while striking out three on 83 pitches. With this being the first start of 2018, Mingione pulled Hjelle after the sixth inning to preserve his arm early this season.
After Hjelle’s solid start, the UK bullpen finished the job with three dominant innings. Redshirt freshman Carson Coleman struck out five in two innings of work in his collegiate debut before senior Alec Maley struck out the side in the ninth to finish off a 6-1 win over Wofford.
An Opening Day win is not a definite marker for a successful season. But it can be used to set the tone early in a season. We will see if the momentum carries over when Kentucky returns to action tomorrow in a doubleheader against USC Upstate. The first game will be at 1 ET with game two following at 5. Both games will be broadcast on the USC Upstate Facebook Live.