Sean Hjelle was as close to perfect as a pitcher could be on Friday. The junior righty carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning as UK rolled past Oakland 10-1. The Grizzlies’ only baserunners against Hjelle came on a pair of errors and a two-out single in the eighth inning by Jordan Jackson that ended Hjelle’s no-hitter.
Even though Hjelle could not finish off the no-hitter, he was as dominant as he has been at UK. Hjelle struck out a career-high 13 as he cruised through Oakland’s lineup. With his curveball dropping hard today, Hjelle struck out two batters in each of the first five innings.
For as dominant as Hjelle was, UK’s offense was just as good. The Cats jumped on Oakland’s Jake Lee in the bottom of the second by batting around and scoring five runs. The onslaught continued in the third when Troy Squires singled home a pair of runs and Trey Dawson took home on a caught stealing at second to give UK an 8-0 lead thru three innings. The Cats’ final two runs came in the sixth inning when T.J Collett crushed his third home run of the year and Ryan Johnson drove in a run on RBI single.
UK’s approach at the plate was improved since Tuesday’s loss to Xavier. According to Nick Mingione, UK swung at only seven pitches out of the zone tonight while walking five times.
Hjelle did not need more than one run of support in his time on the mound. In 7.2 innings, Oakland put just one runner in scoring position against Hjelle. Jimmy Belanger told Hjelle that the eighth would have been his last inning regardless, so UK went to their bullpen immediately following Jackson’s hit. Tripp Lockhart and Brett Marshall combined to record the final four outs of the game, surrendering one run, to finish off a fantastic series opener against Oakland.