Just a day removed from scoring 14 runs, it was Kentucky’s pitching that stole the show today in Houston. Zack Thompson threw six scoreless innings as the Cats beat Sam Houston State 7-2 in the second game of the Shriners Classic. The sophomore pitcher set the tone on the mound as UK improved to 10-1 on the season.
After allowing nine runs in his first 13 innings this season, Thompson twirled a dominat start against a SHSU offense that averaged 7.6 runs per game prior to today. Thompson showed good feel of all three pitches throughout his start against the BearKats. In the first three innings, Thompson only allowed two hits on a pair of bunt singles by Mac Odom. It wasn’t until the fifth inning that Sam Houston State collected a hit out of the infield against Thompson.
Thompson joined Sean Hjelle as UK starters that went six innings and allowed one or less earned runs this weekend. Last night, Hjelle shined while Houston’s Trey Cumbie struggled. Fast forward to today, where Thompson had a little more competition from his counterpart on the mound. Sam Houston State’s Hayden Wesneski gave UK everything he had in five innings on Saturday. Wesneski stranded four UK runners in five innings and kept the Cats from breaking the game open. Despite his constant fight, Wesneski could not completely halt the Cats’ offense.
Wesneski retired the first five UK batters before T.J Collett reached on a single in the second inning. Luke Heyer followed with his third home run of the weekend and seventh of the season to give UK a 2-0 lead. UK would tack on another run against Wesneski in the fifth when Ben Aklinski drove in his fifth run of the weekend to give UK a 3-0 lead after five.
The Bearkats looked to answer back against Thompson after UK stormed out to a three-run lead. But each time SHSU rallied, the sophomore flamethrower was there to shut them down. The Bearkats put three men on base in the fifth and sixth innings but Thompson stranded each runner as he held the powerful SHSU offense scoreless thru six innings.
Today’s start was without a doubt Thompson’s best start of 2018. The projected first-round pick in 2019 went six scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and one walks while striking out seven in his third start of the year.
As the Bearkats showed yesterday’s comeback win over Vanderbilt, they are never out of a game. After UK added two runs on a T.J Collett home run in the seventh, SHSU answered in the eighth. Andrew Fregia drove in a run on a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to four in the eighth. The Cats added a pair of runs in the bottom of the eight to stretch out the lead once again. The six-run deficit proved to be too much for SHSU as Zach Haake closed to book in the 9th on a 7-2 win for the Cats.
It was Thompson’s arm that set a dominant tone for Kentucky today at Minute Maid Park. Thompson’s second win of the season was his best since last June. Behind the sophomore stud, Kentucky improved to 10-1 on the season and 2-0 in the Shriners Classic.