Kentucky’s baseball Wildcats were one of eight Southeastern Conference teams to open the college season with a three-game sweep, taking a series from Austin Peay at the Governors’ home field, Raymond C. Hand Park.
In chilly, rainy conditions, the Wildcats scored a total of 29 runs on the weekend, including an 11-1 victory Sunday after a steady overnight rain left the field an absolute quagmire. The Wildcats rallied from a 1-0 deficit after five innings and shelled the Govs’ bullpen for the third consecutive day.
The three-game sweep was UK’s first on the road since the Cats took down Texas A&M in College Station to open the SEC portion of their 2017 season, the year they went on to win the program’s first NCAA regional title.
Kentucky played long-ball all weekend, crushing 17 extra-base hits (11 doubles, six home runs including two each for Dalton Reed and T.J. Collett). UK’s starting pitchers surrendered only six hits and three runs in 13 innings of work, striking out 21 and walking just five.
Speed figures to be part of the identity of this year’s UK squad; the Wildcats stealing eight bags over the weekend, including six on Saturday. They were caught just twice – both pickoffs at first base.
The Cats have a solid SEC Player-of-the-Week candidate in junior outfielder Jaren Shelby. The junior-college transfer hit .500 with a pair of doubles, a homer, five RBI, five runs scored and a stolen base in his first weekend at the D-1 level. The Tates Creek H.S. product also threw out a runner from right field attempting to score from second, ending an Austin Peay rally with Sunday’s game still in doubt.
Shelby, whose brothers John and Javon both starred at UK, had multiple hits in all three games and two multi-RBI games, scoring a run and driving in at least one in all three games.
Another Lexington native, RHP Carson Coleman, picked up two wins in relief against APSU. Coleman pitched a perfect 1.1 innings to lock down the victory on Friday; on Sunday, he entered in the fifth inning with the Cats trailing 1-0 and runners on second and third with two outs. He recorded a strikeout to end the threat and the Cats got a go-ahead home run in the sixth, followed by a shutdown inning from Coleman.
The Lexington Catholic product is the only SEC pitcher with two victories so far this season.
There were other Wildcats with productive weekends in Clarksville:
- Designated hitter T.J. Collett batted .467 with a double and two home runs, including a laser that cleared the right field wall during Saturday’s game on a line. The junior from Terre Haute, IN., also scored four runs and drove in seven. He had a three-hit game on Sunday despite being a bit under the weather, one of his three multi-hit games for the weekend. Collett has a 6-game hitting streak, dating back to last season which ended prematurely for him with an injury.
- JUCO transfer Dalton Reed had five hits on the weekend, including two doubles and two home runs. He homered on the first pitch of his UK career Friday afternoon, sending a massive blast over the centerfield wall. His next at-bat produced a double that just missed clearing the wall in the same spot. Reed’s second HR was a three-run blast Sunday that lifted the Cats from a 1-0 deficit and sent them on their way to the 11-1 win. He scored a total of three runs for the weekend and drive in four.
- Junior LHP Zack Thompson, a pre-season 1st-team All-American, opened the season with four strong, shutout innings. He gave up just one hit and struck out nine, one short of his career high.
- Sophomore RHP Jimmy Ramsey earned Saturday’s win by pitching 5.0 innings in just his second career start. Ramsey surrendered only one run and struck out eight, one shy of his career-high.
- Freshman LHP Dillon Marsh was the starting pitcher Sunday, going 4.0 innings, giving up two hits and one run in his collegiate debut. Marsh struck out four and did not issue a walk.
The Wildcats are back on the road this coming weekend, visiting the Texas Tech Red Raiders in Lubbock, TX. The Cats last season took two of three from then-third ranked Tech at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The Red Raiders are ranked third again this week by D1baseball.com. They’re coming off a 2-1 series win over Oregon.
The games will be televised on line and broadcast on the UK radio network (98.5 FM in Lexington; ukathletics.com and I Heart Radio).
Feb. 22 – at No. 3 Texas Tech (7:30 p.m. ET; Texas Tech TV)
Feb. 23 – at No. 3 Texas Tech (3 p.m.; Fox Sports Southwest+)
Feb. 24 – at No. 3 Texas Tech (2 p.m.; Texas Tech TV)