By Connor Link
LEXINGTON, Ky. – In the opening game of the NCAA Tournament Lexington Regional, the top-seeded Kentucky baseball team defeated No. 4 seed Ohio 6-4 on Friday afternoon, June 2 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky improves to 40-20 on the season, while Ohio falls to 31-27. Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year Sean Hjelle (pictured) picked up the 10th win of his sophomore campaign.
Hjelle shut out the Bobcats offense through seven innings, but gave up a three-run homer on his final pitch of the day in the eighth. Hjelle ultimately allowed three runs off eight hits, striking out three and walking three. Freshman Chris Machamer struck out one and walked one in a scoreless eighth, while All-SEC performer Logan Salow earned his 11th save of the season after allowing one run off one hit and a walk in the ninth.
“I’m a really good coach when that guy (Sean Hjelle) on the end of the table’s pitching," Kentucky coach Nick Mingione said. "He makes it really easy and there’s a reason why he’s the SEC Pitcher of the Year. He did tonight what he did basically every time out for our team – he gave us a chance to win. Eight out of nine starts he’s given up three runs or less. Eight out of his nine starts he’s give up three runs or less.
"So, really proud of him, really proud of our defense. You know, I’ve been talking all year about pitching and defense, and that’s what wins championships. That’s what won us the game again today because the way these guys defended."
Michael Klein picked up the loss after four innings on the mound, moving the former Nebraska transfer to 5-3 on the year. The Wildcats were led at the plate by a 3-for-5 showing from junior second baseman Riley Mahan, who recorded three hits, two RBIs and one run. Kentucky recorded 13 hits as a team, while Ohio managed nine.
The Bobcats brought the potential game-tying run to the plate in the ninth, but Salow forced Ohio’s Rudy Rott to ground out to first, ending the game for the Wildcats.
With the victory, Kentucky will face the winner of Friday’s 7 p.m. ET matchup between No. 2 seed Indiana (33-22-2) and third-seeded NC State (34-23). First pitch for the Wildcats is scheduled for Saturday, June 3 at 7 p.m. Ohio will face the loser of Friday evening’s contest in an elimination game on Saturday at noon ET.
UK Athletics Photo