LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sean Hjelle (pictured) became the first Kentucky player selected in the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft when the San Francisco Giants picked him with the second pick of the second round on Monday, June 4. The Wildcats’ ace was selected with the 45th overall pick.
The 6-foot-11 junior from White Bear Lake, Minnesota developed into one of the nation’s most accomplished and unique pitchers, earning 2017 Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year and numerous All-America honors during his career. He was Kentucky’s Friday starter in his final two seasons, routinely drawing the matchup with opponents’ staff ace in those games.
In fifteen appearances, including 14 starts, Hjelle went 7-5 with a 3.44 earned run average in 2018, striking out 91 and walking just 22 hitters in 99.1 innings. Opponents hit just .232 against him this season and .242 for his career.
For his career, Hjelle is all over the Kentucky record books. He is 22-10 overall in three seasons, ranking him fifth on the school’s career wins list. He ranks seventh in career win-loss percentage (.688), ninth in career strikeouts (222), fourth in single-season wins (11 in 2017) and fifth in single-season saves (8 in 2016). He has 54 career appearances, including 31 starts.
As a sophomore, Hjelle was voted SEC Pitcher of the Year by the league’s coaches after a dominating run through the gauntlet of conference play that saw him go 7-1 with a 1.90 ERA in 10 starts. Opponents hit just .186 off him as he gave up 43 hits in 66.1 innings. He also earned the win in the Cats’ NCAA Tournament opener and returned three days later to pitch 3.1 hitless innings in a winner-take-all game to get the win and send the program to its first-ever Super Regional appearance.
Hjelle excelled off the field too, serving as UK’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council president the past year and earning Mr. Wildcat honors, the highest award giving to a male student-athlete at Kentucky.
Hjelle will join a Giants organization that has won three World Series championships in the past eight seasons – 2010, 2012 and 2014 – and has a reputation for developing pitchers it selects in the early rounds of the draft, including Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum.
UK Athletics Photo