LEXINGTON, Ky. - Sean Hjelle pitched 7.2 hitless innings and the offense backed him with its best effort of the season as No. 8 Kentucky dominated Oakland 10-1 in front of 3,154 fans in the opener of a three-game series.
Hjelle, who recorded his 17th career victory, did not allow a hit until Jordan Jackson lined a clean single to left field with two outs and two strikes in the eighth inning. He set a career-high with 13 strikeouts, recording two in each of the first five innings, and did not walk a batter. The only trouble he faced all afternoon was when the fifth inning started with a pair of errors but he retired the next three hitters and cruised from there.
In his first two outings of the season the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Year has two wins while pitching 13.2 innings, giving up just three hits, one run, two walks and striking out 16.
"It was a special night, but I'm trying to get the job done every night," Hjelle said. "(Jackson) earned it. I grooved a two-strike pitch and he had a good two-strike approach. He was squaring balls up on me all night. His first at bat, without the wind, that ball was going out. He has a good swing."
The Cats (5-1) backed the virtuoso pitching performance with eight early runs, including a five-run second inning where five different players recorded an RBI. Senior catcher Troy Squires drove in three runs, while sophomore designated hitter T.J. Collett homered in his second consecutive game and for the third time this season and junior outfielder Ryan Johnson counted two doubles among his career-high three hits.
The Cats return to the diamond on Saturday afternoon with sophomore lefty Zack Thompson taking the hill in the middle game of this weekend's three-game series.