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Kentucky Baseball

UK Splits Double-Header vs. Arkansas, Thompson Climbs All-Time Strikeout List

May 6, 2019

The Wildcats had to make up for lost time after Saturday's rained-out game, turning what was to be the final game of the series vs. the University of Arkansas into a twin bill.

However, despite the buckets of rain that fell throughout the Bluegrass over the previous 24 hours, the clouds parted and the sun made an appearance just in time for the first pitch.

In the first game, UK held a 1-0 lead until the 6th inning when Arkansas CF Dominique Fletcher hit a two-run homer to right-center. From there, it was all downhill for the Wildcats as the Razorbacks added an RBI single off the bat of C Casey Opitz, 3B Jacob Nesbit scored on a wild pitch from Daniel Harper, and 1B Trevor Ezell drove in two on a single to dead-center. After Mason Hazelwood came on in relief of Cole Ayers, who entered the game when Harper was pulled after allowing three runs on two hits and a pair of walks without retiring a batter, the Arkansas threat was ended but the damage was done.

A three-run homer to center by Christian Franklin in the top of the seventh made it 9-1, Arkansas. After Austin Schultz was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the inning and Coltyn Kessler drew the walk, back-to-back strikeouts from Jaren Shelby and Dalton Reed left UK's final out in the hands of TJ Collett, who popped up to SS Casey Martin to end the first game.

Arkansas freshman LHP Patrick Wicklander went five innings in earning his fifth win of the season. Wicklander allowed UK's only run on four hits, walked one and struck out six. Junior RHP Cody Scroggins pitched 1 1/3 innings in relief, walking one, hitting one batter and striking out four of the six batters he faced while holding UK hitless. Sophomore righty Marshall Denton pitched the remaining 2/3 inning, striking out one.

UK's Dillon Marsh kept his team in the game, giving up two runs on six hits over five innings, walking one and striking out four. Marsh held Arkansas scoreless until Matt Goodheart led off the sixth with a base knock and Fletcher drove him in on his 9th homer of the season. Freshman lefty Cole Daniels walked one and struck out one. Harper gave up three runs on two hits and a wild pitch, walking two.

After Ayers retired the only batter he faced, Hazelwood tacked on 2/3 of a perfect inning. Tyler Burchett was victimized by Franklin's sixth homer of the year, walking one and striking out one. Ben Jordan retired the final batter of the top of the seventh.

After a short break, UK sent LHP Zack Thompson to the mound to start Game Two. From the beginning, it was clear that Thompson was struggling with his location, finishing high in the zone often throughout the day. He kept Arkansas bats relatively silent in the top of the first after striking out Ezell and Fletcher, sandwiched around Martin's popup to 1B Dalton Reed and a walk surrendered to Goodheart.

UK went down quietly in the bottom of the first, with Ryan Johnson grounding out to short and Cam Hill striking out swinging. After Elliot Curtis drew a walk, he was caught stealing by a wide margin, with Martin swinging wide on the tag and catching Curtis on the helmet just hard enough to knock it off.

Thompson tacked on another walk in the top of the second, but sat down Heston Kjerstad on strikes, Jack Kenley on a pop-up to SS Austin Schultz, and Opitz on a 6-3 ground-out to strand the base-runner.

The offense took off for UK in the bottom of the inning when Kessler homered into the bullpen in right field, his 4th of the season, then Ryan Shinn followed with his 13th homer of the year, a deep shot to left-center. Collett entered as a pinch-hitter for Jimmy Ramsey but struck out swinging. Schultz had a hard-hit single to center but was thrown out at second as Reed went down on strikes.

Arkansas responded in the top of the third when Franklin walked and stole second on an attempted pick-off. Martin struck out swinging, but Goodheart drove in Franklin on an infield single when he beat out the toss from Reed to Thompson, who was racing to cover the bag but was beaten by Goodheart by at least a full step. Fletcher flied out to center to end the inning.

Marshall Gei, Johnson, and Hill went down in order in the bottom of the third.

The top of the fourth saw Kjerstad, Kenley and Nesbit retired in order, as well. Curtis led off the bottom of the inning with a solo shot to right to make it a 3-1 UK lead. After a 4-3 ground-out by Kessler, Shinn singled to center and scored when Collett drove him home on a hard-hit double to the left-center gap. Junior righty Jacob Kostyshock entered in relief of freshman righty Connor Noland (3 1/3 IP, 4 R, 6 H, 1 BB, 4 K), and stranded Collett after Schultz struck out swinging and Reed grounded out 3-1 to end the inning.

The Razorbacks showed signs of life in the top of the fifth when Opitz walked to lead it off. After a very hard-hit fly-out to center by Franklin, Ezell drove in Opitz on a double to the right-center gap. Martin and Goodheart each went down on swinging strikes to strand Ezell, but Arkansas had cut UK's lead to two.

A one-two-three inning for UK's bats made the bottom of the fifth a quick one.

After Fletcher struck out to lead off the top of the sixth and Kjerstad flied out to center, Kenley poked a two-out hit to right and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Representing the tying run, Nesbit drew the walk, but Opitz struck out looking and Arkansas lost a vital chance to tie the game.

RHP Kevin Kopps took over for Kostyshock in the bottom of the sixth, retiring Curtis on a line-out to second and a swinging strikeout by Kessler. Shinn was able to reach when the ball appeared to take a weird hop on Martin at short, but Collett left him there, striking out swinging.

Thompson entered the top of the seventh having thrown just over 100 pitches. After retiring Franklin for his 11th K of the game, Ezell doubled to left. When Thompson walked Martin, pitching coach Jim Belanger called time to have a word with the lefty. After a brief conversation, Thompson remained in the game to attempt to finish out the game. A rocket line drive right up the middle drove in Ezell and closed the book on Thompson, who finished the game having thrown 124 pitches. Carson Coleman entered in relief, and one pitch later had picked up his fourth save of the season on a textbook 6-4-3 double play.

Thompson (5-1) finished the day having pitched 6 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on five hits, walking six but striking out eleven. His 11 K tied his second-highest single-game total of 2019, and was his fourth game with ten or more strikeouts. He also finished the day tied for sixth all-time in single-season strikeouts with 1994's Brian Reed, sixth in career strikeouts (two behind Alex Meyer), and two Ks away from passing James Paxton's 2009 total of 115 for the highest single-season total for a UK lefty. He entered the game having allowed a .179 BAA and only 14 XBH (13 doubles, one home run) in 11 starts in 2019.

While he was up in the zone much of the day, especially with his breaking ball, Thompson did an excellent job of pitching around walks, with Arkansas stranding five of their seven runners left on base while he was on the hill.

The Wildcats will face off against Indiana (31-16 overall, 12-6 in Big Ten competition) in another home game on Tuesday (7 PM start time) before hitting the road to play three vs South Carolina (24-23 overall, 5-19 in SEC competition) on May 10-12th. The Gamecocks are coming off of a three-game home series sweep by Vanderbilt in which they were outscored 37-16, the bulk of said runs coming from a 22-11 slugfest on May 3rd.

UK returns home on May 14th to play one game vs. University of Michigan (34-11 overall, 14-3 in the Big Ten), then they finish the regular season with a home series vs. the Commodores (38-9 overall, 18-6 in the SEC). Vanderbilt is currently riding an eleven-game win streak, and is firmly in first place in the SEC East. Besides Vanderbilt, only Arkansas has a .700+ win percentage in SEC competition.

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UK Splits Double-Header vs. Arkansas, Thompson Climbs All-Time Strikeout List

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