The Bat Cats kicked off the Nick Mingione Era earlier this afternoon against the no. 17 North Carolina Tar Heels in lovely Chapel Hill. Kentucky fell behind early 3-0 and never could solve UNC starter J.B. Bukauskas (1-0) in a 3-1 defeat, their first of the season.
Bukauskas tossed six scoreless three-hit innings and fanned ten Wildcats along the way. Kentucky challenged Bukauskas in the top of the 1st. Singles by Evan White and Tyler Reks put two aboard. Riley Mahan harmlessly flew out to left field with two outs and left the runners stranded.
UNC’s Brian Miller and Michael Busch started the hitting off early on UK starter Sean Hjelle (0-1). With runners on the corners and one out, Zach Gahagan singled to right field and put the Heels up. Gahagan drove another run home in the bottom of the 3rd. He finished the day 2 of 3 and walked once.
Logan Warmoth’s RBI single in the bottom of the 4th sealed the Heels final notch of the ball game.
Hjelle lasted through five complete innings. In addition to the three earned runs, Hjelle gave up 11 hits, struck out two, and did not allow a walk.
Colton Clearly and Brad Schaenzer combined for three one-hit scoreless innings in relief.
Kentucky showed signs of life in the top of the 9th inning. Luke Heyer reached first base on thanks to a fielding error. Connor Heady’s one hit of the day--a single--got Heyer to third. Reks drove him home to cut the deficit to two runs with two outs. However, the next batter Kole Cottam’s strikeout ended the rally and the game.
Reks had UK’s best day at the plate. He finished three of four with a RBI and a walk. Evan White was the only other Cat with a multi-hit game. He finished two of four with a double, UK’s only extra-base hit of the contest.