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SEC Tournament 2018: Kentucky Baseball falls to Auburn Tigers in extra innings

The Cats come up short despite a big outing by Sean Hjelle.

UK Athletics

The Kentucky Wildcats baseball team fell to the Auburn Tigers in Round 1 of the SEC Tournament.

The Wildcats lost 4-3 on a walk-off single from the Tigers in the 11th inning. The Wildcats will now have to sit and wait to see what the future holds for their postseason hopes.

Kole Cottam hit his league-leading 19th home run of the season and gave the Wildcats an early 1-0 lead in the top of the 1st. The Cats and Tigers were knotted at 1 entering the bottom of 3rd inning and Auburn put a crooked number on the board, scoring 2 runs and chased Daniel Harper from the game.

Harper pitched 2 23 innings, surrendered 4 hits and 3 runs. Sean Hjelle entered the game and closed the door on the Tigers to end the 3rd. After 3 innings, the Wildcats trailed the Tigers 1-3.

The Wildcats closed the gap in the 5th inning. Tristan Pompey drew a leadoff walk and advanced to third base after Kole Cottam knocked a single down the first base line. With runners on first and third, Luke Becker grounded into a 1-3 fielder’s choice, but Pompey scored on the play. Kentucky trailed 2-3 entering the bottom of the 5th.

Entering the 9th inning, the Cats needed at least 1 run to keep their hopes alive. With pinch runner Alex Rodriguez on third following a Ryan Shinn double and a sacrifice bunt by Trey Dawson, Kole Cottam stepped to the plate with 2 outs.

Cottam delivered again.

This time, he hit a rocket into the gap in right-center field scoring Rodriguez. Hjelle slammed the door in the bottom of the 9th and the Wildcats headed into extra innings tied 3-3 with the Auburn Tigers.

Luke Heyer ripped a single down the left field line to start the 10th inning, but the Tigers sat down three consecutive batters. Trey Dawson hit a 1-out single in the top of the 11th, but Pompey hit into a 4-5-3 double play to end the Cats’ chances.

Hjelle, who threw 118 pitches in relief, was pulled after the 10th inning. He allowed only 4 hits and had 9 strikeouts through 7 13 shutout innings. Left-hander Zack Thompson took over in relief of Hjelle.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Thompson couldn’t keep the Tigers down. He struck out the first batter, but put two runners on and Edouard Julien hit a 3-1 pitch into the gap to win the game in walk-off fashion.