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  • Zack Thompson twirls complete game 3-hitter, Cats beat Gators 5-1

    GAINESVILLE, Fla. Ė Zack Thompson struck out 11 and did not allow an earned run in his second complete game shutout in Southeastern Conference play, leading Kentucky to a 5-1 road victory at Florida on Saturday night. Itís the first complete game on the road for a UK pitcher since Sean Hjelle at Texas A&M in 2017.

    Thompson, a junior from Selma, Indiana considered one of the nationís top left-handers, was brilliant in handcuffing the Gators on their home field. He allowed just three hits, which included a bunt single, a bouncer through the infield and a single that glanced off the shortstop, and allowed just two runners to reach third base, one on an error and another on a passed ball. The 11 strikeouts including his 100th of the season, making him just the 13th player in school history to reach that mark in a season.

    The Wildcats (22-21, 5-15) gave their ace an early three-run cushion and then let him go to work. Aside from the one unearned run that scored after a bunt single, sacrifice bunt, passed ball and ball that bounced off the shortstop for a single, Thompson was nearly untouchable. The Gatorsí only other runner to reach scoring position came in the eighth when a leadoff walk and errant pickoff throw put Brady McConnell on third with no outs in a two-run game. Thompson responded by going through the heart of the Florida order with two strikeouts looking and an infield pop-up to extinguish the threat.

    Thompson lowered his season ERA to 1.88 but heís been even better in conference play, pitching to a 1.47 ERA in 49.0 innings, striking out 65 batters and allowing just 30 hits.

    On Sunday afternoon, UK will look to win its second straight road series in league play. First pitch is at noon ET and will air on ESPN2.
    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Darrell KSR's Avatar
      Darrell KSR -
      Zach Thompson is 90% of the reason I want Kentucky to make the SEC baseball tournament, and hopefully have him pitch the first game. I'd love to see him pitch in person today. He seems to be getting better and better and better.

      According to him, he did not have his best stuff last night. And threw a three hit, no earned runs complete game victory on the road in Gainesville. Amazing.
    1. dan_bgblue's Avatar
      dan_bgblue -
      Have they said which arm they are running out today?
    1. Darrell KSR's Avatar
      Darrell KSR -
      Quote Originally Posted by dan_bgblue View Post
      Have they said which arm they are running out today?
      Mason Hazelwood.
    1. kingcat's Avatar
      kingcat -
      Good job Cats. Combine good offense with stellar defense and that's what happens in about any sport.
    1. Darrell KSR's Avatar
      Darrell KSR -
      Kentucky has a certain amount of bat power this year, but their pitching just isn't up to SEC standards...with pretty rare exception. Thompson, of course, is that rare exception.

      The past several years we've managed to have 3 or 4 starters that ranged from outstanding to pretty good. We started to drop off after that. We might have a closer. We might have a setup man. But we lacked depth of staff.

      Last two years we've managed to lose that, for the most part.

      Baseball recruiting is tough. All the basketball guys like the "baseball rule" for MLB, either out of high school, or three years before draft-eligible again. But it creates havoc on recruiting the best you can get, maybe especially at positions like pitchers. There are SO many draft rounds. And it's hard to gauge whether somebody will take the minor league-to-MLB route out of high school.

      But pitching is where it's at. We didn't think we had enough pitching last year. But last year's team lost Sean Hjelle, Justin Lewis, Chris Machamer, Alec Maley, Andrew Miller and Zach Haake to the MLB draft. We need more of those kind of guys, and sprinkle in some Canadian flavor James Paxton, Andrew Alberts, Zach Pop (love the Zach/Zacks), and Zach Logue and Trevor Gotts. Those kind of guys.

      Look--this year was destined to be a rebuilding year. We knew it. We talked about it before the season. We just hoped it wouldn't be this bad. We lost all but 3 starters. We have 22 new players on this year's roster. The trouble to me is that I'm not sure the talent is there to rebuild. Maybe it is. Dan has seen more of UK play this year than I have. And we have that 18-0 record against non-power 5 conference opponents. I actually believe that means something positive, too--that maybe we're a little star-struck when it comes to playing the "big boys," haven't learned how to win those games, but know we're supposed to beat the others--and have done so, 100%. I don't know; maybe I'm just looking for something positive.

      For now, I want to finish in the top 12--going 5-4, as catmanjack suggested, might do it, and it would also mean we'd win 2 of the final 3 series (or sweep one, 1-2 the other two). Then have a decent showing in the SEC tournament, and prepare for next year.
    1. catmanjack's Avatar
      catmanjack -
      Zack is pitching like a first team SEC and first round pick.
    1. dan_bgblue's Avatar
      dan_bgblue -
      To piggyback on some of what Darrell has already typed, my thoughts are that this is a VERY young team, in pitching, hitting, fielding, and in baseball smarts. I wish I saw a quick turnaround, but without a rapid, high quality talent infusion for the 2020 year, I see another year like this one.

      When coach Mingione arrived he found a team that was very balanced by grade and filled with very good talent. He has not replaced that talent yet and I think the jury is still out as to whether he will or not. I am convinced that he and his staff can coach the talent once they have it, but can they develop young talent and win when that is really all they have?
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