HOUSTON – The No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats staked itself to a 5-0 lead and held on for a 7-2 win over the Sam Houston State Bearkats on Saturday at Minute Maid Park in the second day of the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic.
Kentucky (10-1) - who had beaten Houston 14-2 on Day 1 of the Shriners Classic - had four extra-base hits, including two-run homers from Luke Heyer and TJ Collett to support starter Zack Thompson who moved to 2-0 with a strong start for the Wildcats. The lefty struck out seven and did not allow a run on four hits in 6.0 innings of work as part of a Kentucky trio that racked up 13 punchouts on the day.
Sam Houston (7-3) finished with nine hits on the day, but none for extra bases until Blake Chisolm’s RBI double in the top of the ninth. Chisolm would record hits in each of his two at-bats on the day, while Trey Ochoa and Mac Odom would also record two singles apiece.
Hayden Wesneski took the loss for the Kats, allowing three runs and seven hits in 5.0+ innings with four strikeouts.
Sam Houston will close out the Shriners Classic on Sunday when it takes on No. 21 Mississippi State at Minute Maid Park. First pitch is set for 2:30 p.m. against the Bulldogs and is to be aired on AT&T SportsNet (alt).
Kentucky touched up Wesneski to take an early 2-0 lead in their second trip to the plate. A one-out single by Collett started things and one batter later Heyer blasted an 0-2 pitch off the façade above the Crawford Boxes in left field, already his third homer of the weekend. Wesneski still had work to do, however, with two-out singles by Alex Rodriguez and Trey Dawson keeping the inning alive before the Bearkat starter was able to get Troy Squires to ground out.
Sam Houston left a man stranded in the top of the fifth and the Wildcats came up in the bottom half and added to their lead. A leadoff walk to Dawson proved costly for Wesneski as after a sacrifice bunt moved him up a base, Ben Aklinski lined a single into left field to bring him around for an RBI that made it a 3-0 ballgame.
A one-out single by Ochoa helped spark a potential rally for Sam Houston in the sixth. Thompson then issued a walk to Andrew Fregia, his first free pass of the day, to put a pair of runners on base for the heart of the Bearkat order. But despite swings from Hunter Hearn and Chase Cryer that were each on the button, each found Wildcat gloves in the outfield to keep Sam off the scoreboard.
The Kats had to work around three walks to keep it at a 3-0 game in the Kentucky half of the sixth. UK loaded the sacks with one away after a walk to Tristan Pompey, and Sam Houston turned to Dakota Mills in relief of Riley Cooper who had entered earlier in the inning. Mills promptly rang up Dawson on strikes before getting Squires to ground out to third, keeping the Kats within striking distance.
Kentucky added two more in the seventh, taking advantage of the leadoff man reaching for the fifth straight inning. Aklinski singled off of Mills to open it, but the Bearkat reliever got each of the next two hitters he faced before the Kats brought in Brad Demco out of the pen to face Collett. But Collett got a hold of the second pitch he saw and put it two rows into the right-field seats to give Kentucky a 5-0 lead.
Sam would finally get on the board in the eighth with a run on a sacrifice fly from Fregia. Singles from Chisolm and Ochoa to start the inning set it up, putting runners on the corners against reliever Zach Haake. Fregia made a bid for extra bases with a hard fly to left that was tracked down, scoring Chisolm. From there, Haake would leave a man on with consecutive strikeouts.
In the bottom half Kentucky made up that run and then added another to its lead. Singles by Ryan Shinn started the inning and after a wild pitch and sacrifice bunt, a second sacrifice by Squires brought him in to make it a 6-1 game. Aklinski would then walk and Luke Becker would follow him by tripling to center field to make it 7-1.
Sam Houston did not give in, however, and made a run at the Wildcats in the ninth. Jack Rogers and Ben Haefner each singled to bring up Chisolm, who then doubled to left to make it 7-2 with two outs. But Haake was able to outlast Ochoa with runners on second and third, recording his fifth strikeout of the day to finish the game.