6:29:47 UKBB vs. Norfolk

Kentucky senior Jaren Shelby swings at a pitch during the game against Norfolk State University on Saturday, March 7, 2020, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 11-1. Photo by | Staff

The Wildcats went 3-0 this weekend just as they hoped, however, there was something that seemed off about it. They were supposed to see Bradley University come to Kentucky Proud Park for a weekend series, but it was canceled after a horrific plane accident that involved a recent athlete of the team.

“Our hearts and prayers went out to them” Coach Mingione said. 

TJ Collett also said he felt the severity of the tragedy. “Horrible news, the loss of a loved one or teammate is just nothing to take lightly in any way.” 

Kentucky was left to scramble a weekend slate of games together, and Norfolk State and Oakland agreed to play on short notice. The weekend started with an 11-1 beatdown of a 2-11 Norfolk team and ended with a doubleheader against the Golden Grizzlies, who had lost nine straight coming in. 

The Cats sent Alex Degen out to the mound for game one. The sophomore had been excellent so far out of the pen this season with an 0.84 ERA, but looked out of his groove in his first start of the year as he allowed his first four walks of the season along with three earned runs in the 3.2 innings of work.

“You can definitely say I overthought some of the pitches I was throwing,” Degen said. “The mentality you should go out with every day is that you’re a closer, just to close out every hitter and close out every batter and not try to pace yourself.” 

Kentucky was powered by the long ball in the first game.  The Wildcats wasted no time getting on the board with a first-inning RBI double by TJ Collett and a two-run homer off the bat of Oraj Anu, which put the score at 3-1 after the first.

Kentucky scored three more the next inning with a bases loaded walk drawn by TJ Collett followed by an RBI from Anu and John Rhodes each.

Oakland cut the lead down to one in the top of the fifth before back-to-back home runs extended the lead for good for the Wildcats in the next inning. Austin Schultz demolished a ball nearly 413 feet for a grand slam, his second homer in as many games. Collett lined one over the right field wall in the next at bat making 11-5.

The Golden Grizzlies got one back in the eighth, but stalled after that.

Jimmy Ramsey was on the hill for game two in a 13-2 rout that ended in seven innings. Collett led the Cats with four RBI in the game. Ramsey finished the day with five innings pitched, striking out seven and only allowing one run.

Kentucky jumped out ahead with an absurd 11-run third inning that included RBI hits from Collet, Tanner Holen, Zeke Lewis, Drew Grace and Shelby.

“Recently I’ve felt a little more confident in the box… He [Coach Guilliams] was talking to us about two-strike hitting and I ended up with three two-strike hits today. Maybe that was a little inspiration for me,” Collett said.

The Cats finish their 15-game homestand with a 4 p.m. matchup with Western Kentucky on Tuesday.