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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

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Kentucky defeats Texas A&M in SEC opener behind Hjelle’s gem

Homan
Photo by Photo by: Morgan Engel
Homan

Entering Friday’s SEC opener between Texas A&M and Kentucky, it appeared the Aggies had a distinct advantage on the mound. A&M’s Brigham Hill had a perfect 4-0 record, only allowing four runs all season, while Kentucky’s Sean Hjelle sported an unsightly 7.06 ERA.
The two right-handers’ performances belied the statistics, however, as Hjelle notched a flawless complete game shutout to lead Kentucky to a relatively easy 6-0 victory over A&M in front of 5,242 fans at Olsen Field.
“Once they grabbed the lead he became very, very competitive,” head coach Rob Childress said of Hjelle after the game. “He did a marvelous job — he pitched his tail off and you’ve got to tip your hat to him.”
Hjelle was effective and efficient all night long, needing only 107 pitches to completely suffocate the Aggie bats, striking out nine. Texas A&M didn’t manage to get a single baserunner to third base en route to getting shut out for the first time of the season.
The 6-foot-11 right-hander perfectly mixed a low 90s fastball with a slower slider that kept A&M off balance. The nine sparkling innings lowered his ERA more than two full runs, and his height coming downhill off the mound overpowered the Aggies.
Hill, meanwhile, was shaky for the second straight outing. The Wildcats drew first blood in the top of the first when Tristan Pompey took a 91 mph fastball from Hill deep to straightaway center field, and then they added another one in the third when Tyler Marshall led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on an RBI single by Zach Reks.
In all, Hill surrendered six hits and five earned runs in 5.1 innings, striking out six and walking none. He struggled to command his fastball all game long, especially to his glove side, hitting four batters in the process.
“It was a pretty poor outing for me today,” Hill said. “I couldn’t locate my fastball inside. Their approach was just crowding the plate and for me, I had a hard time getting the ball in.”
Hill said his changeup felt good, but the Kentucky hitters were sitting on it and made him pay when he left it over the plate.
“He only missed a few spots but when he did, that’s when they made him pay,” said freshman catcher Hunter Coleman. “The home run in the first inning ran back over the plate, and the hit to left field got too much of the plate with two strikes. He’s a guy that is a competitor and even without his best stuff he’s still going to give us a chance.”
The Wildcats broke through for their only crooked number of the evening in the sixth. After Hill had settled down and looked like he was cruising, he hit two batters and then allowed an RBI single and an RBI double in back-to-back at-bats. Those two hits spelled the end of Hill’s outing, and Kaylor Chafin and Cason Sherrod pitched the rest of the game without allowing an earned run.
The Aggies, on the other hand, couldn’t muster any offense against Hjelle. They got two runners on with two outs in the fourth, but Blake Kopetsky grounded out to second to end the frame. Then Nick Choruby led off the sixth with a sharp single to left, but the next three hitters went down in order to end the inning.
“He was making good pitches,” Coleman said of Hjelle. “Late in the game, he took over.”
Friday marked the second-straight loss for the Aggies, and they will attempt to bounce back Saturday. Stephen Kolek is the probable starting pitcher, and first pitch is slated to be delivered at 2 p.m.
“In the Southeast Conference you’ve got to have a short-term memory,” Childress said. “It’s all about putting this one to bed, coming out tomorrow with your head pointed forward and giving them our best effort.”

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