It was an interesting season to say the least for a Kentucky Baseball team that had some high expectations for 2018.
The team did not end the season on a high note and are expected to narrowly claim a spot in the NCAA Tournament in the selection on Monday.
Currently ranked No. 32 in the RPI, the season did not pan out the way anyone predicted it would. Ranked as high as third in the nation in the early part of the season, the Cats began a slow wane and continued to add losses to their record over time.
Some of the losses this season can certainly be attributed to poor coaching decisions. On multiple occasions, poor changes were made, especially when it came to starting pitchers and the bullpen.
Despite the less-than-ideal performance from the club as a whole, some players shined throughout the season and that success continued into the SEC Tournament.
We talk about who they were along with who the biggest disappointment was.
MVP: Junior catcher/first baseman Kole Cottam
Cottam finished the regular-season with a .346 batting average, 18 home runs and 49 RBI. He also thrived defensively in a battery role as well as the starting first baseman. The impact he’s had on this team is special as he’s clearly inserted himself into a leadership role. Hopefully his hot play will continue into the tournament.
Best Pitcher: Right-hander Justin Lewis
Lewis was 7-3 on the year with a 4.33 ERA in 72.2 innings pitched. Lewis also recorded 92 strikeouts and came through on multiple occasions to give his team a much-needed win. Without his contributions on the mound this year there’s no telling where the Cats would be. Expect him to be one of the guys that really pushes this team forward in the tournament.
Biggest disappointment: Right-handed pitcher Sean Hjelle
After being named SEC Pitcher of the Year in 2017 and leading his team to the club’s first regional victory in history, Hjelle failed to live up to the 2018 pre-season hype. He finished the regular season with a 7-5 record and put up a number of lackluster performances.
Hjelle has also dropped considerably in the projections for the draft throughout the course of the season. Whether it be the pressure of what could be his final year or trying to repeat the success, Hjelle has seemed to crack under the pressure.
Overall, it hasn’t been the season most fans were expecting. While Kentucky is still projected to make the NCAA Tournament, they’re limping there instead of running. It’s going to take a lot for this team to make a run most thought they would this year.
We’ll let you know what the committee decides and give you updates throughout Kentucky’s quest at the College World Series!