The University of Kentucky provided one of the most surprising stories of the 2017 college baseball season.
This year, the Wildcats will attempt to build on that success with some high expectations attached.
UK juniors Sean Hjelle and Tristan Pompey have been named preseason first-team All-Americans by both Collegiate Baseball and Perfect Game.
Hjelle, the reigning Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year, earned first-team honors from Collegiate Baseball and third-team recognition from Perfect Game. The 6-foot-11 junior from White Bear Lake, Minn., went 11-4 with a 3.89 earned run average in 2017, striking out 102 hitters in 108 2/3 innings. The 11 victories were the fourth-most in a single season in UK history.
As the Wildcats’ Friday night starter, Hjelle was even better in SEC play, going 7-1 with a 1.90 ERA, becoming the first player in school history to win SEC Pitcher of the Year. He is now 15-5 in two seasons, good for a .750 career winning percentage that ranks third all-time at UK.
Pompey, who was a first-team All-SEC and third-team All-American in 2017, was named preseason first-team All-American by Perfect Game and third-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball.
The 6-4 outfielder from Toronto hit .361 with 18 doubles, 10 home runs, 45 RBI and 70 runs scored in 2017. He set the UK single-season record for at-bats (266) and his 96 hits ranked second nationally and third on the school’s single-season chart. Pompey also ranked among the nation’s elite players in runs scored with 70, which was fifth nationally and third on UK’s single-season list. He had 29 multi-hit games and enters the 2018 season with a 37-game reached-base streak.
The Wildcats are ranked No. 8 in Collegiate Baseball’s preseason poll and open their season at Wofford on Feb. 16.
Honors for Morehead State
Junior outfielder Niko Hulsizer has been named preseason first-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball and second-team All-American by Perfect Game.
Hulsizer, the reigning Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year, hit a league-record 27 home runs last season.
Morehead State senior second baseman Braxton Morris and junior shortstop Reid Leonard received third-team All-America recognition from Collegiate Baseball, which picked the Eagles to win the OVC this season.
Season opener: Feb. 16 at Wofford
Home opener: Feb. 21 vs. Xavier