Preseason All-American J.B. Bukauskas struck out 10 University of Kentucky batters over six shutout innings, and No. 9 North Carolina defeated the Cats 3-1 on Friday in the season opener for both teams.
It was the debut for UK Coach Nick Mingione.
It was also the 18th season-opening win in 19 years under North Carolina Coach Mike Fox.
UK trailed 3-0 going to the ninth. The Cats finally broke through on Zach Reks’ RBI double, scoring pinch hitter Luke Heyer. UK sent the go-ahead run to the plate but couldn’t score another run.
Bukauskas (1-0) allowed three hits and walked one in six innings. Rodney Hutchison Jr. and Josh Hiatt pitched the final three innings, with Hiatt recording a four-out save.
Kentucky starting pitcher Sean Hjelle allowed 11 hits and three earned runs in five innings. He walked none and struck out two.
Colton Cleary and Brad Schaenzer combined for three innings of scoreless relief for Kentucky.
Reks went 3-for-4 from the leadoff spot. He also drew a walk.
Evan White added two hits for the Cats.
North Carolina scored single runs in the first, third and fourth innings. Four Tar Heels had multiple hits: Brian Miller, Logan Warmoth, Zach Gahagan and Brandon Riley.
The second game of the three-game series is Saturday at 2 p.m.
Kentucky at North Carolina
2 p.m. (WBUL-FM 98.1)