Sean Hjelle (1-1) gave up one run and had a career-high eight strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings to help host Kentucky to a 2-1 victory over No. 23 UC Santa Barbara on Friday in the opener of a three-game series at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The Cats (5-5) scored two runs in the third inning, including an RBI single by Marcus Carson, and turned a key double play in the eighth to halt a UC Santa Barbara rally. With Gauchos runners on first and second and one out, UK reliever Colton Cleary struck out Colton Burns, and catcher Troy Squires threw out JJ Muno on an attempted steal of third to end the inning. Cleary got five outs for his first save of the season.
UC Santa Barbara, which advanced to the College World Series last season, dropped to 4-5.
Luke Becker went 2-for-3 and scored on Carson’s single. Connor Heady scored UK’s second run on a Noah Davis wild pitch.
UK preseason All-American Evan White went 0-for-3 to snap a 20-game hitting streak dating to last season. He had a 21-game hitting streak last season.
Game 2 of the series is Saturday at 1 p.m. Fans can listen to the game on the radio (98.5 FM), UKathletics.com and iHeart Radio. The game will also be aired on the WatchESPN app.