Shriners: UK, Louisiana Show Off ArmsFeatured
• Story on Kentucky’s Zack Thompson
• Story on Kentucky’s Zach Haake
• Story on Louisiana’s Arms
HOUSTON — Everyone seems to be marveling about Kentucky’s sheer dominance at the Shriners College Classic thus far.
Immediately following his team’s win over Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon, Louisiana head coach Tony Robichaux turned his attention to the red-hot Wildcats. His Cajuns won’t have highly touted lefthander Hogan Harris available, meaning he’ll have to use some younger arms in Sunday’s finale against UK. Meanwhile, the Wildcats, who have been knocking the cover off the ball so far this weekend, will trot out an outstanding Sunday starter in righthander Justin Lewis, who turned down significant draft overtures to return to campus for another season.
The Cajuns feel a little undermanned against the Wildcats, but that will be a recurring feeling with many teams as the spring progresses. The Wildcats are that good.
In Friday’s opening game against Houston, the Wildcats brought out their bats in a big way with Luke Heyer and Ryan Johnson, among others, leading the way against Houston stud lefthander Trey Cumbie.
Against red-hot Sam Houston, the Wildcats weren’t quite as explosive offensively, but did more than enough to take care of the Bearkats, 7-2. The lull in overwhelming offensive production gave us a chance to turn our attention to UK’s arms, specifically sophomore lefthander Zack Thompson and righthander Zach Haake.
The future is oh so bright with both of those guys.
Thompson, ranked as the No. 7 college prospect for the 2019 draft class, showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman last season. But he also was … well, a freshman, at times, too. He spent the season as a valuable midweek asset and tallied a 3.45 ERA in 75.2 innings, along with 96 strikeouts and 38 walks.
He entered this season expected to take a huge step forward as a weekend starters. However, the first two starts weren’t so golden. He allowed rive runs in just 2.2 innings in his fist start against USC Upstate, while he was better, but still not ultra sharp against Oakland, where he allowed four runs on five hits in six innings.
The Bearkats are infinitely better and more aggressive than both of those teams, and the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder, was very sharp and threw multiple pitches for strikes. He struck out seven, walked just one and allowed four hits in six shutout innings.
“He started midweek games for us last year and I think having that experience as a freshman has made him feel like he’s been there and done that,” Kentucky coach Nick Mingione said. “He didn’t get rattled by that [starting in the midweek] and that didn’t bother him.
“He hasn’t had the outings he wanted to have to start the year,” he continued. “But he’s worked hard with coach Belanger and catcher Kole Cottam to get better.”