Dustin Beggs Improves to 4-0 in DH Opening Win
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Dustin Beggs fired seven shutout innings to improve to 4-0 – the first Kentucky pitcher to win his first four starts since 2012 – leading UK to a 3-0 win to clinch the series for the Wildcats in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
A native of Roswell, Ga., Beggs (4-0) became the first Kentucky pitcher since Taylor Rogers in 2012 to win his first four starts of the season and just the third in program history. He improved his career mark to 11-4, ranking third in UK history in winning percentage (.733) and fifth in ERA (3.02). On the year, Beggs sports a 0.94 ERA, striking out 30 in 28.2 innings.
The only pitchers who can compare to Beggs start in the modern-era of Kentucky baseball (2002-2016) is Rogers, who started 4-0 with a 4.24 ERA in 2012 and Greg Dombrowski, who opened 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA in 2006.
Beggs allowed only six hits and a walk in his 7.2 shutout frames, marking his 12th career quality start and his fourth consecutive. A two-time MLB Draftee, Beggs threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of the 29 hitters he faced.
With two outs and a runner in scoring position in the eighth inning, UK turned to senior righty Bo Wilson in relief of Beggs. A native of Bradenburg, Ky., Wilson issued a walk before senior right-hander Zach Strecker came on to escape the jam. Freshman Sean Hjelle – a 6-foot-11 righty – pitched the ninth inning, earning his third save in as many opportunities.
Kentucky (11-3) won its eighth consecutive game and clinched its second consecutive series win with its result in the doubleheader opener. UK scored single runs in the first, second and fifth innings.
In his second career start – after filling in for preseason All-America third baseman JaVon Shelby – sophomore Tyler Marshall belted is first career home run in his first career multi-hit game. UK also got hits from Marcus Carson, Riley Mahan, Evan White and Storm Wilson, with Wilson ripping a double and Mahan driving in a run. Junior DH Gunnar McNeill went 2-for-3 with a RBI single in the fifth inning.
USC Upstate (8-8) starter Eric Birklund (0-1) suffered the hard-luck loss in a strong start. Birklund worked 5.2 innings, allowing eight hits and three runs, walking three and striking out two.
UK will return to action in the finale of the series, currently in progress. The game is set for broadcast on the UK Sports Radio Network, with fans able to listen to the game on Fox Sports 1580-AM in Lexington and online at UKathletics.com. The game will also be broadcast live on SEC Network +, available with the ESPN app.
Kentucky took an early lead in the bottom of the first inning as Wilson led off the frame with a double into the right-centerfield gap. White then grounded out to the right side with two strikes, moving Wilson to third, and Mahan followed with an RBI groundout.
Marshall gave UK a two-run lead with his first career home run in the second inning, drilling a 1-0 offering over the fence in rightfield.
The Wildcats stretched their lead in the bottom of the fifth inning, as White reached on a one-out single up the middle, scoring on McNeill’s well-placed single down the rightfield line.