Kentucky juniors Sean Hjelle and Tristan Pompey, and senior Luke Becker were named to preseason All-Southeastern Conference teams in a vote by league coaches, it was announced Thursday.
Pompey received First-Team Preseason All-SEC honors as an outfielder, while Hjelle was named Second-Team All-SEC as a starting pitcher and Becker joined him as a second baseman. Also, Kentucky was voted to finish second in the SEC East behind defending national champion Florida.
Pompey, who was a First-Team All-SEC and Third-Team All-American in 2017, was recognized on the strength of his incredible sophomore season. The Toronto, Ontario native has been named to multiple preseason All-America teams as well.
The 6-foot-4 outfielder 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.
Hjelle, the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Year, also has been recognized on preseason All-America teams after his breakthrough 2017 season. The 6-foot-11 junior from White Bear Lake, Minnesota went 11-4 with a 3.89 earned run average in 2017, striking out 102 hitters in 108.1 innings. The 11 victories are 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 on UK’s all-time chart.
Becker, a senior from Fairmont, Minnesota, shifts back to second base this season after playing primarily third base in 2017. The switch-hitter hit .287 with 48 runs, 16 extra-base hits, 46 RBI, 37 walks and seven stolen bases last season, and often worked opposing pitchers into deep counts. He spent the 2016 season as the Cats’ primary second baseman.
The Wildcats are ranked No. 8 in every major preseason poll and open their season at Wofford on Feb. 16.
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