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Cats' confidence unshaken after loss to Louisville

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Kentucky will look to rebound from a loss against Louisville in a three-game series at Arkansas, which begins on Friday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Kentucky will look to rebound from a loss against Louisville in a three-game series at Arkansas, which begins on Friday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
It had to happen sooner or later.

A white-hot start to 2012 may have briefly convinced fans otherwise, but baseball is just too fickle of a game for any team to make it through an entire season without having a night where everything simply went wrong.

Of course, Kentucky likely would have preferred it didn't happen against archrival Louisville in front of the season's largest crowd, but the 12-0 blowout the Wildcats suffered is just a single loss, and a non-conference one at that.

"It was just kind of one of those games where things went their way and they didn't really go ours," A.J. Reed said. "But it's a learning experience really. We haven't had a game like this this year so we got to learn from this."

No UK player better exemplified the Murphy's Law nature of the Cats' first loss outside of Southeastern Conference play in 22 tries than Reed. The big southpaw started the game on the mound in his UK-U of L initiation and he came out firing strikes. He reached two-strike counts on six of the eight batters he faced in the first inning, but the Cardinals fought off tough pitches, punished him for mistakes and benefited from a few seeing-eye singles to grab a 3-0 lead.

He quickly had a chance to rebound in the bottom of the inning as he was batting third in the lineup, and it appeared he might get his team back on track. He stroked a Jared Ruxer pitch deep into center field, but Adam Engel made a leaping catch at the wall to rob him of extra bases and maybe even a home run.

"That first inning, they got a couple hits through the infield and it was just a couple hits off the end of the bat or jam shots and I go out there and hit that," Reed said. "I don't know if it's going to go or not, but it kind of sets how the game's going to be."

While the play may have set the tone for the game, Reed knows the end result had more to do with the way he and his team played than anything else.

"That's not what made or (broke) the game," Reed said. "We lost 12-0 and you're not going to win if you don't score. Offense was struggling a little bit, but that's alright. You're going to have those games every once in a while."

With the loss in proper perspective, UK goes about the business of finding a balance between learning from the defeat and moving past it.

"You forget about it but you don't forget about it because you want to know how it felt to do this and you want to know what it was like during the game," Reed said. "At the same time, you just want to get past it. You don't want to think about it anymore."

The Cats can't afford to allow any ill effects to spill over into their next outing, because the challenge that awaits them is among the toughest they've faced all season. Kentucky travels to Fayetteville, Ark., for three games against No. 11 Arkansas (24-8, 7-5 SEC). The Razorbacks boast a 20-2 home record on the season and a fearsome weekend rotation. Ryan Stanek and D.J. Baxendale have a combined record of 12-1 and were recently joined in the rotation by Barrett Astin, who has allowed just three earned runs in 32 innings, most of which have come out of the bullpen.

A tough opponent plus the midweek struggles against Louisville will inevitably lead to some concern over whether doubt will seep into the mind of a young team, but the Wildcats remain self-assured.

"We're going to be fine," Reed said. "Our offense will show up this weekend, our pitching will show up this weekend and our defense will show up this weekend. We're not really worried about it, we just had a bad game."

"We'll have a couple good practices and we'll show up in Fayetteville," head coach Gary Henderson said. "Don't worry about that."

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