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Notes for an off day: Baseball awaits Mississippi State rematch

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UK defeated Ole Miss 2-0 to set up a matchup Thursday with either LSU or Mississippi State. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) UK defeated Ole Miss 2-0 to set up a matchup Thursday with Mississippi State. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
HOOVER, Ala. -- The Kentucky baseball team did itself a huge favor with a 2-0 win over Ole Miss to open the Southeastern Conference Tournament. The victory means the Wildcats are off on Wednesday before they retake the field on Thursday against No. 7 seed Mississippi State, which defeated No. 1 seed LSU, 3-2.

UK was swept by the Bulldogs just last weekend.

Saturday starter Jerad Grundy (4-3, 4.15 ERA) will get the call at approximately 1:30 p.m. ET. In preparation for UK's next SEC Tournament game, here are a few notes on the team:

Ole Miss win helping to alleviate pressure

By this point in the season, pressure is inevitable. Add in a four-game like the one UK was in the midst of and things are ratcheted up another notch.

"Anytime you're in competitive athletics and you got some sort of a (slump) late in the season, there's going to be some stress and internal pressure and all those things," UK head coach Gary Henderson said. "I think that's normal and you just try to do the best you can to manage it and minimize it."

Had the Cats lost again to open play in the SEC Tournament, the pressure could have gotten out of hand. Fortunately, the Wildcats put their struggles behind them with a 2-0 victory against Ole Miss on Tuesday.

"It's certainly a big win, no question, you can't minimize it," Henderson said. "If we don't win that, then you're talking about a longer losing streak and all that and the things that come with not winning."

Even so, UK's streak-busting win is not without precedent. Before a 2-1 win to salvage the finale of a series against Florida, Kentucky had lost four in a row and five of six.

"The win against the Gators was huge," Henderson said. "If you don't win that, you've extended that losing streak and who knows when you bust out of it and all the rest."

Another prolonged losing streak will mean the end to an unforgettable 2012 season, but performances like the one against the Rebels could make this year even more special.

"It was a big win and there were other big wins and hopefully we got a few more coming," Henderson said.

Cats looking to capitalize on pitching options

When Henderson sent A.J. Reed to the mound on Tuesday, he thought he would be getting four solid innings. Instead, Reed lasted 5.2 innings, combining with normal Friday starter Taylor Rogers for a shutout of Ole Miss. The benefits of their efforts could extend well beyond the victory itself.

"It's a good thing that we were able to have A.J. throw five and two-thirds," Henderson said. "Not only did it give the starters that extra day and keep us out of playing (Wednesday), but it gave (relievers) Trevor (Gott) and Tim (Peterson) and Sam (Mahar) and Alex (Phillips) a day, actually two, where they didn't have to throw. It's a big lift for us."

What exactly that lift will mean is up to the Cats.

"I know for sure is it gave us a little bit of rest and hopefully that's a really good thing for us as we move forward," Henderson said. "Even though we got the rest, we still got to go out there and perform well."

UK's off day to feature plenty of baseball

Kentucky isn't playing a game on Wednesday, but the Wildcats aren't staying away from the diamond. During the morning, the Wildcats boarded their team bus for Birmingham-Southern University for practice.

"Great day, our guys practiced well," Henderson said. "Good concentration, good energy. We've practiced well here for three days."

Afterward, the Cats headed to the ballpark to watch a game between their two potential opponents for Thursday, LSU and Mississippi State.

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