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Baseball, softball finding place among nation's elite

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As the northernmost school in the Southeastern Conference, Kentucky is supposed to be at some sort of a competitive disadvantage in outdoor spring sports. Don't tell that to UK's baseball and softball teams.

As they prepare for their final non-conference weekend series vs. Michigan State, the baseball Wildcats sit at 11-1 and are in the midst of an eight-game winning streak. UK is hitting .325 as a team and is outscoring opponents by more than 6.5 runs per game.

Softball, meanwhile, is off to a school-record 16-3 start and is in the midst of an eight-game winning streak of its own. The Cats have already won four games against ranked opponents and two against teams that reached last year's Women's College World Series.

Pollsters have taken notice of the strong starts by both teams. Baseball is ranked No. 7 according to Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, No. 10 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, No. 11 by Baseball America and No. 11 in the USA Today Coaches poll. Softball checks in at No. 17 in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll and No. 15 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll - UK's highest ranking in the history of the poll.

Those rankings put the Wildcats in a select group. UK is one of just five schools nationally to rank in the top 17 of every major baseball and softball poll. The other universities on that list are Oklahoma, LSU, UCLA and Oregon.

Baseball and softball aren't alone in their success either.

Men's and women's basketball are heading for postseason play. Third-ranked rifle bids for a second national championship in three seasons on Saturday. Men's tennis is 14-2 and is ranked higher that at any point since 2004. Women's tennis is on the rise and ranked No. 44. Edrick Floreal is ushering in a new era of UK track and field and has the women's team ranked No. 20 in indoors. The football team is on the cusp of spring practice and tickets to the Blue/White Spring Game are being snapped up at an unprecedented rate.

To put it another way, UK Athletics could be primed for a memorable spring.

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