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Cats to attack SEC Tournament one 'bite' at a time

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Jerad Grundy will start for Kentucky in the first of the SEC Tournament against Ole Miss on Tuesday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Jerad Grundy will start for Kentucky in the first of the SEC Tournament against Ole Miss on Tuesday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Gary Henderson doesn't think anything even needs to be said.

His team already knows it has a lot of work ahead to reach the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. Henderson agrees with the experts that the Wildcats (30-24, 11-19 Southeastern Conference) need a "significant run" in this week's conference tournament to make their case.

That doesn't mean he will dramatically alter his approach or the message he delivers to his team.

"We'll go about it the same way we always do," Henderson said.

What that means is the only thing Henderson wants the Cats thinking about is their SEC Tournament opener on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. ET against sixth-seeded Ole Miss (36-20, 15-15 SEC). The first round - which features teams seeded fifth through 12th - is single-elimination, so UK needs a victory in the "breakfast game" (borrow a phrase from Rebel head coach Mike Bianco) just to keep playing.

"We need to win tomorrow morning and then we can worry about what we're doing on Wednesday," Henderson said. "And as opposed to sitting down and telling them that we gotta bite off four wins or five wins or whatever it is, I won't do that."

Coming off two losses in three games over the weekend at Missouri, UK will call on Jerad Grundy (6-5, 4.75 ERA) to start Tuesday. The senior lefthander is 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA in two starts since moving to a midweek role.

"Grundy is a great kid and a very good competitor, but he ran into a rough four-game stretch there in the middle so we took him off of the Saturday games and put him on the Tuesday games," Henderson said. "And he was able to relax and get back to his old self that he'd been for a year and half."

Grundy has made a start against Ole Miss each of the last two seasons, struggling to an 0-2 record with a 13.06 ERA. To improve, Henderson is looking only for Grundy to do the simple things.

"What we've seen is the ability to throw strikes at the knees and command his two secondary pitches, work ahead in the count - the absolute basics that allow you to be successful," Henderson said. "He's pitched much, much better the last two or three times out than he had the previous four."

Ole Miss has not yet named a starting pitcher, but UK is likely to be familiar with whomever Bianco tabs to take the mound. The Cats have faced the Rebels seven times over the last two seasons, taking two games in two three-game sets and winning their SEC Tournament opener over Ole Miss last season, 2-0.

"I would think that there's plenty of familiarity between the Rebels and the Wildcats as many times as we've played in the last two years," Henderson said.

Familiarity or no familiarity, the task remains the same from this game on for the Wildcats as they play with the season on the line.

"We need to play well, we need to pitch well," Henderson said. "All the coaching cliches that are absolutely true, we need to do those tomorrow morning and when that's over we'll worry about (Wednesday)."

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