Overall Record: 16-3, 2-1 SEC Record Last Week: 3-1, 2-1 SEC
Recent Results Tuesday, March 12 - won vs. Ohio, 6-3 Friday, March 15 - lost at Florida, 1-4 Saturday, March 16 - won at Florida, 11-5 Sunday, March 17 - won at Florida, 6-2
Upcoming Schedule (times Eastern) Tuesday, March 19 - vs. Western Kentucky - 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 21 - vs. No. 8 Mississippi State - 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22 - vs. No. 8 Mississippi State - 12 p.m. Sunday, March 23 - vs. No. 8 Mississippi State - 1 p.m..
Notes: Sophomore centerfielder Austin Cousino had a stellar week in leading the Wildcats to their first series win at Florida since 1999, with UK also picking up a midweek win over Ohio ... Batted .471 (8-for-17) with a double, homer and four RBI, getting hit by a pitch and stealing three bases in three attempts ... Was red hot during the series win at Florida, batting .538 (7-for-13) with a double, homer and four RBI, with all three of his steals coming vs. the Gators ... Had a .706 slugging and a .550 on-base percentage ... In the series opener at UF, Cousino went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, steal and a hit by pitch ... After UK fell in the series opener after three errors in the seventh, Cousino exploded in the series-evening win, going 3-for-5 with four RBI, a double, homer, hit by pitch and stolen base ... In the series finale rubber match, Cousino went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and a stolen base ... In the midweek win over Ohio, Cousino went 1-for-4 with a hit by pitch ... On the year, Cousino has hit .325 with 22 runs, four doubles, four homers and 15 RBI, stealing 8-of-8 bases.
Pitcher of the week nominee Corey Littrell 6-3 - Jr. - LHP - Louisville, Ky. (Trinity) Week Stats: 1-0, 1.12 ERA, 1 GS, 8 IP, 10 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 SO
Notes: Junior southpaw Corey Littrell turned in a solid start in a rubber-match win at Florida in the series finale, pacing the Wildcats to its first series win at Florida since the 1999 season ... Littrell worked eight innings and allowed just one run, scattering 10 singles without issuing a walk and striking out seven ... The 2012 Rawlings Gold Glove Award Winner as the NCAA's top defensive pitcher also picked off his third runner of the year and the 14th of his career ... Littrell's rubber-match start marked his ninth start in a series-deciding game in the last two years, with UK winning all nine of those games and Littrell posting a 7-0 record and a 1.92 ERA in those outings ... On the year, Littrell has a 3-0 record and a 2.84 ERA in five starts, tossing 31.2 innings, walking eight and striking out 31 ... With his 18th career win, Littrell moved into a tie for ninth place on the UK career list, just six wins shy of equaling the program mark.
Team notes Ninth-ranked Kentucky completed a four-game week with a historic series win at Florida, its first series win in Gainesville since the 1999 season. UK also picked up a midweek win over Ohio, before traveling to the Sunshine State. UK will return to action with a Tuesday game vs. Western Kentucky at 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium, before hosting No. 8 Mississippi State for a three-game SEC series at The Cliff.
Kentucky (16-3, 2-1 SEC) posted its first series win in Gainesville in 14 years over the weekend and just the fifth in the history of the series that dates back to 1953. The Wildcats fell in the opener after a three-error seventh inning in a 1-1 game and rebounded with an 11-5 win over the Gators on Saturday. In the rubber match, UK turned to Corey Littrell, who pitched UK to the series win in a 6-2 result at McKethan Stadium.
The Wildcats have hit .297 as a team, belting 31 doubles, five triples and 14 homers, scoring 149 runs and stealing 29 bases. On the mound, UK has a 2.45 team ERA, allowing 164 hits in 169 innings, walking 41 and striking out 138.
Individually, UK has been led by junior infielder J.T. Riddle who has hit .372 with four doubles, one triple, one homer and 16 RBI. Two-way All-American A.J. Reed has a .370 average with three doubles, two triples, five homers and 26 RBI, while catcher Micheal Thomas has hit .341 with one double, one homer and 12 RBI. All-America centerfielder Austin Cousino has added a .325 average with four doubles, four homers and 15 RBI, stealing 8-of-8 bases.
On the mound, UK's weekend rotation of Reed (2-2, 2.83 ERA), Jerad Grundy (4-1, 1.93 ERA) and Corey Littrell (3-0, 2.84 ERA) have been highly efficient through five weekends. In the bullpen, UK career and single-season record holder in saves, Trevor Gott (2-0, 0.79 ERA), lead the team with 10 appearances, posting six saves in 11.1 innings, striking out 11. Senior Walter Wijas (1-0, 0.93 ERA) has appeared in eight games, working 9.2 innings and striking out seven. Freshman righty Zach Strecker (1-0, 1.42 ERA) has worked in seven games, while freshman Dylan Dwyer (1-0, 0.00 ERA) has appeared in five games and worked 6.1 shutout innings. Ryne Combs (0-0, 1.50 ERA) and Chandler Shepherd (1-0, 3.21 ERA) have also been weapons in the bullpen.
Kentucky will host Mississippi State and former UK head coach John Cohen in its first home SEC series of the year. UK will welcome the Bulldogs at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, with the series resuming at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday and concluding at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, March 10:
Men's basketball: Archie Goodwin
Freshman Archie Goodwin led the Wildcats to a marquee victory over visiting No. 9/11 Florida on Saturday, after earning a 20-point scoring effort at Georgia on Thursday. For the week, the Little Rock, Ark., native averaged a team-high 18.0 points per game. He ranked second on the team with a .429 shooting clip. He was the only guard to log double-figure rebounds for the week and his six steals topped the squad. Against the Bulldogs, Goodwin turned in his fifth 20-point effort and second against conference competition. He sunk a career-high three 3-pointers and hauled in six rebounds. In the upset of the season for UK, Goodwin led the team with 16 points including nine in the second half. His steal and dunk tied the game at 57 and he then hit one free throw for UK's final lead en route to the win. In the second stanza he also notched a trio of steals to push his career-high total for swipes in a game to four. Furthermore, Goodwin has scored in double-figures a team-leading 23 times this season including in six-straight contests.
Baseball: Corey Littrell
Junior left-handed All-America starter Corey Littrell turned in his best start of the year in leading UK to a series win over Michigan State during a Sunday afternoon rubber match ... Littrell worked seven strong innings allowing only one run on four hits, walking one batter and striking out a career-high nine batters ... He carried a shutout into the seventh inning, only surrendering a single hit through his first six shutout innings ... Battled through the seventh after three consecutive hits plated the first run of the game for the Spartans, getting the final two outs to set up the UK bullpen for the save in the 3-1 game ... He fired 100 pitches in the start, with 69 going for strikes ... After an All-Southeastern Conference season in 2012 as the Sunday starter, Littrell reasserted himself as the series-winning starter in rubber matches, making his eighth rubber-match start in the last two years vs. Michigan ... In those eight series-deciding games, Littrell has led UK to eight wins and owned a 6-0 record with a 2.8 ERA ... On the year, Littrell had made four starts with a 2-0 record and a 3.42 ERA, tossing 23.2 innings, allowing 22 hits and eight walks, striking out 24 ... With his 17th career win on Sunday, Littrell had now moved into a five-way tie for 10th in UK career history, seven wins shy of the program mark.
Baseball: Paul McConkey
Junior Paul McConkey paced the Wildcats in multiple offensive categories during a four-game week, batting .444 (4-for-9) in three games ... The third baseman led UK to a series win over 2012 NCAA Tournament team Michigan State, a 37-win club in 2012 ... McConkey had three RBI and belted a homer during the week, reaching base at a .500 clip ...Hit the game-winning, two-run double in a 3-1 win on Sunday vs. Michigan State, good for his second game-winning RBI of the year ... On the year, McConkey has hit .324 (11-for-34) with three doubles, one triple, one homer and 11 RBI.
Softball: Christian Stokes
Christian Stokes had the best weekend of her young collegiate career against Ole Miss, hitting .833 (5-for-6) with her first collegiate home run and two multi-hit games. Stokes started all three games at second base against the Rebels, earning a hit in each game, while posting a .889 on-base percentage for the weekend. The native of Chesterfield, S.C., went 2-for-3 in the series opener, including launching a solo homer in the seventh inning - the first homer of her career. In game two, Stokes scored a run after going 1-for-1 with a single and two walks, helping UK tie the series at a game apiece. Stokes finished the series off in style with a 2-for-2 effort in the finale, including two RBI. She is currently riding a season-best three-game hitting streak whiles hitting .279 (12-for-43) with one double, one homer, 12 RBI and four runs scored this season.
Men's basketball - Kentucky went 1-1 on the week which included a critical upset of No. 9/11 Florida on Saturday. - Freshman Archie Goodwin was sensational in leading the Cats with an average of 18.0 points, five rebounds and three steals in two games this week. Goodwin snatched a career-high four steals in the upset of the Gators and had a team-high 16 points. - With the win over Florida, UK improves to 10-0 at home in Rupp Arena against ranked foes in the John Calipari era. - The win also helped seal the No. 2 overall seed in the SEC Tournament. UK has won the tournament twice in Calipari's tenure.
Women's basketball - Kentucky advanced to the SEC Championship game for the third time in four seasons before falling to Texas A&M. - UK logged wins against Vanderbilt and No. 12 Georgia en route to making its title game appearance. - UK outscored the Lady Dawgs 41-14 in the second half, holding them scoreless for the final 6:08 of the game, and 22.2 percent (14-of-63) shooting for the game. - Senior All-America candidate A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) added 11 points and grabbed two steals which set a new UK career steals record with 310. The previous record was 309 set by Stacey Reed from 1991-95.
Rifle - The Kentucky rifle team placed second at the NCAA Championships, shooting a 4670 to place runner-up for a second consecutive year. - Senior Henri Junghänel placed second in individual smallbore, falling by .5 points to claim the silver medal. - Freshman Connor Davis finished fourth individually in air rifle. - Kentucky had six members named All-America, including Connor Davis, Heather Greathouse, Emily Holsopple, Ed Ryznar, Elijah Ellis and Stacy Wheatley. Henri Junghanel would have been selected but was not eligible because he is currently in graduate school.
Gymnastics - The 20th-ranked Kentucky Gymnastics team topped 196 for the third consecutive meet in a 196.375-192.7 win over Bowling Green on Friday. - Kayla Hartley clinched the second-highest team score in school history with a 9.9 floor exercise routine. The performance gave Hartley the event title for the second week in a row. It was also her first 9.9 since the season-opener. The junior has three event crowns from the past two meets. - The Wildcats scored 49.125 on floor, which tied the season high. - Kenzie Hedges took the event honors on vault as she stuck her landing for a career-best 9.875.
Softball - The No. 15 UK softball team started its Southeastern Conference schedule in style by winning its series with the Ole Miss Rebels. UK dropped the first game of the series 3-1, before winning the final two games 5-2. The series win is the sixth consecutive over Ole Miss and marks the second time in three years UK has won the opening series of conference play. The series vs. Ole Miss was the first ever games played in the new UK Softball Complex. - Freshman infielder Christian Stokes led the way for Kentucky, hitting .833 (5-for-6) for the weekend with three RBI and her first collegiate home run. Junior Lauren Cumbess went 3-for-9 over the weekend with a double, while junior Emily Gaines was 2-for-6 with two RBI. - Freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley suffered her first loss of the season in game one before earning wins Saturday and Sunday in a relief effort. Nunley is 12-1 on the year with a 2.02 ERA, striking out a team-best 67 batters. Baseball - Seventh-ranked Kentucky completed a 3-1 week with a series win over Michigan State during the weekend, also picking up a midweek win over Xavier on Wednesday. - UK opened the series with the Spartans with a 2-1 win on Friday night. Sophomore left-hander A.J. Reed worked seven shutout innings, allowing only five hits and two walks. All-American centerfielder Austin Cousino got UK on the board with a first-inning homer, before Max Kuhn slugged his first career homer in the bottom of the eighth as the game-winning bomb. - Kentucky won the series on Sunday in another rubber-match win from junior southpaw Corey Littrell, making his eighth series-deciding start in the last two years. The All-America starter worked seven innings and allowed just one run, striking out a career-high nine.
Men's tennis - The UK men's tennis team fell twice this weekend, to No. 38 Baylor and No. 14 Texas A&M. - Kentucky's road trip continues next weekend traveling to Ole Miss for a Friday showdown in Oxford before continuing the weekend in Starkville against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Women's tennis - No. 44 Kentucky went 1-1 over the weekend, defeating No. 57 Missouri 5-2 on Friday, before falling to No. 4 Texas A&M 5-2 on Sunday. - Freshman Nadia Ravita knocked off sixth-ranked Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar on Sunday 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. The win was Ravita's 13th singles win and fourth win over a ranked opponent this year. - In Kentucky's win over Missouri, the Wildcats received singles wins in slots one through four, with Nadia Ravita, Jessica Stiles, Edmee Morin-Kougoucheff and Caitlin McGraw winning in straight sets.
Track and field - The No. 20 Kentucky women's track and field team finished the NCAA Indoor Championships tied for 20th-place. The Wildcats earned the program's highest team finish since 1994 when they also finished tied for 20th. The Wildcats' 10 team points was the highest total at the National Championship Meet since 1990. - Cally Macumber won the bronze medal in the women's 3,000 meters final to add six points to the Kentucky cause. She also contributed four on Friday night as the anchor in the distance medley relay. - Morganne Phillips, Allison Peare and Chelsea Oswald were the other members of that squad. - Keith Hayes scored two points for the men with a seventh-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles. Hayes lowered his school-record time to 7.69 in the event prelims to reach the final.
Men's golf - The Kentucky men's golf team finished seventh out of the 17-team field at the USF Invitational, shooting 20 strokes over par for the tournament. - Junior Stephen Powers recorded his second top-10 finish of the year, placing tied for sixth at 2-under-par. The Naperville, Ill., native was tied for the lead after the first round, posting a 4-under-par day and concluded his impressive tournament with an even par round two and two-over-par round three. - Junior Ben Stow also finished in the top-20, tying for 14th overall at 1-over-par.
Monday, March 11 Men's golf at Tiger Invitational (Auburn, Ala.)
Tuesday, March 12 Baseball hosts Ohio - 4:00 p.m. Softball hosts North Carolina - 5:00 p.m. Men's golf at Tiger Invitational (Auburn, Ala.) Wednesday, March 13 Softball hosts Southern Illinois • 3:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Cincinnati • 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, March 14 Swimming and diving at NCAA Zones - 10:00 a.m. (West Lafayette, Ind.) Track and field at Bulls Invitational (Tampa, Fla.)
Friday, March 15 Men's tennis at Ole Miss - 2:00 p.m. Women's tennis hosts Ole Miss - 4:00 p.m. Softball at LSU - 7:00 p.m. Baseball at Florida - 7:30 p.m. Men's basketball vs. Arkansas/Vanderbilt - 7:30 p.m. (Nashville) Swimming and diving at NCAA Zones - 10:00 a.m. (West Lafayette, Ind.) Women's golf at Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate (Augusta, Ga.) Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)
Saturday, March 16 Baseball at Florida - Noon Softball at LSU - 5:00 p.m. Gymnastics at Penn State - 7:00 p.m. Men's basketball at SEC Semifinals - 3:30 p.m. (Nashville) Swimming and diving at NCAA Zones - 10:00 a.m. (West Lafayette, Ind.) Women's golf at Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate (Augusta, Ga.) Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)
Sunday, March 17 Women's tennis hosts Mississippi State - Noon Softball at LSU - 1:00 p.m. Baseball at Florida - 1:00 p.m. Men's tennis at Mississippi State - 1:00 p.m. Men's basketball at SEC Finals - 3:30 p.m. (Nashville) Women's golf at Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate (Augusta, Ga.) Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)
Recent Results Wednesday, March 6 - defeated Xavier, 6-3 Friday, March 8 - defeated Michigan State, 2-1 Saturday, March 9 - lost to Michigan State, 1-6 Sunday, March 10 - defeated Michigan State, 3-1 Upcoming Schedule (times Eastern) Tuesday, March 12 - vs. Ohio - 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 13 - vs. Cincinnati - 4 p.m. Friday, March 15 - at Florida - 7:30 p.m. (CSS) Saturday, March 16 - at Florida - 12:00 p.m. (FSN) Sunday, March 17 - at Florida - 1 p.m.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK NOMINEE Paul McConkey 5-11 - Jr. - 3B - Knoxville, Tenn. (Halls) Week Stats: .444 (4-for-9), 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 8 TB, .889 SLG%, .500 OB%
Notes: Junior Paul McConkey paced the Wildcats in multiple offensive categories during a four-game week, batting .444 (4-for-9) in three games ... The third baseman led UK to a series win over 2012 NCAA Tournament team Michigan State, a 37-win club in 2012 ... McConkey had three RBI and belted a homer during the week, reaching base at a .500 clip ...Hit the game-winning, two-run double in a 3-1 win on Sunday vs. Michigan State, good for his second game-winning RBI of the year ... On the year, McConkey has hit .324 (11-for-34) with three doubles, one triple, one homer and 11 RBI.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK NOMINEE Corey Littrell 6-3 - Jr. - LHP - Louisville, Ky. (Trinity) Week Stats: 1-0, 1 GS, 7 IP, 1.29 ERA, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO
Notes: Junior left-handed All-America starter Corey Littrell turned in his best start of the year in leading UK to a series win over Michigan State during a Sunday afternoon rubber match ... Littrell worked seven strong innings allowing only one run on four hits, walking one batter and striking out a career-high nine batters ... He carried a shutout into the seventh inning, only surrendering a single hit through his first six shutout innings ... Battled through the seventh after three consecutive hits plated the first run of the game for the Spartans, getting the final two outs to set up the UK bullpen for the save in the 3-1 game ... He fired 100 pitches in the start, with 69 going for strikes ... After an All-Southeastern Conference season in 2012 as the Sunday starter, Littrell reasserted himself as the series-winning starter in rubber matches, making his eighth rubber-match start in the last two years vs. Michigan ... In those eight series-deciding games, Littrell has led UK to eight wins and owned a 6-0 record with a 2.8 ERA ... On the year, Littrell had made four starts with a 2-0 record and a 3.42 ERA, tossing 23.2 innings, allowing 22 hits and eight walks, striking out 24 ... With his 17th career win on Sunday, Littrell had now moved into a five-way tie for 10th in UK career history, seven wins shy of the program mark.
TEAM NOTES Seventh-ranked Kentucky completed a 3-1 week with a series win over Michigan State during the weekend, also picking up a midweek win over Xavier on Wednesday. The Wildcats will play five games during their spring break, including opening Southeastern Conference play at Florida over the weekend, with the Gators coming off three consecutive trips to the College World Series.
Kentucky (13-2) started the week off with a 6-3 win against Xavier, as freshman right-hander Kyle Cody record his first career collegiate win, throwing five innings and striking out three.
UK opened the series with the Spartans - a 2012 NCAA Tournament team and 37-win club a year ago - with a 2-1 win on Friday night. Sophomore left-hander A.J. Reed worked seven shutout innings, allowing only five hits and two walks. All-American centerfielder Austin Cousino got UK on the board with a first-inning homer, before Max Kuhn slugged his first career homer in the bottom of the eighth as the game-winning bomb. On Saturday, Michigan State right-hander David Garner, a 2012 Cape Cod League All-Star, turned in a dominating performance, working 8.1 innings in a 6-1 MSU win. Kentucky rebounded to win the series on Sunday in another rubber-match win from junior southpaw Corey Littrell, making his eighth series-deciding start in the last two years. The All-American starter worked seven innings and allowed just one run, striking out a career-high nine.
During the week, UK was led offensively by Kuhn and McConkey, with each totaling three RBI. McConkey, a 5-foot-11 junior, started in three games during the week, batting .444 (4-for-9) with one double, one homer, three RBI, and a .500 on-base percentage. Kuhn, a sophomore infielder from Zionsville, Ind., started all four games this week for the Wildcats, batting .357 (5-14) with two doubles, one homer, three RBI and a .438 on-base percentage.
Junior Trevor Gott recorded three saves in three appearances during the week to move into a tie for the UK career record with 15 saves. Gott (2-0, 0.00 ERA) had four saves on the year, working 8.1 innings, allowing only four singles and two walks, striking out 10. In his 15 career saves, Gott has worked 16.1 innings, allowing four hits and three walks, striking out 24. Littrell's 17th career win also moved him into 10th place on the career UK win list.
On the year, UK has batted .308 as a team with 11 homers, a .435 slugging and a .410 on-base percentage in 15 games, stealing 24 bases and owning a .976 fielding percentage. On the mound, UK has a 2.42 ERA with four saves in 134 innings, walking only 33 and striking out 116.
UK's all left-handed weekend rotation of Reed (2-1, 3.22 ERA), Jerad Grundy (3-1, 1.35 ERA) and Littrell (2-0, 3.42 ERA) have been solid through four starts. In the bullpen, Gott leads the club with seven relief outings, also joining senior Walter Wijas (1-0, 1.12 ERA) with seven appearances. Freshman right-handers Zach Strecker (0-0, 2.25 RA), Tyler Cox (0-0, 0.00 ERA) and Cody (1-0, 7.00 ERA) have each been weapons in their collegiate debuts. Sophomore Chandler Shepherd (1-0, 2.92 ERA) has appeared in five games and worked 12.1 innings, while freshmen lefties Dylan Dwyer (1-0, 0.00 ERA) and Ryne Combs (0-0, 1.12 ERA) have been key pitching options.
Individually, J.T. Riddle leads the team in hitting with a .403 average, totaling three doubles, one triple, one homer and 13 RBI, stealing three bases. Catcher Micheal Thomas has a .394 average with eight RBI, while Reed has batted .362 with a double, triple, five homers and 23 RBI. Kuhn owns a .340 average with four doubles, one triple, one homer and 15 RBI, stealing five bases, while McConkey has a .324 average with a homer and 11 RBI. Cousino has hit .283 with three doubles, three homers and 11 RBI, stealing five bags. Shortstop Matt Reida owns a .260 average with two doubles and seven RBI, while outfielders Zac Zellers and Lucas Witt each have hit .234.
Kentucky will begin SEC play when they travel to Florida for a weekend series starting on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville., Fla., UK will face Florida on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. The game on Friday will be televised by CSS and available on ESPN3.com, and the Saturday game will be televised on Fox Sports. All three games will be broadcast on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action.
Corey Littrell had a career-high nine strikeouts in seven one-run innings on Sunday against Michigan State. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
A month into the season, Kentucky has gotten accustomed to blowouts.
Entering this weekend, the Wildcats were the nation's top offensive team. They had scored eight runs or more seven times and won by less than three runs just once in 11 victories.
But in their final weekend series before Southeastern Conference play, the Cats experienced something entirely different. In three games against Michigan State, every at-bat mattered in a trio of pitchers' duels. In taking the series with a 3-1 win in a Sunday rubber match, the Cats got an idea of what's in store for them over the next two months.
"It did feel a little bit like an SEC series," UK head coach Gary Henderson said.
During a 22-0 start to 2012, the Cats won close game after close game. This season has been another story, at least until the Spartans came to town. Henderson believes the experience of winning a 2-1 game on Friday night before responding to a Saturday loss with a series-clinching Sunday win will be valuable as the Cats prepare to travel to Florida next weekend.
"Last year at the same time we'd won a bunch of one-run games and we'd already been through that experience," Henderson said. "This year we just haven't. And so it was really good to get the one-run game on Friday and then obviously saw a really good pitcher (David Garner) yesterday and then today get a two-run game. It's good for us."
For UK starting pitcher Corey Littrell, it was nothing more than a reminder.
Littrell, after all, is accustomed to taking the mound in tense Sunday showdowns. And just as he did repeatedly in UK's record-setting 2012 season, Littrell delivered. He pitched seven one-run innings, allowing just four hits - three of which came in his final frame - and striking out a career-high nine batters while moving to 2-0 on the season.
"I love Sundays, especially coming in when the series is tied," Littrell said. "The team has confidence in me and I have confidence in myself to go out and pitch the way I did."
Littrell has certainly earned that confidence.
After his performance on Sunday, Littrell has now started eight Sunday rubber matches over the last two seasons. In those games, he has a perfect 6-0 mark and a sparkling 2.89 earned-run average over 53 innings.
For the first four-and-a-half innings, the best Littrell could do was preserve a scoreless tie. The high-powered UK offense managed just four base runners against Spartan starter Mick VanVossen through the first four frames before player with significantly less big-game experience than Littrell provided a spark.
Until he arrived at Cliff Hagan Stadium on Sunday morning, freshman Kyle Barrett had no idea he was about to make his second-career start and first in a weekend series. The Douglasville, Ga., native reacted about the way you'd expect.
"I was excited," Barrett said. "I was ready to go."
Henderson wanted the victory on Sunday, but the move was as much about what he knows the future holds.
"We're going to need a left-handed bat when the conference games get going and you face that right-handed slider," Henderson said. "It was time to see what he could do and obviously he looked good. He'll get more opportunity."
With one out in the fifth inning and facing a 2-1 count, Barrett laced a double down the left-field line - his first extra-base hit as a Wildcat. One out later, J.T. Riddle knocked in Barrett with a single to left for his 13th run batted in of the season.
"I thought the previous at-bat was also really good where he lined out," Henderson said of Barrett. "To this point he's had a good command of the strike zone. He swings at strikes. He lets it go. The stroke is good."
In the sixth inning, UK added a pair of insurance runs on a Paul McConkey double. Michigan State managed to scratch a run across in the seventh inning, but Walt Wijas shut the Spartans down in the eighth before closer Trevor Gott protected a two-run lead in the ninth for his school-record-tying 15th-career save.
With SEC play on the horizon, it's unlikely Gott will have to wait long for an opportunity to take sole ownership of the record.
"Every weekend for the next 10 weeks is going to be just like this," Riddle said. "It's going to be close ballgames. It's going to come down to a clutch hit or getting a sacrifice bunt down. You're not going to put up a lot of runs against the type of pitching we've got here in the SEC."
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.
The Kentucky baseball team won its eighth in a row on Wednesday night and moved to 11-1 on the season with a 6-3 win over Xavier on Wednesday. Freshman Kyle Cody was solid in a five-inning start, allowing two runs en route to his first career victory. A.J. Reed continues to smolder at the plate after picking up two hits - including his Southeastern Conference-leading fifth home run - and reaching twice more on intentional walks.
Video highlights from the win are below and you see player interviews and a full story at this link.
UK hosts Michigan State for three games beginning on Friday in its final weekend series before opening conference play. The forecast is calling for warmer temperatures (63 degrees on Sunday), so head on out to Cliff Hagan Stadium to see the seventh-ranked Cats in action. First pitch on Friday is at 4 p.m. ET, first pitch on Saturday is at 2 p.m. and the final will begin at 1 p.m.
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, March 3:
Softball: Lauren Cumbess
Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess had an outstanding week in the circle, going 2-0 with a 0.58 ERA. Cumbess pitched against USF, which is receiving votes and went to the 2012 Women's College World Series, and Central Michigan. The native of Normal, Ill., came on in the fifth inning against USF and threw five hitless innings, striking out four and retiring 15 of the 16 batters she faced. She was also impressive against CMU, allowing an earned run in the first inning on two hits, but only one hit the remainder of the game. After giving up the run against CMU, Cumbess retired 18 of the next 20 batters she faced, including six by strikeout. For the season, Cumbess is 4-1 with a 2.39 ERA, throwing 38 innings with 36 strikeouts and only 13 earned runs allowed. The two-way player has also hit well this season, leading the team with a .373 average on top of 22 hits, four doubles, two homers and a team-high 18 RBI.
Softball: Kara Dill
Senior Kara Dill ended the tournament on a three-game hitting streak after her impressive 3-for-3 performance in UK's win over Western Michigan. Dill had two singles and a triple against the Broncos, while scoring three runs and stealing base. The native of LaGrange, Ohio, played solid defense on the weekend as well, making several nice plays in the field. Dill has hit leadoff in every game but one this season, leading UK in hits and runs scored with a strong on-base percentage of .403. Dill is hitting .358 for the season with four stolen bases and six multi-hit games.
Baseball: Greg Fettes
Freshman catcher Greg Fettes made a pair of starts during the week behind the plate, batting 4-for-6 with a double and three RBI ... In his first career home start in the 2013 home opener, Fettes collected a single and a sacrifice fly ... Earned his third career start vs. Akron on Saturday, catching a dynamic pitching outing from Jerad Grundy, with the senior southpaw tossing eight shutout, two-hit innings with Fettes behind the dish ... Went a career-high 3-for-4 with two RBI and a double in the win over Akron ... On the year, Fettes - a 43rd round pick of the Detroit Tigers out of high school - has hit .750 (6-for-8) with two doubles and three RBI.
Baseball: Jerad Grundy
Senior southpaw Jerad Grundy had the best start of his career in a win over Akron on Saturday ... Worked eight shutout, two-hit innings, not allowing a walk and striking out a career-best 12 ... Became the first UK pitcher to strike out 12 hitters since Alex Meyer fanned 13 in a start vs. Niagara in 2011 ... He allowed only a pair of singles with no base runners advancing past first base ... He retired the first eight hitters he faced before an infield single, including seven by strikeout ... Rated as the seventh-best senior in college baseball by Baseball America in the preseason, he retired 13 consecutive after allowing a third-inning single ... Tossed only 86 pitches, including a staggering 68 for strikes ... Through his first three starts of 2013, has a 3-0 record and a 0.43 ERA, allowing only one earned run in 21 innings, striking out 24 and holding opponents to a .125 average ... In his two-year UK career, has a 9-3 record and a 3.12 ERA in 19 starts, tossing 106.2 innings and striking out 87.
Women's basketball: A'dia Mathies
Senior guard A'dia Mathies led 10th-ranked Kentucky to wins over Ole Miss (90-65) and No. 8/8 Tennessee (78-65) last week.
Averaged a team-high 18.0 points per contest, along with 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.0 assists per game.
Scored 20 points at Ole Miss, marking her seventh 20-point game of the season, including second straight.
Scored 13 of her team-high 16 points in the decisive second half against Tennessee, including back-to-back 3-pointers to extend the Cats' lead to 17 with 12:06 remaining in the game.
Hit 5-of-9 from behind the arc in the two games for .556 percent. The five 3-pointers moved her up to No. 7 on UK's single season 3-point field goals list with 60.
Displayed her defensive abilities against the Lady Vols, tying season highs with four steals and two blocks in the contest.
Has now reached double figures in 27-of-29 games this season, including 20 in a row and every SEC game.
Ranks in the top 10 on 13 UK career lists, including No. 2 in scoring (1,899), No. 3 in steals (303), and fourth in field goals made (706) and 3-pointers made (164).
With four steals vs. Tennessee, she became just the third player in school history to have 300 or more in her career.
First player in UK history (men or women) to accumulate over 1,800 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 300 steals in her career.
The SEC's active career scoring and steals leader.
Leads the team in scoring (16.0 ppg), 3-pointers made (60) and is second in assists (2.4) and steals (2.4) per game this season.
Averaging a team-high 18.2 points per game in SEC play and is tied for the team-high with 1.8 steals per contest.
Softball: Kelsey Nunley
Kelsey Nunley did not have the best week statistically in the circle, but provided clutch innings for Kentucky and got key outs that should propel UK into SEC play. The freshman went 3-0 overall with a 1.94 ERA in 21.2 innings with 18 strikeouts. Nunley started the first game of the tournament against Illinois, allowing two earned runs, while striking out five and only walking one over eight innings of play. After giving up three runs on three hits and three walks in the first inning vs. LMU, Nunley settled down to throw six scoreless innings the rest of the way, retiring 14 straight to end the game. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., came on in relief against Western Michigan, getting the final two outs of the first inning with the bases loaded, keeping the game tied before going the final 6.2 innings against WMU, allowing four hits and one earned run while striking out eight - just one off her career high, Overall this season, Nunley is 10-0 - believed to be the only player in school history to start a season 10-0 in the circle - with a team-low 2.16 ERA, throwing 68.0 innings, allowing 21 earned runs with a team-best 55 strikeouts.
Baseball: A.J. Reed
Sophomore two-way star A.J. Reed had a historic week for the Wildcats, leading UK to five wins to extend its winning streak to seven games ... Drove in 15 RBI during the week, belting three homers and adding a double ... Hit .526 (10-for-19) during the week, with a 1.053 slugging and a .609 on-base percentage ... In UK's home opening win over Murray State, belted a three-run, first-inning homer to give UK an early lead, finishing with four RBI and a pair of hit by pitches ... On Wednesday, scored a run and collected a hit, before exploding in the series opener vs. Akron ... Went 4-for-5 in the opener vs. the Zips, with five RBI and his second homer of the week ... Also started the opener vs. Akron on the mound, tossing six innings and allowing only two runs on six hits and two walks, striking out four ... In the series-clincher on Saturday, belted a homer - his second consecutive game with a bomb - going 3-for-4 with three RBI and a walk ... In the sweep clincher on Sunday, Reed ripped a double off the centerfield wall to clear the bases, giving him three more RBI in a 1-for-3 game ... On the year, Reed leads UK with 22 RBI on four homers, a double and a triple, batting .409 (18-for-44) with 11 runs scored ... On the mound, as UK's Friday-night starter, Reed has a 2-1 record ... A preseason All-America honoree, Reed has hit .320 (78-for-244) in his two-year UK career with eight homers and 65 RBI, posting a 7-4 record with a 3.00 ERA on the mound.