UK rebounded from a three-game sweep at LSU with a 6-3 win over Austin Peay on Tuesday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Nothing went the way of the Kentucky baseball team last weekend.
The Wildcats played their worst weekend series of the season. LSU - arguably the nation's best team - played exceptionally well in front of a raucous home crowd. And it didn't help that every break went the Tigers' way.
The result was a three-game sweep - UK's first weekend series loss of the season - as the Wildcats were outscored 29-6.
"That wasn't a one-inning blip," head coach Gary Henderson said. "We just didn't play well."
As disappointing as the performance was, Henderson isn't sounding any alarms. There were issues that needed addressing, but UK had played too much good baseball leading up to the road trip to Baton Rouge, La., for grave concerns.
"Baseball's like that," Henderson said. "You've gotta be able to experience those weekends, get through 'em and then get rid of them and then get on to the next one."
But before the Cats could move to the next weekend, they faced a midweek matchup with Austin Peay in a game that suddenly took on additional importance as UK sought to avoid a four-game skid. Behind a second straight strong start by freshman Kyle Cody, the Cats won 6-3 on Tuesday night.
"I thought it was really important," Henderson said. "Austin Peay's a good team, they've got a really good chance of winning the (Ohio Valley Conference), they have really good players, a good track record. For us to play well, pitch well - especially defensively play well - was a really good sign. I thought we came back and played with a lot of confidence."
The task now becomes transferring that confidence back into Southeastern Conference play.
UK (23-9, 6-6 SEC) will host Tennessee (14-17, 3-9 SEC) for a three-game set beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday. The Volunteers have lost six straight in conference play, but Henderson singled out Saturday and Sunday starters Nick Williams and Zack Godley as pitchers who will give the Cats all they can handle.
"They present the challenges of being an SEC team that's got two solid starting pitchers, and they're in a corner," Henderson said. "They'll show up and they'll be aggressive and they'll fight. We need to respond accordingly."
UK's pitching staff, meanwhile, will face an offense reminiscent of the one it sees in practice every day. The Volunteers have just eight home runs on the season, but have already stolen 54 bases, which will be a test of the Wildcats' ability to control the running game. UK has allowed just 13 steals in 22 attempts in 2013.
"They try to rattle you a little bit," Henderson said. "Our guys typically are very good with that type of approach because it's similar to ours."
Henderson believes it important for the Wildcats to embrace their own offensive identity. At times this season - particularly the first two games at LSU - UK has tried to go against that nature and the result has been pop-ups aplenty.
"It's not a home-run game anymore; it's a different game," Henderson said. "It just is and we need to approach it where we really emphasize or utilize or accentuate our talents, our skills. We're a line-drive, doubles-hitting club and that's how we need to approach it."
In emphasizing that approach, Henderson used a tweaked lineup in the Austin Peay win. It was by no means an overhaul, but Austin Cousino, after leading off in every game of his first season and a half at UK, moved into the three hole, freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett led off and fellow newcomer Zack Storm got his first-career start.
Barrett and Cousino are likely to stay in those spots on Friday. Beyond that, anything could happen.
"I don't think anything's permanent," Henderson said. "That's where we are now, but a baseball lineup is constantly in flux."
Regardless, don't view the Tennessee series as some sort of proving ground or place for experimentation. The Cats will play 14 of their next 16 games against ranked opponents, but this weekend is the priority.
"Anybody in this league is good enough to beat anybody," Henderson said. "That's proven every weekend."
You better throw all your Kentucky gear in the laundry right now, because you're going to need every clean piece of blue clothing you can find.
This weekend, the UK campus will be buzzing with activity, highlighted by the Blue/White Spring Game at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday. But that's far from the only opportunity fans will have to cheer on the Wildcats this weekend. With upwards of 10 events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday across five different sports, it's going to be a Big Blue Weekend.
Let's take a look at your options (all times Eastern):
There's a fair bit of overlap here, but you can make it to doubles play and at least the start of singles at the tennis match before making a short trek north or south to baseball or softball.
Saturday, April 13 (Forecast: Sunny with a high of 57 degrees, zero percent chance of rain) 11:30 a.m. - UK Softball Complex grand opening 1 p.m. - Softball vs. No. 3 Florida (UK Softball Complex) 2 p.m. - Baseball vs. Tennessee (Cliff Hagan Stadium) 4 p.m. - Wildcat Refuge opens (Gate 9 of Commonwealth Stadium) 5 p.m. - Men's soccer spring game vs. Lipscomb (UK Soccer Complex) 5 p.m. - Alumni Association tailgate (Commonwealth Stadium Red Lot, near Gate 4) 5:15 p.m. - Cat Walk (Gate 1 of Commonwealth Stadium) 7 p.m. - Blue/White Spring Game (Commonwealth Stadium)
Does that give you enough to do on a Saturday?
No matter what, start your day at the grand opening of the UK Softball Complex at 11:30 a.m. Refreshments will be available and Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and head coach Rachel Lawson will speak at the ceremony. From there, you can either stick around for the softball game, head to baseball or some combination of the two.
The baseball game still figures to be going on when pre-spring game festivities begin, but you should have plenty of time to tailgate and maybe even make it to the Cat Walk if you stick around for the end of the game at Cliff Hagan. Gates open at Commonwealth at 6 p.m.
All parking for the spring game is free. A portion of the Green Lot will be reserved, but the remainder is available on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition, a shuttle will be available for those wishing to park at Commonwealth and receive transportation to Keeneland and back to the stadium. For complete information on the spring game, visit our Gameday Central page.
Kentucky returned home on Tuesday night having lost its first weekend series of the season. The Wildcats had been swept on the road by No. 2 LSU and turned to freshman Kyle Cody to play the role of stopper.
For the second time in a week, Cody delivered in a big spot.
After his first quality start of his career at Louisville last Tuesday, Cody (3-1) pitched 5.1 innings, allowing just one run and striking out four. Eight of nine starters had hits in the 6-3 Kentucky (23-9) win over the visiting Governors (25-8), including true freshman Kyle Barrett. Leading off for the first time of his career, Barrett was 2-for-5 with a two-run triple.
After the game, Cat Scratches caught up with head coach Gary Henderson, Cody and shortstop Matt Reida to talk about the victory. Video highlights are also posted below. Highlights
Women's basketball - The 2012-13 season was the most successful in program history with school records of 30 wins and eight victories over top-25 opponents. The Wildcats tied a school-record with 13 Southeastern Conference wins and advanced to their school-record fourth Elite Eight in the last four years, including second straight. - UK has charted 25 or more wins in a school-record four straight seasons. - Seniors A'dia Mathies and Brittany Henderson leave as the winningest class in UK Hoops history with a 111-30 record (.787). - Mathies ends her career as UK's all-time leader in steals (320), games played (140) and started (139), while ranking second in scoring (2,014), 3-point field goals made (177) and field goals attempted (1,687), third in field goals made (712), free throws made (413) and attempted (590) and ninth in assists (349).
Gymnastics - The Kentucky gymnastics team posted the program's highest-ever NCAA Regional team score with a 195.575 on Saturday. - Kentucky finished in fourth-place overall just .45 outside of second position. - Audrey Harrison finished in a tie for third for the individual all-around title with a score of 39.2, but tied for the highest AA score among competitors not on a team advancing to regionals. - Alexis Gross earned a career-high all-around score 39.05, in her first meet competing in all four events during a single meet this season. Softball - The Kentucky softball team finished a 3-1 week with a sweep over Southeastern Conference foe South Carolina over the weekend, moving its SEC winning streak to a school-record tying six games. The streak began with a sweep of Mississippi State a few weeks ago. - True freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley led Kentucky over the weekend with a 2-0 record and a 2.50 ERA. Nunley is an impressive 17-4 on the year with a 2.09 ERA with her 17 wins moving her into a tie for fourth on UK's single-season wins list with Morgan Marr, who had 17 in 2001. Nunley is the first UK pitcher to post 17 or more wins in a season since Chanda Bell had 18 in 2010. Junior Lauren Cumbess went 1-0 on the weekend, clinching the sweep with a strong seven-inning performance on Sunday, allowing three runs on seven hits with four strikeouts. Cumbess led UK at the dish over the weekend by going 5-for-10 with a double, two home runs and four RBI. - Cumbess tied the game Saturday with a two-run homer and tied Sunday's game with an RBI single. Freshman Nikki Sagermann also went 5-for-10 with a double and home run, while junior Ginny Carroll, senior Alice O'Brien and freshman Christian Stokes also hit home runs. Sophomore Griffin Joiner had three hits and three RBI.
Baseball - Kentucky suffered its first series loss of the year at the blistering-hot Tigers, previously owning series wins over Florida, No. 14 Mississippi State and Georgia. - UK earned a thrilling 5-4 win over No. 9 Louisville in 10 innings in front of a UL school-record crowd, with freshman Kyle Cody turning in a quality start and freshman Kyle Barrett driving in the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th. - Freshman Kyle Barrett drove in the game-winning RBI against Louisville in the top of the 10th inning, completing the dramatic late inning comeback. - UK has been led offensively by junior J.T. Riddle, who has hit .322 with six doubles, one triple, one homer and 17 RBI, stealing five bases. Sophomore A.J. Reed has belted eight homers and has 33 RBI, batting .319.
Men's tennis - Kentucky dropped the first match of its three-match road trip to conclude the regular season at No. 14 Vanderbilt, 4-2. - Kentucky won the doubles point with wins on courts one and three to get the early 1-0 lead, but were unable to hold on in singles play. - Beck Pennington gave UK the early 2-0 lead as he won on court six. The Bowling Green, Ky., native is undefeated in singles play this season, with an 8-0 record, and is 2-0 in SEC play. - The Wildcats finish the regular season at Florida and South Carolina this weekend before traveling to Oxford, Miss., for the SEC Tournament. The Wildcats defeated both UF and SC in 2011.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team fell 5-1 at home on Friday to No. 19 Vanderbilt. - Freshman Nadia Ravita improved on her already impressive freshman season, defeating No. 61 Lauren Mira in straight sets. The 24th-ranked individual won the match on court one 7-5, 6-3. - Kentucky will host No. 2 Florida on Friday and No. 29 South Carolina on Sunday to round out the regular season.
Track and field - A small contingent of Wildcats competed at the Bellarmine Invitational on Saturday. - Joanne Imbert placed second in the high jump with an outdoor season-high clearance of 1.72 meters/5'07.75". - Michelle Canterna finished as the runner-up in the pole vault, with a top clearance of 3.80 meters/12'05.5" - Shelby Kennard cleared 3.5 meters/ 11'05.75m, tying her outdoor season-high pole vault, before being unable to get over the bar at 3.65 meters /11'11.75".
Women's golf - The UK women's golf team finished fifth at the M&F Bank Rebel Invitational last week in Oxford, Miss., shooting 22-over for the tournament. The Cats recorded the third lowest round on the final day to propel them into fifth place of the 18-team field. - Junior Liz Breed, who competed as an individual for the Wildcats, charted one of her best performances of her career, tying her career-low with a 54-hole score of 2-over-par, 218 and equaled her best finish, tying for eighth place overall. - Senior Ashleigh Albrecht tallied her third-lowest score of the season, finishing tied for 12th at 1-over-par. Freshman Sarah Harris also had an impressive tournament, posting a career-low 7-over-par, 223, including a personal-best 1-under-par, 71 on the final day. She finished tied for 24th.
Monday, April 8 Men's golf at Gary Koch Invitational (Tampa, Fla.)
Tuesday, April 9 Men's golf at Gary Koch Invitational (Tampa, Fla.) Softball hosts Marshall - 5:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Austin Peay - 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 10 Softball at Eastern Kentucky - 2:00 p.m. Softball at Eastern Kentucky - 4:30 p.m.
Overall Record: 22-9, 6-6 SEC Record Last Week: 1-3, 0-3 SEC
Recent Results Tuesday, April 3 - won at No. 9 Louisville, 5-4 (10 innings) Friday, April 5 - lost at No. 2 LSU, 11-1 Saturday, April 6 - lost at No. 2 LSU, 9-1 Sunday, April 7 - lost at No. 2 LSU, 11-4
Upcoming Schedule (times Eastern) Tuesday, April 9 - vs. Austin Peay - 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 11 - vs. Tennessee - 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12 - vs. Tennessee - 2 p.m. Sunday, April 13 - vs. Tennessee - 1 p.m.
Team notes The seventh-ranked Kentucky baseball team had a grueling week, facing four top-10 teams on the road. UK posted a midweek win at No. 9 Louisville on Tuesday in 10 innings, before traveling for a three-game series at No. 2 LSU, with the Tigers setting a new school record by sweeping UK to improve to 30-2 in 2013. UK will host four games at Cliff Hagan Stadium this week, welcoming 25-win Austin Peay on Tuesday, before hosting Tennessee for a three-game series.
Kentucky (22-9, 6-6 Southeastern Conference) suffered its first series loss of the year at the blistering-hot Tigers, previously owning series wins over Florida, No. 14 Mississippi State and Georgia. UK's midweek thrilling win at No. 9 Louisville game in 10 innings in front of a UL school-record crowd, with freshman Kyle Cody turning in a quality start and freshman Kyle Barrett driving in the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th.
The Wildcats have hit .278 as a team, with a .391 slugging and a .386 on-base percentage, belting 19 homers and stealing 40 bases. On the mound, UK has a 3.00 team ERA, walking only 78 in 276 innings, striking out 223.
UK has been led offensively by junior J.T. Riddle, who has hit .322 with six doubles, one triple, one homer and 17 RBI, stealing five bases. Sophomore A.J. Reed has belted eight homers and has 33 RBI, batting .319, with Barrett hitting .316 with three doubles and five RBI. All-America centerfielder Austin Cousino has a .298 average with eight doubles, one triple, four homers and 21 RBI, stealing 10 bases. Catcher Micheal Thomas has added a .284 average with two homers and 18 RBI.
On the mound, UK has used the weekend rotation of Reed (2-4, 3.06 ERA), Jerad Grundy (5-3, 3.46 ERA) and Corey Littrell (4-1, 2.72 ERA). In relief, Trevor Gott (4-0, 1.06 ERA) has seven saves in nine chances, striking out 20 and walking three in 17 innings. Senior Walter Wijas (2-0, 0.57 ERA) has appeared in 14 games, with Chandler Shepherd (1-0, 3.77 ERA) appearing in 12 games.
True freshman Kyle Cody allowed just two earned runs in 6.1 innings in UK's 5-4 win at Louisville on Tuesday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
LOUISVILLE, Ky., -- For the first time since at least 2002, archrivals Kentucky and Louisville were set to meet as top-10 teams. Based on the environment at Jim Patterson Stadium, the matchup would be a big one.
But as fans of UK baseball know, the priority is Southeastern Conference play. The priority is the weekend. For that reason, Wildcat aces A.J. Reed, Jerad Grundy and Cory Littrell rested their arms and Gary Henderson turned to Kyle Cody.
It was a stage the likes of which Cody - a native of Chippewa Falls, Wis. - has never seen, let alone played on.
"This is the most people I've ever pitched in front of before," Cody said. "Coming from a small town, I've never been to a stadium this big before."
Based on the way he performed, Cody will be looking forward to another such chance.
He didn't factor in the decision, but the result would have been much different if not for Cody's quality start. Had he not stepped up with the UK pitching staff depleted by injury and illness, the No. 7 Cats (22-6) don't get anywhere close to posting a 5-4 extra-inning win over No. 9 Louisville (22-6) after Kyle Barrett's sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th to score J.T. Riddle against hard-throwing U of L closer Nick Burdi.
"I'm really proud of our kids," Henderson said. "I thought we brought it all night. I thought it was a really well-competed game on both sides. A lot of good pitching. Tough to get a hit tonight."
Cody figured prominently into that.
He had flashed his potential in his first seven outings - with his fastball sitting in the mid-90s and an impressive curve - but he had also had his share of freshman moments. Maybe all he needed was a taste of the battle of the Bluegrass.
Whatever the case, Cody grew up on Tuesday night, though there was a moment when it appeared the opposite might happen. Louisville scored an unearned run in the first when Zac Zellers misplayed a ball in left field and it all nearly fell apart two innings later.
Cody hit back-to-back batters to begin the third, then had back-to-back balks to score a run and move a runner to third with no outs. After a sacrifice fly by Ty Young, Louisville had a 3-2 lead.
"An absolute disaster there at the beginning of the third inning and we just flat out handed them two runs," Henderson said. "I was really interested in keeping him in the game at the point. I wanted to get him through that."
In response, Cody turned in his best extended stretch of his young career. He allowed just three base runners over his final 3.1 innings to finish with a line of 6.1 innings pitched - the longest outing of his career - and three runs (two earned), four hits and one walk allowed.
"I had to calm myself down before the game," Cody said. "The main thing when I was on the mound: I had to breathe. That was the biggest thing. When you start getting base runners on, you just gotta breathe and relax and throw the ball where you want it."
Cody didn't find out until the night before the game he would be making the start. Henderson didn't spend much time talking to his freshman starter about what to expect and Cody took his coach's cue. He didn't treat Tuesday night like anything more than a regular start.
"I just took it one stage at a time," Cody said. "I tried to get good rest. Coming up to the game, I tried not to think about it too much and then I just tried to do my normal routine before every start."
Cody's ultimate aim is to pitch his way into a role in the postseason and Henderson has been trying to develop trust in his young arms. But after a step forward on Tuesday, Cody and Henderson have a start on April 16 at Cliff Hagan Stadium against these same Cardinals on their minds.
"This is my first time playing these guys, but it was a lot of fun," Cody said. "I've never had such a strong rivalry between two teams. I like the competition. It was a lot of fun. It was good to get a win."
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, March 31:
Basbeall: Kyle Barrett
Outfielder Kyle Barrett helped lead the Wildcats to a series win over Georgia and a midweek win over Marshall ... Batted .429 (6-for-14) during the four-game stretch, stealing his third base of the year ... The Douglasville, Ga., native leads the team with his .364 average, owning three doubles and a .444 on-base percentage.
Baseball: Austin Cousino
Notes: Austin Cousino had a dynamic week in leading Kentucky to a 3-1 mark and a series win over Georgia, its third straight SEC series win to open the year ... The sophomore hit .500 (7-for-14) during the four-game week, with four doubles, a triple, four RBI and five walks, sporting a .929 slugging and a .632 on-base percentage ... Reached base safely in 12 of 19 trips to the plate during the week ... In the series-deciding win vs. Georgia on Sunday, went 3-for-4, finishing a homer shy of hitting for the cycle ... Became the first UK player to lead off the first inning with a triple since Antone DeJesus tripled to lead off the 2007 season lidlifter at Furman ... Started the week with a double and a walk during a midweek win over Marshall ... Opened the series vs. Georgia with a 2-for-3 game, reaching base in four of five trips to the plate with a pair of walks and a two-RBI double ... Saturday vs. Georgia, doubled in a run in the eighth inning, drawing two walks ... Was 6-for-10 in the series with Georgia, with four of his hits going for extra bases and drawing four walks ... In 2013, has hit .315 with eight doubles, one triple, four homers and 20 RBI, stealing eight bases.
Baseball: Corey Littrell
Corey Littrell twirled one of his best career starts in a win over Georgia on Sunday, tossing seven shutout innings with a career high 12 strikeouts ... Allowed only three singles and two walks ... Win marked the fourth of the season for Littrell and the 19th of his three-year career, moving him into sole possession of ninth place in UK career history ... Littrell's series-deciding win marked his 11th rubber-match start in the last two years, with the southpaw leading UK to wins in each game ... Has an 8-0 record and a 1.68 ERA in those 11 starts in 2012-13 rubber-match games ... On the year, Littrell has a 4-0 record and a 2.17 ERA, tossing 45.2 innings and striking out a team-high 47 ... Littrell ranks fourth in the SEC in strikeouts, 13th in ERA, fourth in innings pitched and ninth in wins ... In SEC games, Littrell leads the league with 23 strikeouts, with a 0.82 ERA in his three starts.