A.J. Reed got a no decision after throwing 8.1 innings of one-run ball on Friday. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics)
A.J. Reed has a lot on his plate.
Just a sophomore, Reed has batted third or fourth in every Kentucky game this season. And oh yeah, he starts on the mound every Friday night in the nation's best conference.
"It's not easy, but I try to deal with it the best that I can," Reed said.
It's safe to say Reed is handling it all just fine.
Through 25 games, Reed is leading the Wildcats in home runs (six), runs batted in (28) and slugging percentage (.611). In six starts on the mound, Reed has an earned-run average of 2.57.
"I just kind of try to separate," Reed said. "When I'm pitching up there on the mound, that's all I think about. When I'm at the plate, that's what I'm thinking about."
On Friday night against Georgia, he had to put that balancing act to the test once again and once again he succeeded. Reed tossed 8.1 innings of one-run ball, allowing just six hits and striking out four. After retiring the first batter of the ninth inning on his 113th pitch, Reed gave way to closer Trevor Gott. For the first time this season and first since his first chance of 2012, Gott blew the save opportunity, costing Reed his third victory of the season.
Fortunately for the Cats, Gott prevented the go-ahead run from scoring in the ninth and 10th innings. In the bottom of the 10th, UK (21-5, 6-2 SEC) won its fourth game in a row when Max Kuhn walked with the bases loaded against Georgia closer Jared Walsh. It was the second time in less than a week the Cats won in walk-off fashion and the third they had won in a game they scored four runs or fewer.
"You have to win games like that because you're going to play them," head coach Gary Henderson said. "You're going to play low-scoring games."
A workhorse like Reed gives UK a good chance at winning more of those kinds of games.
With Reed's pitch count sitting at 97 through seven innings, Henderson opted to send the 6-foot-4, 245-pound lefthander out for another inning. And with a lefty due up for Georgia in the top of the ninth, Henderson asked Reed for one more out. He delivered.
"The debate's probably going on up there in the press box," Henderson said of his decision to leave Reed in the game. "There wasn't too much debate going on in the dugout."
Reed has a theory about why Henderson has so much faith in him, why his coach has sent him out for another inning with his pitch count hovering around triple digits each of his last two starts.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the regional game from last year," Reed said. "I went nine innings in relief, so that kind of proved to him that I could do a good job throwing in the later innings."
In that game against Kent State, Reed battled through cramps and exhaustion to pitch nine frames in extra innings, allowing just two runs. Even though it came in a losing effort, Reed believes he earned his coach's trust.
"I just have a lot of faith in him, as I do a lot of our kids," Henderson said. "We've got good kids, good players."
It's that same faith that leads Henderson to pencil Reed in the No. 3 spot even when he's on the mound. Other coaches might opt to allow other two-way players to focus solely on pitching, but Henderson believes Reed can handle both.
The statistics prove him right.
Entering Friday, Reed was batting 13-for-26 (.500) with 12 RBI, two home runs, a triple and a double in games he's pitched. Those gaudy numbers have come in spite of a realization on Reed's part of how vital his work on the mound is.
"I don't want to say in the games that I pitch I'm more focused on pitching, because I'm not, but it's more important at the time," Reed said.
Reed singled and reached on a hit by pitch in five plate appearances on Friday.
Pretty much the only skill missing from Reed's repertoire is speed. He's one of just two UK regulars without a stolen base. That doesn't mean he's not going to lay it all on the line on the base paths, even when he's pitching.
"I'm not very fast anyway, so I'm not going to be legging out anything in the hole or something like that," Reed said. "But I'm going to give it my all all the time. I'm going to be giving a hundred percent, but it may not be very fast."
Through three-and-a-half innings, Kentucky was without a hit and down 2-0 to Marshall on Wednesday. To overcome the deficit, the Wildcats relied on the bottom third of their lineup.
No. 8 UK (19-5) scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth on singles by first baseman Thomas Bernal and shortstop Matt Reida and five more in the fifth en route to an 8-2 victory over visiting Marshall. Reida finished the game with two hits, two runs and two runs batted in, while No. 9 hitter and catcher Greg Fettes went 2-for-2 with two walks and two runs. Fettes is now batting 8-for-14 (.571) in seven games (five starts).
The Cats will next take Georgia for a three-game series beginning 6:30 p.m. ET Friday at Cliff Hagan Stadium. In the meantime, here are video interviews with head coach Gary Henderson, Reida and Fettes.
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, March 24:
Baseball: Kyle Barrett
Kyle Barrett helped lead UK to a series win over No. 14 Mississippi State, making four starts in the outfield ... The speedy freshman outfielder hit .385 (5-for-13) with a pair of doubles and RBI, drawing two walks and stealing a base, starting all four games of the week ... The Douglasville, Ga., native helped lead UK's walk-off win in the rubber-match vs. the Bulldogs, starting the bottom of the ninth inning with a double and scoring the game-winning and series-clinching win.
Baseball: Jerad Grundy
Jerad Grundy worked eight strong innings to lead UK to a series-evening win over No. 14 Mississippi State, in the front end of a doubleheader on Saturday ... The senior worked into the ninth inning of UK's 3-2 win, allowing five singles and a solo homer, with two runs scoring ... He did not allow a walk and struck out 10 ... Grundy struck out the side in the second and fourth innings, not allowing a baserunner to reach scoring position till the fifth ... Retired 13 of the first 14 hitters he faced, with nine strikeouts in the first five innings ... It was Grundy's fifth quality start of 2013, with the southpaw owning a 5-1 record and a 1.99 ERA, working 40 2/3 innings, allowing 27 hits and only eight walks, striking out 38 ... In his two-year career, Grundy has made 22 weekend starts, owning a 11-4 mark and a 3.21 ERA ... In 2013, Grundy ranks third in the SEC in wins, fourth in innings pitched, sixth in strikeouts and seventh in opponent batting average (.189).
Softball: Alice O'Brien
Senior outfielder Alice O'Brien had a hit in every game last week to set a career-long hitting streak of five games. O'Brien had a career game in UK's game-one win over Mississippi State, hitting two home runs - including a leadoff, game-winning home run in the 10th inning - lifting UK to the win. In the win, O'Brien tied career highs in hits and RBI with three in each. She went 3-for-4 in the game Friday with her other hit being a double, while she posted four RBI for the week behind a .467 (7-for-15) average. O'Brien's two-homer game tied the most homers in a game in school history, marking the 20th time it has happened for the Wildcats. The native of Murfreesboro, Tenn., is now hitting .288 (23-for-80) on the season with five doubles, three homers, 21 RBI and a .463 slugging percentage.
Softball: Kelsey Nunley
True freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley had an outstanding week in the circle, going 2-0 with a 0.29 earned-run average against quality opponents. Nunley started the week with three innings in relief against WKU, getting her first collegiate save, allowing only one hit with four strikeouts. She came on in relief the next day against Iowa, throwing five solid innings, allowing four hits and one run with five strikeouts ... Best performances of the week came against Mississippi State ... Came on in relief Friday night to throw nine innings, allowing six hits and no runs with eight strikeouts - one off her season high total - to get the win ... Started the series finale pitching brilliantly, allowing only two hits over seven innings and no runs with seven strikeouts ... In her 10 starts this season, Nunley is 7-3 with a 1.86 ERA, allowing 17 earned runs with 56 strikeouts ... For the season, Nunley leads UK in nearly every pitching category, throwing a team-high 117.1 innings with a team-best 96 strikeouts and team-low 1.91 ERA.
Men's basketball - Kentucky fell 59-57 at Robert Morris in the opening round of the NIT, after advancing to postseason -play for the 22nd-consecutive year. - Freshman Archie Goodwin led the team in scoring with 18 points, while junior Jarrod Polson logged 10. - Goodwin went 8-of-8 at the free throw line, which was the second-most made free throws in an NIT game in UK history.
Women's basketball - DeNesha Stallworth scored 18 points and Jennifer O'Neill added nine of her 12 points in the second half to lead the second-seeded Wildcats to a 61-41 win over 15th-seeded Navy on Sunday in the opening round of the NCAA women's tournament. - After trailing by a point at halftime, UK outscored Navy 35-16 in the second half to move onto the second round of the NCAA women's tournament. - The 20-point win is the largest margin of victory for Kentucky in a NCAA Tournament game. - The 41 points surrendered by UK is the lowest total for an NCAA Tournament game in school history.
Gymnastics - The No. 19 Kentucky gymnastics team placed eighth with a 194.6 team score at the SEC Championship. - Kentucky finishes the regular season with a school-record regional qualifying score of 196.06. - The Wildcats now await their NCAA regional fate, which will be revealed on the NCAA Gymnastics Championship Selection Show on Monday, March 25 at 3 p.m. - UK tied its season-high floor score with a 49.125, a total which also tied for highest at session I. - Kayla Hartley's floor routine turned plenty of heads as she produced a career-high tying score of 9.9.
Softball - The No. 21 Kentucky softball team got back to its winning ways over the weekend with a three-game sweep of Mississippi State at home. The series win was the second of the season for UK, who is now 5-4 in Southeastern Conference play heading into its bye weekend. UK also earned a 7-1 midweek win over WKU on Tuesday. - The Wildcat offense was the difference in the weekend series, scoring 15 runs on 24 hits with two doubles and seven home runs against a MSU pitching staff that entered the weekend ranked 22nd nationally in earned-run average. Senior Alice O'Brien paced the Wildcats with a .500 average with one double, two home runs - one a walkoff, 10th-inning home run - and three RBI. Freshman Nikki Sagermann also hit .500 in the series with a home run and two runs scored. The other four home runs came from sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner, junior outfielder Emily Jolly and two from freshman Maisie Steed. - In Tuesday's 7-1 victory over Western Kentucky, Nikki Sagermann was the offensive star in the game for Kentucky, going 2-for-3 with two runs batted in, including her first collegiate home run. - True freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley was impressive in the series, going 2-0 and not allowing a run the entire weekend. Nunley pitched nine innings in relief Friday night to get the win before throwing a complete-game shutout in game two Saturday. Junior pitcher Lauren Cumbess went 1-0 on the weekend with a 2.62 ERA after earning a no-decision Friday night and a win in game one Saturday, allowing two runs on five hits over seven innings.
Baseball - The eighth-ranked Kentucky baseball team completed a four-game week with a series win over No. 14 Mississippi State, spurred by a doubleheader sweep on Saturday. - Kentucky won its second consecutive series to open league play, also claiming the conference lidlifter at Florida last weekend. - Freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett hit .385 (5-for-13) with a pair of doubles and RBI, drawing two walks and stealing a base, starting all four games of the week. He contributed to UK's walk-off win in the rubber match vs. the Bulldogs, starting the bottom of the ninth inning with a double and scoring the game-winning and series-clinching win. - Jerad Grundy worked eight strong innings to lead UK to a series-evening win over No. 14 Mississippi State, in the front end of a doubleheader on Saturday. The senior worked into the ninth inning of UK's 3-2 win, allowing five singles and a solo homer, with two runs scoring - On the mound, UK has a 2.55 ERA, walking just 55 and striking out 176 in 205 innings.
Men's tennis - No. 31 Anthony Rossi picked up one of the biggest wins of his career on Sunday as he collected a 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 7 KU Singh as UK fell 4-2 to Georgia. The win for Rossi was his 98th-career win and he now is just two wins shy of becoming the 15th player in UK tennis history to eclipse the 100-win mark. - UK returns to action on Friday as the Wildcats take on No. 29 Alabama at 2:00 p.m. ET at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center. The weekend will continue on Sunday as Kentucky faces off against Auburn.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team went 0-2 over the weekend, falling to Ole Miss 4-3 on Friday before defeating Mississippi State 7-0 on Sunday. - Freshman Nadia Ravita won two singles matches in the No. 1 singles slot, improving her record to 15-2. - Sophomore Stephanie Fox and freshman Kirsten Lewis both went 2-0 in singles over the weekend.
Women's golf - The UK women's golf team competed in their third tournament of the spring, finishing eighth in the 14-team field at the 2013 LSU Tiger Golf Classic. - Senior Ashleigh Albrecht recorded her second top-10 finish of the year, placing tied for seventh at 9-overpar. She was 7-over after the first round before firing team-lows and back-to-back rounds of 1-over-par to climb the leaderboard - Kentucky returns to the links April 5-7 at the Rebel Intercollegiate in Oxford, Miss.
Swimming and diving - Sophomores Christa Cabot and Christina Bechtel each made their NCAA Championships debut over the weekend in Indianapolis, Ind. Cabot competed in all three diving events while Bechtel swam in the 100-butterfly. - Bechtel was unable to qualify for the finals in the 100-butterfly, but finished in 25th overall with a preliminary time of 53.06, her best prelim time of her career. - Cabot's best finish came in the 3-meter springboard where she finished in 18th place with a six-dive score of 307.60.
Monday, March 25 Men's golf at Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate (Awendaw, S.C)
Tuesday, March 26 Women's basketball vs. Dayton - 7:00 p.m. (Queens, N.Y.) Softball at Western Kentucky - 8:00 p.m. Men's golf at Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate (Awendaw, S.C)
Wednesday, March 27 Baseball hosts Marshall - 3:00 p.m. Softball at Lipscomb - 7:00 p.m. Track and field at Texas Relays (Austin, Texas)
Thursday, March 28 Swimming and diving at Men's NCAA Championships (Indianapolis, Ind.) Track and field at Texas Relays (Austin, Texas)
Friday, March 29 Men's tennis hosts Alabama - 2:00 p.m. Women's tennis at Alabama - 4:00 p.m. Softball hosts Tennessee - 5:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Georgia - 6:30 p.m. Track and field at Texas Relays (Austin, Texas) Swimming and diving at Men's NCAA Championships (Indianapolis, Ind.) Track and field at Oliver Nikoloff Invite (Cincinnati, Ohio) Track and field at Stanford Invitational (Palo Alto, Calif.)
Saturday, March 30 Baseball hosts Georgia - 2:00 p.m. Track and field at Texas Relays (Austin, Texas) Swimming and diving at Men's NCAA Championships (Indianapolis, Ind.) Track and field at Oliver Nikoloff Invite (Cincinnati, Ohio) Track and field at Stanford Invitational (Palo Alto, Calif.)
Baseball America's Aaron Fitt - the nation's preeminent college baseball writer - was in town on Saturday for Kentucky's doubleheader sweep of Mississippi State. He spent time talking to a number of Wildcats postgame and saw some good baseball, so you can expect to see a few UK-related stories from him in the near future.
On Monday, he posted the first of them in his week six "Three Strikes" piece. He led off with a story about UK's lefty-heavy weekend starting pitching staff after Jerad Grundy and Corey Littrell pitched the Cats to a pair of Saturday victories. Here's an excerpt.
It's like the old adage says: momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher. After Mississippi State won Friday's opener 8-4, Grundy stifled the Bulldogs in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader, allowing just two runs on six hits and no walks while striking out 10 over eight innings. And Littrell followed with seven gritty innings in the series finale, yielding three runs (one earned) on two hits over seven innings, persevering despite a career-high six walks.
Grundy started his career at Miami in 2010, then transferred back to Heartland (Ill.) Junior College for his sophomore year before landing at UK last year. He spent the entire season in the weekend rotation, going 6-3, 3.78, but he has become a much more consistent pitcher as a senior, going 5-1, 1.99 with 38 strikeouts and nine walks in 41 innings. Kentucky coach Gary Henderson said during the winter that it was very apparent to him that Grundy is "way better" than he was the previous spring.
"Yeah, I was right about that--it's nice when you are," Henderson said. "He was clearly better in the fall. He is an extremely steady kid--that's just his personality. He's grounded, knows who he is. I just felt that once I saw the skills and poise were indicative of growth, that he was going to be better, and he has been."
Overall Record: 18-5, 4-2 SEC Record Last Week: 2-2, 2-1 SEC
Recent Results Tuesday, March 19 - lost vs. Western Kentucky, 3-6 Friday, March 22 - lost vs. No. 14 Mississippi State, 4-8 Saturday, March 23 - won vs. No. 14 Mississippi State, 3-2 Sunday, March 23 - won vs. No. 14 Mississippi State, 4-3
Upcoming Schedule (times Eastern) Tuesday, March 26 - vs. Marshall - 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 29 - vs. Georgia - 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 30 - vs. Georgia - 2 p.m. Sunday, March 31 - vs. Georgia - 1 p.m.
Notes: Jerad Grundy worked eight strong innings to lead UK to a series-evening win over No. 14 Mississippi State, in the front end of a doubleheader on Saturday ... The senior worked into the ninth inning of UK's 3-2 win, allowing five singles and a solo homer, with two runs scoring ... He did not allow a walk and struck out 10 ... Grundy struck out the side in the second and fourth innings, not allowing a baserunner to reach scoring position till the fifth ... Retired 13 of the first 14 hitters he faced, with nine strikeouts in the first five innings ... It was Grundy's fifth quality start of 2013, with the southpaw owning a 5-1 record and a 1.99 ERA, working 40 2/3 innings, allowing 27 hits and only eight walks, striking out 38 ... In his two-year career, Grundy has made 22 weekend starts, owning a 11-4 mark and a 3.21 ERA ... In 2013, Grundy ranks third in the SEC in wins, fourth in innings pitched, sixth in strikeouts and seventh in opponent batting average (.189).
Notes: Kyle Barrett helped lead UK to a series win over No. 14 Mississippi State, making four starts in the outfield ... The speedy freshman outfielder hit .385 (5-for-13) with a pair of doubles and RBI, drawing two walks and stealing a base, starting all four games of the week ... The Douglasville, Ga., native helped lead UK's walk-off win in the rubber match vs. the Bulldogs, starting the bottom of the ninth inning with a double and scoring the game-winning and series-clinching win.
Team notes The eighth-ranked Kentucky baseball team completed a four-game week with a series win over No. 14 Mississippi State, spurred by a doubleheader sweep on Saturday at Cliff Hagan Stadium. UK suffered a midweek loss to Western Kentucky and a series-opening setback to the Bulldogs, before rebounding to win the series with the twinbill sweep.
Kentucky (18-5, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) won its second consecutive series to open league play, also claiming the conference lidlifter at Florida last weekend. UK suffered an 8-4 loss on Friday night to the Bulldogs, as three errors in the sixth inning erased a UK lead and lifted MSU to a comeback win. UK opened the doubleheader with a dynamic pitching performance from senior southpaw Jerad Gundy, who fanned 10 in eight innings, allowing just two runs in a 3-2 UK win, with Trevor Gott recording his seventh save of 2013 in the ninth. In the finale, UK turned to Corey Littrell, who helped UK win its 10th consecutive rubber match in the last two years, with the southpaw owning a 7-0 record and a 1.85 ERA in those starts. UK posted a 4-3 win the finale, as Austin Cousino smacked first base with a walk-off, bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth inning.
UK will host Marshall at 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium on Tuesday, before returning to SEC action in hosting Georgia for a three-game set. UK will welcoming the Bulldogs at 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday, 2 p.m. ET on Saturday and 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.
The Wildcats have hit .292 as a team in 23 games, with a .414 slugging and a .402 on-base percentage, stealing 33 bases and belting 15 homers. On the mound, UK has a 2.55 ERA, walking just 55 and striking out 176 in 205 innings. UK is coming off its series win over Mississippi State, the NCAA's second-ranked team in hits, where it limited the Bulldogs to a .206 batting average, with UK sporting a 2.00 ERA in the series.
UK has been led by junior second baseman J.T. Riddle, who has hit .360 with five doubles, one triple, one homer and 17 RBI, stealing four bases. Slugger A.J. Reed has a .356 average with four doubles, two triples, six homers and 28 RBI, while third baseman Max Kuhn has hit .318 with seven doubles, one triple, one homer and 19 RBI. Catcher Micheal Thomas has batted .291 with a double, homer and 14 RBI. Centerfielder Austin Cousino has batted .287 with four doubles, four homers and 16 RBI, stealing eight bases.
On the mound, UK's weekend rotation of Reed (2-3, 2.94 ERA), Grundy (5-1, 1.99 ERA) and Litttrell (3-0, 2.56 ERA) have been dynamic. In the bullpen, Gott (2-0, 0.73 ERA) has seven saves in as many chances, appearing in 11 games and striking out 15. Chandler Shepherd (1-0, 3.10 ERA) has pitched in eight games with 20 1/3 innings pitched, while senior Walter Wijas (2-0, 0.73 ERA) has worked in 10 games in relief, with 12 strikeouts and two walks in 12 1/3 innings.
Austin Cousino and Corey Littrell celebrate after UK's doubleheader sweep of Mississippi State on Saturday. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics)
If you had watched Austin Cousino swing the bat at all this week, you wouldn't have thought he would have much cause for confidence.
As he strode to the plate with the bases loaded the bottom of the ninth inning, Cousino had just one hit in his previous 16 at-bats. The potential game-winning run stood on third base with star Mississippi State closer Jonathan Holder looking to preserve a 3-3 tie in the series rubber match.
But if you have watched Cousino at all during his Kentucky career, you would have known he would step into the box with all the confidence in the world. That's just who he is.
"I just wiped away what happened early in the game," Cousino said. "I knew that if I could get up, I could get him in."
As has been the case more often than not over his two seasons as a Wildcat, Cousino's confidence was proven to be justified.
On a 1-0 count, Cousino laced a single down the first-base line to score Kyle Barrett - the true freshman who reached on a double to lead off the inning - and send No. 8 UK (18-5, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) to a 4-3 victory and a doubleheader sweep of the visiting and 14-ranked Bulldogs (21-5, 2-4 SEC).
"I think Austin's a really good player," head coach Gary Henderson said. "I think good players rise to the moment most of the time."
Cousino arrived on campus an assured player, but that's been reinforced by the group that surrounds him. He might be the best example of a Wildcat who never lacks for self-belief, but he's not the only one.
"You try to have that king of team, and sometimes it's easier said than done," Henderson said. "They certainly hear that a lot from me. It doesn't do you a lot of good to be disappointed for very long."
That was on display Saturday.
The Cats had lost each of their last two games before the doubleheader, including an 8-4 decision on the previous night. Friday's defeat also marked UK's fifth in its last six meetings with Mississippi State, which might have led another team to wonder whether the Bulldogs had its number. With Henderson leading the way, the Cats had no such thoughts on their way to a second series win in as many SEC weekends.
"We have that mojo, we have that feel to our club coming from last year and just bringing that culture to this year," Cousino said. "We fully expect to win every time out."
With starting pitchers like the ones UK trotted out on Saturday, that's a reasonable expectation.
Jerad Grundy started the opener, and he will admit it: His approach changes based on the outcome of Kentucky's Friday-night game. Other pitchers might insist their focus remains the same no matter what, but as UK's Saturday starter, Grundy feels just a little different when the Wildcats lose before he takes the mound.
"You're kind of back against the wall when you lose Friday night because you don't want to lose a series and be fighting to not get swept on Sunday," Grundy said.
The senior lefthander dazzled in eight-plus innings, allowing just two runs on six hits to pitch UK to a 3-2 win. Grundy faced the Bulldogs twice last season, striking out nine over six innings the second time around in the SEC Tournament. Armed with that experience, Grundy attacked Mississippi State hitters to the tune of 10 strikeouts.
"I saw a real aggressive approach, and they were kind of like that last year," Grundy said. "I kind of pitched backwards throwing my off-speed stuff early and try to get some free swings and going to my fastball later."
In his more than two decades as a pitching coach and now a head coach, Henderson has seen more than his fair share of impressive pitching performances. Because of that, he knows how special outings like Grundy's are.
"That effort today was about as good as you ever see in college baseball," Henderson said.
No one will describe Corey Littrell's seven innings in the nightcap in any such terms, but he was effective nonetheless. Starting for the 10th time in a series-deciding game over the last two seasons, Littrell overcame six walks and two third-inning errors before giving way to Walter Wijas. Littrell gave up three runs (one earned) and now has a 1.85 earned-run average in those rubber-match starts.
"I was a little wild early and then the defense made errors, but the biggest thing for me was knowing that I've been in that situation before," Littrell said. "I know I can find it at any moment."
Even during a sophomore season that earned his second-team All-SEC honors, Littrell may not have been able to battle through seven innings, but 2013 is another story. Littrell has lasted at least seven innings in each of his last four starts, a trend that spreads to each of UK's three weekend starters. In 18 combined starts, A.J. Reed, Grundy and Littrell have lasted an average of nearly six-and-a-third innings. Last season, UK's weekend starters averaged a little more than five-and-two-thirds innings per start. They have also lasted six innings or longer 13 times, seven innings or longer eight times.
Part of that is driven by a slightly less deep UK bullpen, but a lot of it has to do with who Henderson is starting on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
"We're a little bit stronger in that area I think, just physically stronger," Henderson said.
With that durability, the Cats have even more cause for confidence.
"We know that we're not going to win every game," Littrell said. "We're going to lose again because it's baseball, but we're confident and we know that if we play the way we know how, we'll come out successful."