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Kentucky Sports Report (week of April 22)

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Baseball
- Kentucky continued a grueling stretch with 14-of-16 ranked opponents with a four-game week, with No. 8 Louisville earning a midweek win and No. 14 South Carolina sweeping the Wildcats in Columbia over the weekend.
- Sophomore two-way standout A.J. Reed smashed his team-high 10th homer of the year on Saturday, as a part of a 4-12 weekend at the plate.
- Junior lefty Corey Litrell tossed his seventh quality start of the year and 21st of his illustrious career on Sunday, allowing three earned runs in 7.2 innings.
- Freshman catcher George Fettes belted his first homer of his career on Saturday afternoon over the left-field wall that helped UK rally to take the lead before falling to the Gamecocks.

Softball
- The Kentucky softball team is coming off a 3-2 week where it swept a doubleheader at Middle Tennessee State before earning a win at Arkansas in a three-game set. UK defeated MTSU 7-4 in game one before a 13-1 triumph in game two.
- Home runs led UK in game two over MTSU as the Wildcats blasted five home runs to break the school record for most homers in a game. Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner started the home run assault, blasting a leadoff shot in the second inning before junior infielder Krystal Smith hit a two-run homer later that inning. Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess hit a two-run home run in the third inning before freshman infielder Ansley Smith hit consecutive two-run round trippers in the third and fourth innings to tie and break the school record. In all, the Wildcats posted 15 hits in the game, including three doubles and 12 RBI.
- Cumbess has been the offensive leader for UK, hitting safely in 13 of her last 14 games with an extra-base hit in nine of those 14 games. For the season, Cumbess leads the team with a .359 (56-for-156) average, including 12 doubles, 11 homers and 37 RBI. Freshman Kelsey Nunley is 20-6 on the year in the circle with a 2.08 ERA. Cumbess is second
on the team with a 3.52 ERA and a 10-5 record.

Men's tennis
- Kentucky advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2013 SEC Tournament, knocking off No. 9 Mississippi State in the second round, 4-2.
- The Wildcats bowed out in the quarterfinals after dropping a tight match with number one overall seed, and No. 2 Georgia, 4-3. Anthony Rossi defeated No. 6 KU Singh 7-6, 6-3 in his second win of the year over a top-10 player.
- The NCAA Selection Show is Tuesday, April 30 at 5:00 p.m. ET on NCAAsports.com.
Women's tennis
- The Kentucky women's tennis team lost 4-2 in its opening round match vs. LSU at the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
- Junior Caitlin McGraw and freshman Nadia Ravita won the No. 1 doubles match 8-0.
- Ranked 22nd, Ravita recorded another singles win, defeating Kaitlin Burns 7-5, 6-3 in the No. 1 singles slot.
- McGraw also recorded a singles win for UK, taking court four 7-5, 7-6 (3).

Women's golf
- The women's golf team recorded its best finish at the SEC Championships in 20 years as it placed tied for fifth, shooting 58-over-par for the tournament at the Greystone Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, Ala.
- Freshman Sarah Harris was the highlight of the tournament for the Wildcats, finishing a career-best second place at 9-over-par for the event. Harris, who was tied for the individual lead after day one, was tied for fifth coming into Sunday before a 4-over-par, 76 catapulted her into second overall. The second place individual finish was also the highest this season for Kentucky.
- Junior Liz Breed, who was nearly as impressive as Harris over the weekend, recorded a career-high finish tying for sixth overall at 11-over-par. The Waynesboro, Pa., native came into Sunday tied for fifth before falling just one slot after a 6-over-par, 78 final round.

Men's golf
- The UK men's golf team finished in 13th place at the SEC Championships last weekend, shooting 50-over-par for the tournament at the Seaside Course in St. Simmons Island, Ga.
- Junior Ben Stow was the high finisher for the Wildcats, placing tied for 12th at 5-over-par. The Salisbury, England native was even par through the first round before posting 2-over in round two and 3-over in the final 18.

Track and field
- Kentucky opened the new UK Outdoor Track and Field Facility with the inaugural collegiate Heart of the Bluegrass Classic on Saturday.
- UK won all but one of the 29 events the team entered at the inaugural collegiate Heart of the Bluegrass Classic on Saturday.
- Cally Macumber and Michelle Canterna set the school records in their respective events.
- Macumber's mile time of 4:37.75 also set the facility record.
- Canterna cleared the new outdoor school record vault height at 3.87 meter /12'08.25".
- Keith Hayes won all four of the events he entered, including two relays.
- Rebecca Famurewa won three throws events, including a PR in the hammer throw.

Upcoming schedule

Tuesday, April 23
Baseball at Western Kentucky - 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, April 24
Softball hosts Louisville - 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, April 25
Track and field at Penn Relays - 10:00 a.m. (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Baseball at Ole Miss - 7:30 p.m.

Friday, April 26
Track and field at Penn Relays - 9:00 a.m. (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Track and field at Triton Invitational - 1:00 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.)
Softball hosts Missouri - 5:00 p.m.
Baseball at Ole Miss - 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 27
Track and field at Penn Relays - 12:55 p.m. (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Track and field at Triton Invitational - 1:00 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.)
Softball hosts Missouri- 1:00 p.m.
Baseball at Ole Miss - 3:15 p.m.
Track and field at Miami University RedHawk Invitational (Miami, Ohio)

Sunday, April 28
Softball hosts Missouri - 1:00 p.m.
Track and field at Payton Jordan Invitational - 4:00 p.m.
(Palo Alto, Calif.)

Kentucky baseball: Weekend update (April 22)

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Overall Record: 24-15, 7-11 SEC
Record Last Week: 0-4, 0-3 SEC

Recent Results
Tuesday, April 16, lost vs. No. 8 Louisville, 5-12
Saturday, April 20, lost at No. 14 South Carolina, 2-5
Saturday, April 20, lost at No. 14 South Carolina, 6-7 (11 innings)
Sunday, April 21, lost at No. 14 South Carolina, 1-3

Upcoming Schedule (times Eastern)
Tuesday, April 23 - at Western Kentucky - 7 p.m.
Thursday, April 25 - at No. 17 Ole Miss - 7:30 p.m. [ESPNU]
Friday, April 26 - at No. 17 Ole Miss - 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 27 - at No. 17 Ole Miss - 3:15 p.m. [Fox Sports]

Team notes
Kentucky continued a grueling stretch with 14-of-16 ranked opponents with a four-game week, with No. 8 Louisville earning a midweek win and No. 14 South Carolina sweeping the Wildcats in Columbia over the weekend. Kentucky will return to action on Tuesday, traveling to Bowling Green, Ky., to face Western Kentucky at 7 p.m. ET at Bowling Green Ballpark. UK will then venture to No. 17 Ole Miss to face off with the Rebels, starting on Thursday in Oxford.

Kentucky (24-15, 7-11 Southeastern Conference) will face the Hilltoppers in a rematch of a 6-3 WKU win in Lexington on April 2. The game will be played at the low class A stadium of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Bowling Green Ballpark. The series with Ole Miss will begin on Thursday as the ESPNU SEC Game of the Week, with a 7:30 p.m. ET first pitch. The series will resume on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET and conclude at 3:15 p.m. ET on Saturday.

UK has been led offensively by freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett, who has a .352 average with 10 RBI. Slugger A.J. Reed has a .318 mark with six doubles, two triples, 10 homers and 44 RBI, with J.T. Riddle batting .301 with seven doubles, one triple, one homer and 11 RBI. All-America centerfielder Austin Cousino has hit .268 with nine doubles, one triple, four homers and 22 RBI, stealing a club-best 12 bases.

On the mound, UK's Corey Littrell (4-3, 3.20 ERA), Reed (2-5, 3.20 ERA) and Jerad Grundy (5-4, 4.43 ERA) have worked in 10 weekend starts. In relief, senior Walter Wijas (2-0, 0.83 ERA) has appeared in a team-best 20 games, working 21.2 innings, striking out 20 and walking just four. Junior Trevor Gott (4-1, 1.19 ERA) has nine saves in 18 outings, striking out 26 in 22.2 frames. Freshmen Zach Strecker (1-0, 0.84 ERA), Ryne Combs (0-0, 1.50 ERA), Dylan Dwyer (1-0, 4.76 ERA) and Kyle Cody (3-2, 6.21 ERA) have each appeared in at least 10 games, with sophomore Chandler Shepherd (2-0, 3.82 ERA) appearing in 16 games.

Wildcats humbled by visit to Fort Jackson

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UK baseball visited Fort Jackson on Friday before its series with South Carolina this weekend.
UK baseball visited Fort Jackson on Friday before its series with South Carolina this weekend.
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Usually on the day of night games in the Southeastern Conference, visiting teams spend the day wasting time at the hotel, eating pregame meals and preparing for the daunting challenge of winning a league series opener on the road.

Not so on Friday for the 17th-ranked Kentucky baseball team, which faces off with No. 14 South Carolina at Carolina Stadium this weekend.

The Wildcats had a different Friday, spending the morning at Fort Jackson, the United States Army's main production center for Basic Combat Training under the command of Brigadier General Bryan T. Roberts.

UK's club was invited to visit Fort Jackson during the week leading up to the trip to Columbia. UK jumped at the chance to break from its routine and show its student-athletes the training ground for America's heroes.

UK head coach Gary Henderson, assistant coach Keith Vorhoff, support staff and a dozen Wildcats boarded the bus and ventured down the road to Fort Jackson.

"This was a tremendous opportunity to get some of our group out to see a special place at Fort Jackson," Henderson said. "The men and women that serve in our armed forces are heroes and we were honored to have been welcomed on a visit. The chance to see what our soldiers go through on a daily basis to prepare them to fight for our freedom is an eye-opening experience. We can't thank General Roberts, Captain Meyer and the soldiers who were able to visit with us enough; they make us all proud to live in this great nation."

After a chance to meet with General Roberts, the Wildcats were given a personal tour of the recently renovated Fort Jackson museum where they were given a glimpse into the fort's history dating back to its inception in 1917.

Among the Wildcats on the trip was redshirt junior catcher Micheal Thomas. The Elizabethtown, Ky., native is a child of the military just 20 minutes from historic Fort Knox.  

"It is cool to see what the men and women who serve our country have to go through to get ready to go to Afghanistan and other places for war," Thomas said. "It was an eye-opening experience for me and the guys, to see what guys our age actually have to go through."

Thomas, who has been a fixture behind the plate in 2013 after spending the previous four years behind standout catchers Marcus Nidiffer, Luke Maile and Michael Williams, was touched by the personal invite to the historic military base.  

"It is really cool. Most of my family has been in the army," Thomas said. "Both of my parents were in the Navy so it was a little different for me. I got to see some of the other aspects of what my family has gone through from generation to generation. Being one of the first in my family to not join the military right out of high school was kind of cool to see what they went through, how they lived their lives and what has led them to be the kind of people they are today."

After the tour of the sparkling new museum, the Wildcats ventured across the base to an indoor shooting range, equipped with electronic sensors and screens to replicate battle scenarios. Henderson and the Wildcats were instructed on loading and re-loading their high powered, automatic weapons, before beginning the training scenarios.

"This was a great opportunity to come out and see just how the army life is," UK senior right-hander Walter Wijas said. "I had never had this experience, I had never shot a gun before and it was just a great experience to learn how it is and see how difficult it is for our soldiers to live here and fight for our country."

The Wildcats went through several battle simulations scenarios on the range, while lying in the prone and kneeling positions. The players had to think on their feet in a battle simulation, deciding on the fly about potential threats and civilians.

After the visit to historic Fort Jackson, the Wildcats returned to Columbia with a new perspective thanks to an experience much more meaningful than an afternoon spent in a hotel room.

"To see this just makes me respect our soldiers even more then I already do," Wijas said. "To see what they go through on a daily basis, it makes me feel for the work to do, it really makes us feel grateful that we have the life we do. The chance to play baseball everyday has been given to us by the brave soldiers in our military."

UK head coach Gary Henderson and the Wildcats look to take the season series with a win over Louisville on Tuesday (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics) UK head coach Gary Henderson and the Wildcats look to take the season series with a win over Louisville on Tuesday (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics)
When No. 17 Kentucky and No. 8 Louisville tangle for the second time this season on the diamond, UK head coach Gary Henderson would like to see his team take the field with a little more purpose and focus - and perhaps a little more confidence - in the Wildcats second and final meeting with the Cardinals this season.

The Wildcats, who are coming off of a disappointing weekend that saw them drop two of three at home to Tennessee, are looking to get back on track with a win over one of their biggest rivals. Heading into yet another difficult Southeastern Conference road series with South Carolina, it's going to be important to head into Columbia, S.C., with a good taste in their mouth.

"Just like every time you lose a weekend series, it's important to come back and get the mid-week game. You can't deny that," said Henderson. "To play well, that's important. To get a 'W' is important. Get your confidence back at the plate; clearly we're going to need to do that."

The Kentucky offense over the last two weeks has been lackluster. Save a nine-run performance in the second game of the Tennessee series when UK scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth, the Kentucky bats have rung hollow.

After scoring just six total runs at LSU including a pair of one-run outputs, the Wildcats are averaging just 3.7 runs per game. The pitching hasn't been up to UK standards either, as the Cats are allowing 7.8 runs per contest over that same seven-game span.

Kentucky is looking for both its bats and the arms to get right.

Life in the SEC can be rough, and it usually is for everyone for at least a few weeks at some point in the season. Right now, it's Kentucky's turn, like it or not.

"We've got a good club, but we haven't played very well for two weeks now," said Henderson. "That's the truth. The things that I think about are, we can get back to doing the things that we did.

"It's our turn now, unfortunately. We'd like for it not to be, but it is. You own up to it."

So Henderson brought in his three weekend starters on Monday morning and took a look back at the video from the series and talk about their approach. A.J. Reed had the most success of any of the three, allowing just two runs over 6.2 innings, and the Wildcats went on to win that night. Reed got stuck with the no-decision.

Henderson wants to make sure that his starters aren't trying to pitch a perfect game every time they take the hill and get ahead of themselves in the process. Instead, he wants his staffers to slow down and make the best pitch they can throughout the course of the ballgame.

Rather than trying to pitch a perfect inning and being upset with a hit, walk or run scored, Henderson wants his guys to manage the inning and keep damage to a minimum while keeping any frustrations on the backburner.

"You start with making sure those starting pitchers understand what they need to do in terms of just be who they are and do a good job of playing the game of a pitch at a time and don't try to do more than they should do," Henderson said. "We don't need anything more than what you can do and do a pitch at a time."

It's easier said than done, however. What Henderson does have going for him is that his team has been able to do already at points in the season. For the first seven weeks, his team was picking up the clutch hits in big situations. His pitchers were making great pitches and wriggling out of jams.

It's all just a matter of getting back to that and Henderson believes he knows what that's going to take.

"I'm just a huge believer in doing the basics and doing them well, and if you do that, you've got a chance to get back on track," Henderson said.

The key to getting back on track will be confidence. After LSU rattled UK's cage a bit, the confidence has seem to be a little bit shaken. Hitters are thinking too much at the plate. They are taking more third strikes now than at any point earlier in the season. They just aren't themselves.

"I think the indecisiveness, the lack of plan, the lack of clarity, those are the things that show a little bit of the stress, pressure and distraction," said Henderson.

"The indecision leads to chase, expanding the strike zone when you don't need to. I think it also leads to those called thirds. We didn't have a lot of those early on. All of a sudden those are popping up."

The uncharacteristic traits UK has exhibited over the last two weeks were fairly familiar to Henderson, though they weren't necessarily attributed to his own team. Actually, Henderson thought that his squad resembled another SEC team, one that UK took two of three from in March in Lexington.

"I thought John's (Cohen) team when they were here looked a lot like us this weekend. All of a sudden three weekends later they turn it around," said Henderson. "I knew John would get his guys going, he's got a good team.

"I really felt like when we got done this weekend we were Mississippi State three weeks ago."

Mississippi State is coming off a big three-game sweep on the road over Texas A&M after a slower-than-expected start to the season. The Bulldogs bounced back, so why not Kentucky? Henderson knows his team will.

There won't be a better way to do it than by getting back on right track with another win against the Cardinals on Tuesday. The Wildcats took the first meeting of the season in Louisville in an exhilarating 5-4, 10-inning win just two weeks ago.

An additional bump in attendance for Tuesday night's tilt may give the Wildcats an extra jolt in confidence when UK football head coach Mark Stoops throws out the first pitch. Additionally, fans that pack Cliff Hagan Stadium early can enjoy a cheap dinner with $1 hotdogs and drinks until 5:30. UK students can purchase $1 hot dogs and drinks the entire evening with a student ID.

With marketing efforts ramped up and the always-heated in-state rivalry in full motion, it's clear that there is plenty at stake. Though it's a non-conference matchup, this one, all things considered, is just as important.

"It's an important game. We want to win," said Henderson. "It's an in-state rival. We've never played a Tuesday or Wednesday game here where I didn't think it was important to win."

"It's a win against a good team if you can do it. It helps you in the postseason. It helps you in the RPI. Beyond that, it's another game against a good team."

Kentucky Sports Report (week of April 15)

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Baseball
- Kentucky baseball picked up a 6-3 win over Austin Peay on Tuesday, behind five strong innings from freshman righthander Kyle Cody and a two-hit performance from freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett.
- Kyle Barrett shined once again on Friday going 3-5 and plating the game-tying RBI in the series-opening comeback win over Tennessee.
- After a quality start that led the Wildcats to victory on Friday night, A.J. Reed crushed his team-leading ninth homer of the year in UK's heartbreaking 10-9 loss to Tennessee on Saturday afternoon.
- Junior closer Trevor Gott added two more saves during the week, improving his total to nine on the year and program-record 20 in his career. Gott's ERA is now an impressive 0.95 with a 4-0 record, while fanning 24 in 19.0 IP.

Softball
- The Kentucky softball team wrapped up one of its most historic weeks in school history last week with several records broken. The first was sixth-year head coach Rachel Lawson becoming the winningest head coach in school history with her 182nd career win. That honor came a few days before UK upset No. 3 Florida on the same day it named its new $9.5 million stadium after longtime administrator John Cropp. Overall, UK went 4-2 on the week with wins over Florida, Marshall and two against EKU.
- Freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley earned the win in the upset over UF, becoming the first player in school history to win 20 games in a season, surpassing former stars Chanda Bell and Keary Camunas. Nunley went 3-0 on the week with a 1.64 ERA, while junior Lauren Cumbess also earned a win in the circle.
- Cumbess was the star for UK at the plate, going 10-for-22 throughout the week with four doubles, three homers and seven RBI. Cumbess is riding a nine-game hitting streak - a career long - posting an extra-base hit in eight of those nine games. Senior Alice O'Brien went 8-for-19 on the week with a double, home run and four RBI, while freshmen Maisie Steed and Nikki Sagermann also had home runs.

Men's tennis
- The University of Kentucky men's tennis team has earned the No. 8 overall seed in this week's Southeastern Conference Tournament, it was announced on Sunday night.
- UK will face the No. 9 overall seed, Mississippi State on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. CT. The Wildcats and Mississippi State have faced off two times this season already, with UK winning both prior matches.
- The first match saw Kentucky sweep MSU 4-0 at the ITA National Indoor Championships in Seattle, Wash., in the Sweet 16. Kentucky lost the doubles point and rallied to win four of six singles matches in the second meeting of the season in Starkville.

Women's tennis

- The Kentucky women's tennis team upset No. 27 South Carolina 4-3 on Sunday at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex.
- Junior Caitlin McGraw clinched the match for Kentucky with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win on court five.
- Kentucky won the doubles point, winning two of three doubles matches as Khristina Blajkevitch and Jessica Stiles clinched the point by winning three consecutive games to win the No. 3 doubles match 9-7.
- Freshman Nadia Ravita defeated another ranked opponent, taking down No. 77 Jaklin Alawi 7-5, 0-6, 6-4.

Track and field
- The Kentucky track and field teams enjoyed one of the best total team performances of the season at the "Kentuckiana" Border Battle on Saturday.
- The Wildcats' men's and women's teams combined with Louisville to defeat the aggregate scores of Indiana and Notre Dame.
- Fifteen - 10 men's and five women's - Wildcat individuals or relay teams claimed event titles on Saturday.
- Rebecca Famurewa increased her UK freshman record discus throw to 57.09 meters / 187'04", which gives her the No. 2 ranking in school history.
- The mark also is the third-farthest discus throw in the nation this season.
- UK competitors won four of the seven throws events they entered.
- Tamyah Pipkin became the third fastest Wildcat ever at 200 meters as she won race with a time of 23.67.
- Kadeem Kushimo enjoyed a career-afternoon winning both the 100 and 200 meters.

Men's golf
- The UK men's golf team placed eighth in the 14-team field at the Gary Koch Invitational last week, finishing at 22-over-par. The Wildcats recorded top-10 team finishes in all six of their spring tournaments.
- Juniors Cody Martin and Ben Stow led the way for the Cats, shooting 5-over-par for the invitational and finished tied for 29th.
- UK wrapped up its regular season schedule and now look toward the post season as the Wildcats travel to St. Simmons Island, Ga., this weekend for the Southeastern Conference Championships, April 19-21.

Upcoming schedule

Tuesday, April 16
Baseball hosts Louisville - 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, April 17
Softball at Middle Tennessee State (DH) - 4:00 p.m.
Women's tennis vs. LSU - 3:00 p.m. (Starkville, Miss.)

Thursday, April 18
Men's tennis vs. Mississippi State - 7:00 p.m. (Oxford, Miss.)
Women's tennis at SEC Tournament (Starkville, Miss.)

Friday, April 19
Softball at Arkansas - 7:00 p.m.
Baseball at South Carolina - 7:00 p.m.
Men's golf at SEC Championship (St. Simon's, Ga.)
Women's golf at SEC Championship (Birmingham, Ala.)
Men's tennis at SEC Tournament (Oxford, Miss.)
Women's tennis at SEC Tournament (Starkville, Miss.)

Saturday, April 20
Track and field hosts Heart of the Bluegrass Classic - 10:00 a.m.
Softball at Arkansas - 1:00 p.m.
Baseball at South Carolina - 3:00 p.m.
Men's golf at SEC Championship (St.Simon's, Ga.)
Women's golf at SEC Championship (Birmingham, Ala.)
Men's tennis at SEC Tournament (Oxford, Miss.)
Women's tennis at SEC Tournament (Starkville, Miss.)

Sunday, April 21
Baseball at South Carolina - 1:30 p.m.
Softball at Arkansas - 2:00 p.m.
Men's golf at SEC Championship (St.Simon's, Ga.)
Women's golf at SEC Championship (Birmingham, Ala.)
Men's tennis at SEC Tournament (Oxford, Miss.)
Women's tennis at SEC Tournament (Starkville, Miss.)



Zac Zellers gave Kentucky a 4-2 lead with a clutch two-run single in the eighth. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics) Zac Zellers gave Kentucky a 4-2 lead with a clutch two-run single in the eighth. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
The first two hitters in a batting lineup are usually responsible for getting on base and scoring runs. Friday night in the series-opening  5-4 victory over Tennessee, the table setters wiped the bases clean to claim the come-from-behind win.

Since Kentucky head coach Gary Henderson inserted freshman Kyle Barrett at the top of the batting lineup, Barrett is batting .500 (5-of-10) in his first two games as the Wildcats' new leadoff hitter while driving in four runs.

"When you look at the scoreboard, we weren't exactly banging it around and someone's got to step up," said Henderson. "(Barrett)'s done it a few times for us."

Barrett drove home Kentucky's first two runs of the game, including a game-tying RBI double to knot things up at two in the momentum-shifting bottom of the eighth.

While Barrett was continuing his hot start in the leadoff role, Zac Zellers looked to be rediscovering his stroke as well in the two spot. Coming into the game hitting just .272 (15-of-55) with runners in scoring position, Zellers ripped a one-out, two-run single to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game and put them ahead 4-2.

Sophomore center fielder Austin Cousino, now the third batter in the UK lineup, added an important - and ultimately decisive - insurance run with an RBI double in the four-run eighth.

Barrett seems to be transitioning into a role that may look familiar. Cousino came in as a freshman last season and took the reins as the Kentucky leadoff man. With Cousino now in a position to impact the UK offense as a more prominent run producer in the middle of the lineup, Barrett is providing this offense with a sparkplug at the top.

"He's really aggressive and gives us a strong presence," said Henderson. "He's done a really nice job of making hard contact with guys in scoring position. He's a threat defensively, so they've got to come in at the corners to take away a bunt, but the thing I like the most about him is his presence."

As a freshman, it took Barrett a while to finally break into the lineup on a consistent basis. It wasn't until the second game of UK's first Southeastern Conference series in Florida when Barrett would put a stranglehold on a starting spot that he's yet to relinquish.

Now batting .343 with a .397 on-base percentage, Barrett is the ideal man to get the offense going.

"He looks like a winner when he plays," said Henderson. "He just makes you proud to have him on your team."

Though it took him a solid portion of the season to finally break into the everyday lineup, Barrett feels like that's where he belongs. And his play is backing it up.

"I was honestly just glad to be out here," said Barrett. "It's just an awesome experience. I got my opportunity and took advantage of it. I'm still the cheerleader in the dugout, even though I'm playing."

It took Barrett and the Kentucky offense a while to finally get something going. After being swept by LSU last weekend on the road, the Wildcats needed to take advantage of the Volunteers back at home. With A.J. Reed on mound for the opener, Kentucky had to feel pretty good about its chances.

Reed held up his end of the bargain, allowing just two runs over 6.2 innings before leaving the game trailing 2-1 in the top of the seventh. It could have been worse, but as Reed has done time and again this season, he battled through a big-time jam to leave runners stranded at second and third in the sixth to keep the deficit at one.

"He's been fascinatingly good at that all year," said Henderson. "He has probably done something exactly like that or very close to it five times this year. It's fascinating. That's not coaching."

After Reed was lifted, Chandler Shepherd came in and gave the Wildcats 1.1 scoreless innings in relief, finishing off the Volunteers in the seventh and leading the Wildcats to the bottom half of the eighth where they would do the bulk of their offensive damage.

After Barrett doubled in the tying run in eighth to pull even at two, Zellers stepped in with a chance to give the Cats their first lead of the game. Zellers has yet to find his stroke from the 2012 season, but he put a solid swing on Dalton Saberhagen's delivery to drive in two go-ahead runs to make it 4-2.

The hit came in a huge moment as Zellers picked up his teammates as they have done for him throughout the season.

"It's always good to be able to come through for your team," said Zellers. "A lot of guys got on before me. Kyle had a great at-bat. All the guys before him were able to get on base. I was able to get the pitch I was looking for and we scored two, and that's what it's all about: picking up your teammates."

Kentucky would need all four eighth-inning runs to pull out the Friday-night winner, as UK's all-time saves leader picked up Zellers after his costly ninth-inning error. After Trevor Gott took care of the first Tennessee hitter, the Vols got two runs on a single to left field that got past Zellers.

In a jam, Gott settled in and delivered back-to-back outs including a strikeout to clinch the series opener, 5-4. With two more games remaining in the series including Saturday's 2 p.m. ET matchup at Cliff Hagan Stadium, the Cats were happy to get back into the SEC win column after they were swept last weekend at LSU.

"It's good to win on Friday," said Zellers. "We were able to get back on the right track, but we still have to win two more, though."


 
Head coach Gary Henderson



Right fielder Kyle Barrett



Left fielder Zac Zellers



UK rebounded from a three-game sweep at LSU with a 6-3 win over Austin Peay on Tuesday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) 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."



Recent Comments

  • Berdj J. Rassam: 2013 was a tough year for UK football, 2-10 overall and 0-8 in the SEC, so 2014 can't be much read more
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