Baseball Hosts No. 1 Florida in 3-Game Set

UK Game Notes | Florida Game Notes | Henderson Previews Series

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The 29th-ranked Kentucky baseball team will host the nation’s top-ranked team in a three-game series, welcoming Florida to Cliff Hagan Stadium, with the series lidlifter slated for 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday. The series will resume on Saturday at 2 p.m. and conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

All three games will be streamed live on SEC Network + and will be broadcast live on the UK Sports Radio Network.

Kentucky will start junior righty Zack Brown (1-3, 5.14 ERA) on Friday, senior right-hander Dustin Beggs (5-0, 1.77 ERA) on Saturday and senior right-hander Kyle Cody (2-1, 6.95 ERA) on Sunday. Florida will counter with junior righty Logan Shore (4-0, 2.23 ERA) on Friday, junior left-hander A.J. Puk (1-1, 1.88 ERA) on Saturday and sophomore righty Alex Faedo (5-0, 2.61 ERA) on Sunday.

A native of Seymour, Ind., Brown has made five Friday-night starts in 2016, allowing 30 hits and 12 walks in 28 innings. In his career, Brown has an 8-10 record and a 4.21 ERA in 39 games and 24 starts, tossing 149.2 innings, allowing 159 hits and 61 walks, striking out 112. Last year, Brown threw seven-shutout, five-hit innings in a win at No. 5 Florida, issuing just two walks and striking out six to earn SEC Pitcher of the Week honors. Shore has made five starts in 2016, working 32.1 innings, allowing only 22 hits and three walks, striking out 38 and holding opponents to a .198 average. On Friday, Shore took a no-decision vs. Missouri, working 5.1 innings, allowing five hits and two runs, issuing one walk and striking out 10 on 92 pitches. He exited in the sixth inning with a 3-1 lead vs. the Tigers. Last year vs. Kentucky, Shore worked 7.1 innings in a hard-luck loss, allowing nine hits and three runs, not issuing a walk and striking out seven. UK scored single runs in the second, third and eighth innings and Shore and Brown dueled in a 3-0 result to open the series.

Beggs, a native of Roswell, Ga., is the first pitcher in the modern-era of the program to win his first five starts to a season. He has allowed only 20 hits and four walks in 35.2 innings, striking out 32 and holding opponents to a .161 average. In his two-year career, Beggs has made 19 weekend starts for UK, owning a 12-4 record and a 3.13 ERA, walking 24 and striking out 107 in 129.1 innings. Last year vs. Florida in Gainesville, Beggs earned his sixth win of the season with 8.1 strong innings, allowing six hits and three runs, walking two and striking out six. He allowed two UF runs in the second and with a 7-2 lead, allowed a run to end his complete-game bid in the ninth. Puk, considered a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, is a 6-foot-7 flame-throwing southpaw. He has made five starts and allowed 17 hits and 10 walks in 24 innings, striking out 29. Puk dominated Missouri in his last start on Saturday in Gainesville, working seven-shutout, three-hit innings, walking one and striking out 11 on 107 pitches.

Cody, a 6-foot-7, 245-pound product of Chippewa Falls, Wis., has made five series-concluding starts in 2016. He has worked 22 innings, allowing 25 hits and 10 walks, striking out 23. In his career, Cody has a 13-8 record and a 4.70 ERA with five saves in 183.2 innings, allowing 181 hits and 60 walks, striking out 153. Cody has made four appearances and one start in his career vs. Florida, earning a save in six innings, walking two and striking out four. Faedo is off to a strong start to his season, working 31 innings, allowing only 18 hits and four walks, striking out 45 and holding opponents to a .165 average. In his last start on Sunday vs. Missouri in Gainesville, Faedo worked 5.2 innings, allowing six hits and five runs, not issuing a walk and striking out nine on 82 pitches. Last year vs. Kentucky, Faedo worked 5.1 innings to earn his fourth win, allowing only a run and six hits, walking one and striking out four.

Kentucky (15-5, 2-1 SEC) is coming off a weekend series win at Georgia to open conference play, posting an 11-4 win on Saturday and a 14-6 win on Sunday after falling in the opener 5-2. UK then posted a 10-5 win over Morehead State on Tuesday in midweek action, stretching its winning streak to three games.

Last week, completed a four-game stretch with a series win in its Southeastern Conference opener at Georgia. UK suffered a midweek loss to Western Kentucky on Tuesday and a Friday-night loss to the Bulldogs, before bouncing back with an 11-4 win on Saturday and a 14-6 win on Sunday at Foley Field. Kentucky suffered a 14-6 loss on Tuesday to the Hilltoppers, as WKU and UK combined to walk 17, the most in a UK game since 2007. The Wildcats then opened SEC play at Georgia with a 5-2 loss, with a three-run fourth inning serving as the difference. UK bounced back to even the series with an explosive offensive performance in an 11-4 win on Saturday. Senior Dustin Beggs fired seven innings to become the first pitcher in UK’s modern era (2002-present) to win his first five starts to a season and UK got a homer and three RBI from Gunnar McNeill. In the rubber match UK exploded again for a 14-6 win, with junior JaVon Shelby, a preseason All-America third sacker, belted two homers and had a triple in a seven RBI game. 

The Wildcats have hit .302/.394/.480 as a team through 20 games, scoring 145 runs, ripping 41 doubles, five triples, 24 homers and stealing 25-of-30 bases. Defensively, UK has fielded .971, turning 17 double plays and throwing out six of 14 would-be basestealers. On the mound, UK has a 3.74 ERA as a team with six saves in 178 innings, allowing 161 hits and 70 walks, striking out 165 and holding opponents to a .238 average.

Individually, UK has been led at the dish by junior DH Gunnar McNeill, who has hit .400 with three doubles and four homers, driving in 24 runs with a .443 on-base percentage. Junior outfielder Zach Reks has hit .389 with two doubles, a homer and five RBI. Sophomore first baseman Evan White owns a .368 average with five doubles, one triple, one homer and 23 RBI, stealing seven bases. Sophomore shortstop Riley Mahan has hit .308 with four doubles, two triples, two homers and 11 RBI, stealing four bases. Junior third baseman JaVon Shelby has hit .300 with six doubles, one triple, six homers and 14 RBI, stealing two bases. Junior centerfielder Storm Wilson has hit .270 with eight doubles, one homer, four RBI and four steals, sporting a .425 on-base percentage. Freshman catcher Kole Cottam has hit .265 with two doubles, one homer and nine RBI and freshman leftfielder Tristan Pompey has hit .250 with four doubles, one triple, four homers and 19 RBI. Junior outfielder Marcus Carson has batted .175 with two homers and six RBI.

In relief for UK, senior righty Zach Strecker (2-0, 0.71 ERA) has appeared in a team-high eight games, striking out 11 in 12.2 innings. UK’s bullpen is boosted by right-handers Sean Hjelle (0-0, 0.00 ERA), Justin Lewis (2-0, 0.61 ERA), Zach Pop (0-1, 6.00 ERA) and Bo Wilson (0-0, 14.73 ERA) and lefties Dylan Dwyer (2-0, 0.87 ERA), Daniel Tillo (0-0, 1.59 ERA), Logan Salow (0-0, 3.24 ERA), Zach Logue (1-0, 4.97 ERA), Josh Smith (0-0, 7.71 ERA), Brad Schaenzer (0-0, 12.00 ERA).

Florida (22-1, 3-0 SEC) is coming off a 2-1 midweek win over No. 19 Florida Atlantic on Tuesday in Gainesville and last weekend opened league play with a sweep of Missouri.

The Gators have hit .301/.391/.473 through 23 games, scoring 155 runs, belting 48 doubles, 10 triples and 21 homers, stealing 26-of-34 bases. Defensively, UF has fielded .983, turning 17 double plays and throwing out 13 of 30 would-be basestealers. On the mound, UF has a sparkling 2.44 team ERA in 210 innings, allowing only 150 hits and 55 walks, for a staggering .200 opponent average, striking out 256.

Florida is led at the plate by slugging sophomore first baseman Peter Alonso, who has hit .390 with nine doubles, four homers and 28 RBI, sporting a .480 on-base percentage. Sophomore shortstop Dalton Guthrie has a .380 average with seven doubles, one homer and 11 RBI. Freshman second baseman Deacon Liput has hit .375 with seven doubles, three triples, one homer and 18 RBI, owning a 14-8 walk-strikeout ratio and stealing four bases. Sophomore catcher JJ Schwarz has hit .329 with five doubles, two triples, three homers and 20 RBI, sporting a .475 on-base percentage. Freshman third baseman Jonathan India has a .308 mark with four doubles, one homer and eight RBI, swiping five bases. Junior switch-hitting centerfielder Buddy Reed has a .293 average with four doubles, two triples, two homers and 10 RBI, stealing nine bases. Sophomore strong-armed catcher Mike Rivera has hit .292 with four doubles, one triple, five homers and 24 RBI and sophomore outfielder/first baseman Jeremy Vasquez sports a .286 average with eight RBI.

In relief for UF, junior lefty specialist Kirby Snead (0-1, 0.61 ERA) has appeared in a team-high 13 games with a save in 14.2 innings, striking out 14 and walking five. Junior right-hander Shaun Anderson (3-0, 1.15 ERA) has three saves in 15.2 innings, not issuing a walk and striking out 21. Righty Brady Singer (2-0, 2.79 ERA) has appeared in nine games with a save in 19.1 innings, striking out 20. Righty Dane Dunning (2-0, 3.09 ERA), right-hander Jackson Koward (2-0, 3.10 ERA), righty Michael Byrne (0-0, 0.00 ERA), righty Eddy Demurias (0-0, 0.00 ERA), lefty Scott Moss (0-0, 1.29 ERA), lefty Nick Horvath (1-0, 3.00 ERA) and righty Frank Rubio (1-0, 5.56 ERA) have each appeared in multiple games.

Florida leads the all-time series 135-64-1, including a 54-30-1 record in games played in Lexington. UK has won three consecutive series meetings, including in 2015 in Gainesville. In the last meeting in Lexington in 2014, UK won the first and final game in the series, before splitting two games in the SEC Tournament. UK has won seven of its last 10 games with Florida. UK’s three straight series wins marks its best stretch in the series, dating back to 1973-75.

In the last meeting between the two schools, Kentucky won its third consecutive series with Florida. UK posted a 3-0 win in the opener behind Zack Brown’s seven-shutout innings, then rode a strong outing from Dustin Beggs to a 7-6 win to clinch the series. Florida salvaged the series with an explosive 10-1 win in the finale on Sunday. In the Friday 3-0 win for UK, Brown worked seven innings, allowing just five hits and two walks as UK scored single tallies in the second, third and eighth inning. Logan Shore worked 7.1 innings in a quality start and hard-luck loss, with Ryan Larson collecting two hits. Dorian Hairston drove in two for UK, with Evan White going 2-for-4 and JaVon Shelby belting a triple. UK then clinched the series on Saturday, getting a four-run second inning – including a homer from Connor Heady – a two-run sixth and a single run in the eighth. Dustin Beggs worked 8.1 innings, allowing just three runs, finishing shy of a complete-game bid. Lefty Logan Salow came in to save the game, getting the final out with a flip at the plate on a Richie Martin bunt with the tying run on third in the form of pinch runner Taylor Lane. White, Hairston and Greg Fettes each had two hits to power the UK offense. Dane Dunning took the loss for UF as the starter, allowing four runs in 1.1 innings. Alex Faedo then pitched UF to a series-salvaging win on Sunday, as the UF offense exploded for a 10-1 win. Faedo worked 5.1 innings, allowing just a run, with Taylor Lewis working 2.1 hitless and Bobby Poyner 1.1 shutout in relief. Dalton Guthrie and Harrison Bader each had three hits, with Storm Wilson going 2-for-3 to lead UK’s offense.

The series will mark a reunion of UK coach Gary Henderson and Florida’s Logan Shore, A.J. Puk, catcher JJ Schwarz and Buddy Reed from the 2015 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. Henderson served as the pitching coach with Team USA, working directly with Shore, Puk and Schwarz. Team USA won its series meetings with Taiwan and Cuba, including posting the first no-hitter of Cuba in international play in the series opener. During the summer, Puk appeared in four games with one start, owning a 1-0 record and a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings, allowing 12 hits and two walks, striking out nine. Puk worked four perfect innings in relief in the no-hitter, striking out two. Shore had a 2-1 record and an 8.0 ERA in three games and one start during the summer, working nine innings, allowing 10 hits and three walks, striking out 10. Shore’s ERA was boosted by an outing against the USA Pan-Am Team in the final game of the summer, where he was saddled with eight runs in an inning. Schwarz played in 11 games during the summer with a double, massive home run at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, and an RBI. Reed hit .326 in 12 starts, with three doubles and a team-high 12 RBI, stealing 4-of-5 bases.

UK head coach Gary Henderson has an 11-11 all-time record vs. Florida, who he coached with as an assistant coach from 1995-98. While at Florida, Henderson coached two-way star Brad Wilkerson and recruited future star David Eckstein to the Gators roster, helping UF to the 1996 and 1998 College World Series. The 1996 American Baseball Coaches Association National Assistant Coach of the Year at UF, Henderson served as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. UK offensive coordinator Rick Eckstein played with the Gators on the 1996 CWS team, before serving as the volunteer assistant for the next two seasons, helping Henderson on the staff that led the Gators to the 1998 CWS.

Kentucky will be meeting the nation’s top-ranked foe for the sixth consecutive season in a weekend series. The Wildcats have won a series vs. the nation’s No. 1 team in 2014 vs. South Carolina and 2015 at LSU. UK has never faced Florida when the Gators were ranked No. 1 but have faced Florida 32 times when UF was ranked, owning a 13-19 record. UK has an 8-12 record in games played against No. 1 teams, with records complete back to 2003. UK has a 106-151 all-time record against ranked teams and a 25-35 mark against top-five foes. UK has 61 wins over ranked teams in the Coach Gary Henderson era.

Junior Kentucky DH Gunnar McNeill leads the team with a 15-game hitting streak, with the 6-foot-2 slugger reaching base safely in all 20 games of his career. Evan White sports a 13-game hitting streak, with Tristan Pompey hitting safely in five straight. Shortstop Riley Mahan has reached base safely in seven consecutive games.

Records
Kentucky: 15-5, 2-1 SEC
Florida: 22-1, 3-0 SEC

Rankings
Kentucky: No. 29 (Collegiate Baseball), receiving votes (NCBWA, USA Today/ESPN)
Florida: No. 1 (NCBWA, USA Today/ESPN, Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball)

Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) -- Lexington, Ky.
Friday, March 25 * vs. No. 1 Florida * 6:30 p.m. [SEC Network +]
Saturday, March 26 * vs. No. 1 Florida * 2 p.m. [SEC Network +]
Sunday, March 27 * vs. No. 1 Florida * 1 p.m. [SEC Network +]

Internet Coverage
Live audio and stats on UKathletics.com

Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday vs. Florida
Jr., RHP Zack Brown (1-3, 5.14 ERA) vs. Jr., RHP Logan Shore (4-0, 2.23 ERA)
Saturday vs. Florida
Sr., RHP Dustin Beggs (5-0, 1.77 ERA) vs. Jr., LHP A.J. Puk (1-1, 1.88 ERA)
Sunday vs. Florida
Sr., RHP Kyle Cody (2-1, 6.95 ERA) vs. So., RHP Alex Faedo (5-0, 2.61 ERA)

Stadium
Cliff Hagan Stadium (3,000)

Parking
Free gameday parking is available in the C-8 lot beyond rightfield and behind homeplate, or in the E lot adjacent to Cliff Hagan Stadium. The C-8 lot will be filled on a first come, first served basis. Once C-8 is filled, vehicles will be directed to park in the E lot next to Cliff Hagan Stadium. After the E lot is full, a limited amount of parking will be available in Parking Structure No. 7 on the ground floor. If you’re parking in PS#7, please exchange your ticket for a pink payment voucher at the ticket booth, prior to the end of the fourth inning. Additionally, overflow parking will be available in the smaller E lots close to Cooper Dr., as well as the C-6 lot at Commonwealth Stadium. All fans are asked to please follow the signage provided to the nearest parking location.

Tickets
SINGLE-GAME TICKET PRICES
$5 - General Admission Seating - Adults
$2 - General Admission Seating - Kids/Seniors

SEASON TICKET PRICES
$35 General Admission
$55 Reserved Seating