Baseball Opens SEC Play at Georgia
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Winners of nine of its last 10 games, the Kentucky baseball team will hit the road for its 2016 Southeastern Conference opener, facing Georgia in a three-game series, starting on Friday at 7 p.m. ET at Foley Field. The series will resume on Saturday at 2 p.m. and conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Foley Field.
The Friday game will be televised live on SEC Network + with whip-around coverage available via SEC Network’s ‘Bases Loaded’ programing. The Saturday and Sunday games will both be televised live on the SEC Network with Dave Neal and Chris Burke calling the action. All three games will be broadcast live on the UK Radio Network, with Dick Gabriel voicing the action. Fans can hear the games locally on Fox Sports 1580-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
The Wildcats are coming off a 10-game homestand, totaling a 9-1 record, after opening the 2016 season with a two-week road swing. UK had its nine-game win streak snapped on Tuesday in a 14-6 midweek loss to Western Kentucky, with the Toppers getting a six-run second and a four-run fourth for a large early margin in the win.
Kentucky will turn to its weekend rotation on junior righty Zack Brown (1-2, 4.95 ERA) on Friday, senior righty Dustin Beggs (4-0, 0.94 ERA) on Saturday and senior right-hander Kyle Cody (2-1, 5.40 ERA) on Sunday. Based on its pitching matchups last weekend, Georgia will counter with star ace Robert Tyler (1-1, 3.38 ERA) on Friday, senior righty Heath Holder (0-1, 1.99 ERA) on Saturday and junior lefty Connor Jones (3-0, 3.15 ERA) on Sunday.
A native of Seymour, Ind., Brown will be making his fifth Friday-night start of the 2016 season. A 6-foot-2, 200-pounder, Brown has worked in 20 innings, allowing 22 hits and 11 walks, striking out 16. In his career, Brown has an 8-9 record and a 4.13 ERA in 38 games and 23 starts, working three complete games and two complete-game shutouts. Brown has tossed 141.2 innings in his career, walking 60 and striking out 105. Last Friday, Brown made his fourth start and took a no decision vs. USC Upstate. Brown worked five innings on 101 pitches, allowing five hits and three runs, walking three and striking out three. He allowed two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth, with UK rallying with a five-run sixth to earn the comeback win. In his career vs. UGA, Brown has made two starts, owning a 1-1 record and a 5.79 ERA in 9.1 innings, allowing 16 hits and six runs, walking two and striking out eight. Brown made his first career start in SEC play vs. UGA as a freshman on the final weekend of the season, allowing seven hits and four runs in three innings. He then worked a quality start in a Friday-night win vs. UGA in 2015, tossing 6.1 innings, allowing nine hits and two runs, walking one and striking out six. Tyler – who spent the summer on UK coach Gary Henderson’s pitching staff on the USA Collegiate National Team – has made four starts in 2016. Tyler has fanned 33 and walked only four in 21.1 innings, allowing just 15 hits and a .195 opponent average. On Friday, Tyler worked 4.1 innings vs. Lipscomb in a 9-8 UGA win in 11 innings, allowing seven hits and six runs – five earned – walking one and striking out five. Tyler ran into trouble in the fifth inning as Lipscomb chased him with six runs, with UGA forcing extra innings with two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Beggs, a native of Roswell, Ga., is off to the best start to a season of any Kentucky baseball pitcher in recent history (since 2002), sporting a 0.94 ERA through his first four starts – tops in UK history – and is just the third pitcher to win his first four starts. He has worked 28.2 innings, allowing just 14 hits and four walks, striking out 30. In his career, Beggs has made 18 weekend starts, owning an 11-4 record and a 3.02 ERA, tossing 122.1 innings, allowing just 96 hits – good for a .214 opponent average – walking 24 and striking out 105. In his last start on Saturday, Beggs worked 7.2 shutout innings, allowing just six hits and a walk in a win vs. USC Upstate, striking out seven in a 3-0 UK win. In his 2016 start vs. UGA, Beggs took the loss and had the worst outing of his strong junior season. He suffered the loss, allowing 11 hits and nine runs – six earned – in five innings, walking two and striking out one. Holder has made four starts in 2016, tossing 22.2 innings and allowing only 11 hits and 11 walks, striking out 22 with opponents hitting .151. Holder dazzled in his last start, allowing just a hit in eight shutout innings as UGA posted a 1-0 win with a run in the bottom of the ninth inning vs. Lipscomb on Saturday.
A native of Chippewa Falls, Wis., Cody will be making his fifth consecutive series-concluding start on Sunday. A 6-foot-7, 245-pound righty, Cody has worked 18.1 innings in 2016, allowing 18 hits and eight walks, striking out 20. In his career, Cody has a 13-8 record and a 4.50 ERA in 51 games and 42 starts. Cody has worked 180 innings, earning five saves, allowing 174 hits and 58 walks, striking out 150. In his last start on Saturday, Cody earned his second win with a quality start, allowing just two hits and an unearned run in six innings, walking three and striking out seven over 99 pitches. Over his career, Cody has appeared in three games with two starts vs. Georgia, owning a 0.68 ERA in 13.1 innings, allowing 10 hits, two walks and striking out eight. Jones has made four starts and worked 20 innings in 2016, allowing only 13 hits and 12 walks, striking out 23 while opponents have hit just .194. In his last start on Sunday vs. Lipscomb, Jones worked six shutout innings, allowing only two hits and three walks, striking out eight.
The Wildcats have hit .302/.391/.488 as a team through 16 games, scoring 108 runs, ripping 32 doubles, four triples and 20 homers. UK has stolen 22 bases and has been hit by 23 pitches. Defensively, UK has turned 14 double plays and sport a .971 fielding percentage, nabbing 5 of 11 runners stealing. On the mound, UK has a 3.52 team ERA, with five saves in 143 innings, allowing just 125 hits and 62 walks, striking out 141 and holding opponents to a .233 average.
At the plate, sophomore first baseman Evan White leads UK with a .388 average, adding four doubles, one triple, one homer and 20 RBI, stealing six bases. Junior DH Gunnar McNeill has batted .367 with two doubles, three homers and 17 RBI. Junior third baseman JaVon Shelby owns a .349 average with six doubles, four homers and seven RBI, sporting a .508 on-base percentage. Junior outfielder Zach Reks has hit .333 with a double and three RBI and sophomore shortstop Riley Mahan owns a .323 average with four doubles, two triples, two homers and nine RBI, swiping three bases. Sophomore second baseman Luke Becker has hit .313 with four doubles and five RBI, owning a .424 on-base percentage. Junior centerfielder Storm Wilson has a .300 average as UK’s leadoff hitter, with seven doubles, one homer and three RBI, stealing four bases. Junior outfielder Marcus Carson has a .219 average with two homers and six RBI. Freshman leftfielder Tristan Pompey has slugged four homers, two doubles and a triple, batting .216 with 16 RBI. UK has a three-man catching tandem, with freshman Kole Cottam batting .200 with a homer and six RBI, senior Zach Arnold hitting .357 with two RBI and sophomore Troy Squires making eight starts with a .250 on-base percentage.
In relief for UK, right-handers Sean Hjelle (0-0, 0.00 ERA), Justin Lewis (2-0, 0.84 ERA), Zach Strecker (2-0, 0.87 ERA), Zach Pop (0-1, 6.30 ERA) and Bo Wilson (0-0, 14.73 ERA) have each appeared in at least four games. Lefties Dylan Dwyer (1-0, 1.23 ERA), Daniel Tillo (0-0, 1.59 ERA), Logan Salow (0-0, 3.68 ERA), Zach Logue (0-0, 5.91 ERA), Josh Smith (0-0, 7.71 ERA) and Brad Schaenzer (0-0, 9.00 ERA) have each appeared in at least three games in relief. Hjelle has three saves and 12 strikeouts in six innings, with Lewis adding two saves in 10.2 innings.
Last week, Kentucky extended its winning streak to nine games with a 5-0 stretch at Cliff Hagan Stadium, including a pair of comeback wins. UK posted a series sweep over USC Upstate over the weekend and won midweek tilts vs. Cincinnati and Murray State. The Wildcats opened the week with a comeback win over Cincinnati on Tuesday, rallying from a three-run hole in the bottom of the seventh inning to post an 8-4 win. UK then posted an 11-1 win over Murray State to conclude midweek action, with senior Dylan Dwyer winning his ninth career game with two shutout innings in relief. UK then opened the weekend with a 5-3 comeback win over USC Upstate on Friday night, before sweeping a series-concluding twinbill on Saturday, holding the Spartans without an earned run on the day.
Georgia (13-5, 0-0 SEC) has won five consecutive games entering the series with the Wildcats. The Bulldogs rode three solo homers in the early innings to a 4-2 win over Kennesaw State on Tuesday in a road midweek tilt. UGA has hit .247/.347/.364 as a team through 18 games, scoring 92 runs with 21 doubles, three triples, 14 homers and 86 RBI, stealing 10 of 19 bases. Defensively, UGA has fielded .973, turning 11 double plays and throwing out seven of 28 would-be base stealers. On the mound, UGA has a 3.36 ERA in 166 innings, allowing just 129 hits and a .217 opponent average, walking 70 and striking out 166.
The Bulldogs have been led at the plate by standout veteran Skyler Weber, who has hit .329 with a homer and eight RBI. Stephen Wrenn has batted .327 with two doubles, two triples and 10 RBI. Keegan McGovern leads the team with five homers and 20 RBI, hitting .284. Michael Curry has a .277 average with three homers and 10 RBI, with Daniel Nichols batting .226 with two homers and eight RBI. Mitchell Webb has hit .216 with a homer and seven RBI and shortstop Nick King has hit .170 with four RBI.
In relief for UGA, Drew Moody (0-1, 4.96 ERA) has appeared in a team-high eight games with three saves in 16.1 innings, allowing 18 hits and one walk, striking out 10. Andrew Gist (2-0, 1.53 ERA) has worked 17.2 innings, walking five and striking out 13. Blake Caines (0-0, 1.80 ERA), Addison Albright (0-0, 2.25 ERA), Bo Tucker (2-1, 2.61 ERA), Trevor Tinder (0-0, 3.38 ERA), Shane Tucker (0-0, 4.50 ERA), Sam Vaughn (0-0, 5.40 ERA), Blakely Brown (2-1, 9.45 ERA), Adam Goodman (0-0, 12.46 ERA) and Austin Wallace (0-0, 18.00 ERA) have each made multiple appearances. Brown sports a save in 6.2 innings, striking out 13.
Georgia leads the all-time series with Kentucky, 131-93-1, including a 66-36 mark in games played in Athens. UGA won the last meeting in 2015, with UK claiming the 2014 series in Athens. UK has won two consecutive road series meetings at Georgia and has won four of the last five series meetings. UGA has won two straight and three of the last four games played.
Last season in the meeting in Lexington, UK won the first game of the series on Friday night behind a strong start from Zack Brown, posting a 6-2 win. Georgia then rallied to post a 12-1 win over UK to even the series on Saturday, before the teams took a 1-1 game into the 10th inning in the series rubber match. In the opener, Brown worked 6.1 innings, allowing two runs – single UGA tallies in the fifth and sixth – walking one and striking out six. UK took a 3-0 lead with a three spot in the third, adding a run in the fifth and two in the sixth. Logan Salow worked a key inning in relief, before Zach Strecker emerged with 1.2 innings for his first career save, striking out three. David Sosebee worked 5.2 innings for UGA, allowing nine hits and six runs, striking out three. Taylor Hicks and Mike Mancuso combined to work the final 2.1 shutout innings in relief. UK got homers from Ka’ai Tom and Dorian Hairston in the win, with Hairston driving in three runs and Georgia native, centerfielder Kyle Barrett, collecting four hits. Georgia evened the series with a 12-3 win on Saturday, with Ryan Lawlor earning the win with five innings, allowing two earned runs on two hits, before Jared Cheek worked four shutout innings for his sixth save of the year. UK starter Dustin Beggs suffered one of his lone blemishes in a strong junior season, allowing 11 hits and nine runs – six earned – in five innings. UK got three hits from Barrett, but Stephen Wrenn led the UGA offense with three hits and his eighth homer of the year. UGA erased UK’s 1-0 lead with two runs in the second, third, fourth and eighth, adding a three spot in the fifth and a run in the seventh. The teams squared off in an epic rubber match on Sunday, which was one of the best starts in the career of UK’s Kyle Cody. Cody took a shutout and a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning, allowing just six hits and no walks with five strikeouts. Jared Walsh took the 102nd pitch of the game from Cody over the fence for a game-tying homer, forcing extras and spoiling a strong outing. UGA then rallied with five runs in the 10th inning, handing Strecker a loss with two runs on his one inning of work. Robert Tyler turned in a strong five-inning start, allowing just two hits and a run in a no decision as he began to work his way back from injury in his sophomore season, throwing on a strict 70 pitch limit. Bo Tucker worked an inning of relief, before Sean McLaughlin fired four shutout frames to earn his fourth win of the year. Zack Bowers had a three-run homer in the 10th inning to lift the Bulldogs to the win, with UK’s run coming from a JaVon Shelby homer in the fourth inning.
Kentucky – 12-4, 0-0 SEC
Georgia – 13-5, 0-0 SEC
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change)
Friday, March 18 * at Georgia * 7 p.m. [SEC Network +]
Saturday, March 19 * at Georgia * 2 p.m. [SEC Network]
Sunday, March 20 * at Georgia * 1 p.m. [SEC Network]
Radio (UK Radio Network with Dick Gabriel)
Friday, March 18
- Fox Sports 1580-AM in Lexington
Saturday, March 19
- Fox Sports 1580-AM in Lexington
Sunday, March 20
- Fox Sports 1580-AM in Lexington
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday vs. UGA
Jr., RHP Zack Brown (1-2, 4.95 ERA) vs. Jr., RHP Robert Tyler (1-1, 3.38 ERA)
Saturday vs. UGA
Sr., RHP Dustin Beggs (4-0, 0.94 ERA) vs. Sr., RHP Heath Holder (0-1, 1.99 ERA)
Sunday vs. UGA
Sr., RHP Kyle Cody (2-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. Jr., LHP Connor Jones (3-0, 3.15 ERA)