No. 25 Baseball Opens 2016 Friday at Wofford

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The 25th ranked Kentucky baseball team will open its 2016 season on Friday, facing Wofford at 5 p.m. ET at Russell C. King Field in Spartanburg, S.C. UK will face George Mason on Saturday at 12 p.m., before concluding opening weekend on Sunday at 10 a.m. vs. Dayton.

All three games will be broadcast live on the UK Sports Radio Network, with Dick Gabriel voicing the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the games live on 1580-AM, and online at UKathletics.com.

SEASON OPENERS
Kentucky owns a 60-41-3 all-time record in season openers. The Wildcats had their school-record streak of winning seven consecutive season openers snapped in 2011 loss at No. 20 College of Charleston. That streak bested the previous record of five consecutive seasons-opening wins. UK has won four consecutive season openers, besting Wofford in 2012, UNC Asheville in 2013, No. 1 Virginia in 2014 and Ball State in 2015.

PITCHING MATCHUPS
The Wildcats will return to the starting rotation of junior righty Zack Brown on Friday, senior right-hander Dustin Beggs on Saturday and senior righty Kyle Cody on Sunday. Wofford will start right-hander Matt Milburn (10-3, 4.25 ERA) vs. the Wildcats, with Dayton and George Mason yet to declare a starting pitcher.

A native of Seymour, Ind., Brown served as Kentucky’s Friday-night starter as a sophomore. He appeared in 15 games with 14 starts, owning a team-high 3.48 ERA with three complete games – two shutouts – in 93 innings. Milburn, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior righty, had a 10-3 record with a 4.25 ERA as a junior in 2015, striking out 87 and walking 25 in 102 innings.

Beggs, a native of Roswell, Ga., posted team-highs in wins (seven), innings (93.2) and strikeouts (75) in his first season at Kentucky after leading junior college baseball in strikeouts as a sophomore. He had a 7-4 record and a 3.65 ERA, allowing only 82 hits.

Cody, a 6-foot-7, 245-pounder, was drafted 72nd overall after his junior season in 2015, electing to return for his final campaign. A native of Chippewa Falls, Wis., Cody appeared in 14 games with 12 weekend starts as a junior, with a 4-4 record and a 4.91 ERA in 66 innings, allowing only 63 hits and 17 walks, striking out 63.

PRESEASON RANKING
UK is ranked No. 25 in the preseason by Baseball America. It marks just the second time in UK history that the Wildcats have appeared in the widely respected Baseball America preseason top-25, including a school-record No. 11 preseason spot in 2013. UK has been ranked in the preseason just five times in its history, including three times under Coach Gary Henderson. Preseason polls have been acquired back to 1999.

SCOUTING THE WILDCATS
At the plate, Kentucky returns preseason All-America slugger JaVon Shelby and preseason all-league first baseman Evan White. Shelby hit .312 as a sophomore, with nine homers and 44 RBI, and ranks as the SEC’s leading OPS returnee in league games. White hit .318 with 12 doubles, two homers and 28 RBI in 2015. UK also returns infield starters Connor Heady and Riley Mahan, outfield starters Marcus Carson, Dorian Hairston and Storm Wilson, and catcher Zach Arnold.

UK’s pitching staff is led by its weekend trio, but boasts a bevy of depth. Senior righties Zach Strecker (2-2, 4.45 ERA) and Bo Wilson (0-0, 0.82 ERA), and lefties Dylan Dwyer (2-0, 3.03 ERA), Zach Logue (2-2, 5.18 ERA) and Logan Salow (1-1, 5.32 ERA) help give the bullpen options. In addition, UK returns lefty Brad Schaenzer (1-0, 4.50 ERA) and righty Zach Pop (0-0, 4.50 ERA).

PRESEASON HONORS
Several Wildcats have earned preseason honors, including consensus preseason All-America third baseman JaVon Shelby. Senior Dustin Beggs was named the 275th best college prospect available for the 2016 MLB Draft by D1baseball. Junior righty Zack Brown was tabbed the 30th best college prospect available by Baseball America and the 40th best by D1baseball. Senior righty Kyle Cody was rated as the 33rd best college prospect available by Baseball America and the 45th best by D1baseball. Sophomore right-hander Zach Pop was tabbed as the 69th best prospect in the 2017 class by D1baseball.

Shelby has been honored as having the best strike-zone discipline in the SEC by Baseball America, has been rated as a third-team preseason All-American by Louisville Slugger, D1Baseball Baseball America. He is rated as the 75th best prospect available for the upcoming MLB Draft by D1baseball. Sophomore Evan White was tabbed as the SEC’s best defensive first baseman by Baseball America and as a second-team All-SEC selection by the league coaches. White is also tabbed as the 29th best prospect available for the 2017 MLB Draft by D1baseball.

SCOUTING OPENING WEEKEND FOES
Wofford (39-22, 13-10 Southern) is coached by Todd Interdonato, who is in his ninth year with the Terriers. Wofford is led positionally by senior infielders Alex Paradowski (.278, four homers, 28 RBI) and Derek Hirsch (.311, 29 RBI), and junior outfielder Cody Ruedisili (.302 average, five homers, 34 RBI). Senior righty Matt Milburn (10-3, 4.25 ERA) leads the pitching staff, with Jacob Condra-Bogan (1-1, 4.66 ERA) and Elliot Lance (5-2, 5.36 ERA) likely to anchor the relief unit.

UK leads the series with the Terriers, 2-1, winning the last meeting – the series opener of 2012 – 10-4, in a game that featured the collegiate debut of freshman AJ Reed, the eventual 2014 unanimous national player of the year. UK has won two consecutive in the series, with all three meetings coming in Spartanburg and the series opening in 1959.

George Mason (23-27-1, 12-12 Atlantic 10) is coached by Bill Brown, who is in his 35th year with the Patriots. Brandon Gum leads George Mason as a returnee at the plate, hitting .338 with a homer and 32 RBI in 2015. Sophomore infielder Michael Smith returns after hitting .315 as a freshman, with sophomore outfielder Brady Acker hitting .301 with two homers and 24 RBI in 2015.

UK has played George Mason once in its history, a 15-4 win in 2005 on a neutral site.

Dayton (16-38, 5-19 A-10) is coached by Tony Vittorio, who is in his 17th year with the Flyers. Dayton is led at the plate by fourth-year outfielder Mitch Coughlin, who hit .340 in 2015. Junior catcher Matt Poland had a .286 as a sophomore, with a homer and 21 RBI. Fourth-year outfielder Glenn Jones  hit .268 with three homers, nine RBI and seven steals. On the mound, Jason Johnson (0-0, 2.45 ERA), Nick Gobert (1-2, 3.83 ERA), Charlie Dant (1-11, 5.04 ERA) and Ben Polanski (1-2, 5.19 ERA) each appeared in at least 14 games in 2015.

The Wildcats lead the series with Dayton, 9-2, with UK winning the last meeting, 19-6 in 2012.

BEGGS, CODY RETURN
Kentucky’s biggest recruits in the 2016 class came from seniors Dustin Beggs and Kyle Cody – a pair of weekend starters – who elected to return for their final collegiate seasons. Beggs was drafted in the 32nd round of the 2015 MLB Draft and Cody went 72nd overall in the second round. UK is the only team to return two senior weekend starters from the MLB Draft in the nation.

DRAFT HISTORY
Kentucky has had a program-record 44 players drafted or sign a professional contract in the eight years of the UK head coach Gary Henderson era. Since 2004, when Henderson arrived in Lexington, Kentucky has had 64 players drafted or sign a professional contract, including 21 in the first-10 rounds. The Wildcats have had at least four players selected in the MLB Draft in each year under Henderson, a program record.

HENDERSON WITH TEAM USA
Kentucky coach Gary Henderson served as the pitching coach on the USA Collegiate National Team over the summer, helping lead the Americans to series wins over Cuba and Taiwan. Henderson helped Team USA throw the first no-hitter ever allowed by Cuba in international play early in the summer, using Missouri’s Tanner Houck, Florida’s A.J. Puk, and Texas A&M’s Ryan Hendrix in the combined no-no, with Clemson’s Chris Okey catching.

BICKNELL JOINS KENTUCKY STAFF
Kentucky has added Air Force Recruiting Coordinator Toby Bicknell in the same role with the Wildcats for 2016, after Brad Bohannon joined Auburn’s Butch Thompson in the fall. Bicknell will serve as UK’s recruiting coordinator, and on the field will serve as the outfield defense and first base coach. UK volunteer assistant Keith Vorhoff will move from the first-base coaching duty to third in 2016, with Offensive Coordinator Rick Eckstein working from the dugout, along with Henderson.

2015 Records
Kentucky – 30-25, 14-15 SEC
Wofford – 39-22, 13-10 Southern
George Mason – 23-27-1, 12-12 Atlantic 10
Dayton – 16-38, 5-19 A-10

Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change)
vs. Wofford * Friday, Feb. 19 * 5 p.m.
vs. George Mason * Saturday, Feb. 20 * 12 p.m.
vs. Dayton * Sunday, Feb. 21 * 10 a.m.

Radio (UK Radio Network with Dick Gabriel)
Friday, February 19

  • Fox Sports 1580-AM in Lexington

Saturday, February 20

  • Fox Sports 1580-AM in Lexington

Sunday, February 21

  • Fox Sports 1580-AM in Lexington

Tentative Pitching Matchups (Stats from 2015)
Friday vs. Wofford
Jr., RHP Zack Brown (6-6, 3.48 ERA) vs. RHP Matt Milburn (10-2, 4.25 ERA)
Saturday vs. George Mason
Sr., RHP Dustin Beggs (7-4, 3.65 ERA) vs. TBD
Sunday vs. Dayton
Sr., RHP Kyle Cody (4-4, 4.91 ERA) vs. TBD