No. 9 Baseball Travels to Face No. 4 Vanderbilt
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Winners of four consecutive series to open Southeastern Conference play, No. 9 Kentucky will face a stiff challenge in a three-game series at No. 4 Vanderbilt, starting with the series lidlifter on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET at Charles Hawkins Field. The series will resume on Saturday at 3 p.m. and conclude on Sunday at 2 p.m.
The three games will be broadcast live on SEC Network + and on the UK Sports Radio Network. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the games live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
The Wildcats will turn to the weekend rotation of junior righty Zack Brown (2-5, 6.39 ERA) on Friday, senior right-hander Dustin Beggs (7-0, 2.40 ERA) on Saturday and senior righty Kyle Cody (3-2, 4.89 ERA) on Sunday. Vanderbilt will counter with redshirt sophomore flame-throwing righty Jordan Sheffield (4-2, 3.47 ERA) on Friday, sophomore right-hander Kyle Wright (4-2, 1.99 ERA) on Saturday and have not yet announced a starter for Sunday. Last week, Vanderbilt started junior right-hander Hayden Stone (0-1, 4.22 ERA) on Sunday.
A native of Seymour, Ind., Brown has made eight weekend-opening starts in 2016, working 43.2 innings, allowing 50 hits and 20 walks, striking out 34. In his career, Brown has a 9-12 record and a 4.63 ERA in 42 games and 27 starts, tossing 165.1 innings, allowing 179 hits, walking 69 and striking out 123. Last week vs. Alabama, Brown worked seven innings in a 3-2 win, allowing six hits and two runs, walking one and striking out three on 85 pitches, allowing a two-run inning for Bama in the third. Last year Brown suffered a loss vs. Vanderbilt and Carson Fulmer, allowing 10 hits and 10 runs in seven innings, with Vandy getting two runs in the seventh and eighth in a 13-3 win. Sheffield has worked in 46.2 innings as a sophomore, allowing only 40 hits and walking 22, striking out 63 with opponents hitting .223. Last week at No. 15 LSU, Sheffield worked three innings, allowing seven hits and nine runs – seven earned – walking two and striking out three.
Beggs, a native of Roswell, Ga., has worked 56.1 innings, allowing 39 hits and eight walks, striking out 53. In his two-year career, Beggs has a 14-4 record and a 3.18 ERA in 22 starts, working 150 innings, allowing 121 hits and 28 walks, striking out 128. On Saturday vs. Alabama, Beggs saw his program record streak of seven consecutive starts with wins to open the year snapped in a no-decision. He worked seven shutout innings, allowing only four hits and an unearned run, walking one and striking out 10 on 101 pitches, allowing a game-tying run on an error in the third, with UK winning the game on a walk-off grand slam in the ninth. Last year vs. Vandy, Beggs worked 8.1 innings in a 11-5 UK win. He allowed seven hits and three runs, walking one and striking out a career-high 12. He started the ninth inning in search of a complete-game shutout with an 11-0 lead. Wright has tossed 40.2 innings, allowing 38 hits and 14 walks, striking out 47. Last week vs. No. 15 LSU at Alex Box Stadium, Wright worked seven innings in a duel with Alex Lange, allowing seven hits and three runs, walking three and striking out seven.
A native of Chippewa Falls, Wis., Cody has worked in 42.1 innings, allowing 40 hits and 18 walks, striking out 37. In his career, Cody has a 14-9 record and a 4.50 ERA in 55 games and 36 starts, saving five games in 204 innings, walking 68 and striking out 167. On Sunday vs. Alabama, Cody suffered a hard-luck loss in a quality start, allowing two runs – one earned – in 7.1 innings, allowing four hits and two walks, striking out three on 94 pitches. Last year vs. Vandy, Cody fired 5.2 strong innings in a no-decision, allowing six hits and three runs, walking three and striking out eight on 108 pitches. As a freshman, Cody worked six innings vs. Vandy in Lexington, allowing three runs on eight hits in a hard-luck loss. He earned a one-inning save in his lone appearance vs. Vandy in 2014. Last week, Vandy started Hayden Stone vs. No. 15 LSU in the finale, with Stone working three innings, allowing three runs on five hits and a walk, striking out three. Stone has appeared in 10 games with three starts and three saves, owning a 0-1 record and a 4.22 ERA in 21.1 innings, allowing 15 hits and 13 walks, striking out 24.
Kentucky (22-10, 8-4 SEC) is coming off a 9-6 loss to No. 6 Louisville in the first of a two-game midweek series with the Cardinals. UofL plated the first seven runs of the game through the first five innings to build an early lead, before UK fought back to cut it to a one-run game heading to the ninth inning. UK senior Dorian Hairston belted a two-run homer off Louisville star righty Zack Burdi in the eighth inning, before the Cards plated two runs in the top of the ninth to stretch their lead and secure the win.
Last week, the Wildcats opened up with a rain-out of its Wednesday midweek tilt with No. 4 Louisville, waiting until Friday to return to the diamond. UK posted a 3-2 win over Alabama on Friday in the series opener, behind a strong start from Zack Brown, a game-winning double from JaVon Shelby and a save from Sean Hjelle. UK then clinched the series on Saturday behind Dustin Beggs, who despite not allowing an earned run, took a no-decision as UK won in the bottom of the ninth inning on a walk-off grand slam from Riley Mahan, 6-2. Alabama then got a strong start from Nick Eicholtz to post a 2-1 win over UK in the finale, Kyle Cody turning in 7.1 innings, allowing just one earned run.
UK has hit .293/.376/.445 as a team through 32 games, scoring 321 runs, ripping 60 doubles, seven triples and 31 homers, stealing 31 bases. Defensively, UK has fielded .969, turning 20 double plays and nabbing eight runners stealing. On the mound, UK has a 3.90 team ERA in 286 innings, allowing 259 hits and 104 walks, striking out 256 and holding opponents to a .237 average.
At the plate, UK has been paced by junior OF Zach Reks, who has hit .365 with three doubles, one homer and eight RBI. Sophomore 1B Evan White has batted .360 with nine doubles, two triples, two homers and 28 RBI, stealing nine bases. Junior DH Gunnar McNeill has hit .357 with seven doubles, fiv homers and 33 RBI and sophomore SS Riley Mahan has hit .321 with six doubles, two triples, four homers and 22 RBI, stealing five bases. Sophomore 2B Luke Becker has hit .290 with seven doubles, one homer and 11 RBI, stealing three bases. Freshman OF Tristan Pompey has hit .262 with five doubles, one triple, four homers and 22 RBI. Freshman C Kole Cottam owns a .255 average with three doubles, one homer and 12 RBI. Junior CF Storm Wilson sports a .381 on-base percentage, hitting .248 with nine doubles, one homer and seven RBI. Junior 3B JaVon Shelby has hit .243 with eight doubles, two triples and six homers, driving in 19 runs.
In relief for UK, senior righty Zach Strecker (2-0, 0.42 ERA) has appeared in a team-leading 13 games. Freshman righty Justin Lewis (2-0, 0.41 ERA) has four saves in 11 games and freshman right-hander Sean Hjelle (2-0, 0.82 ERA) leads the team with five saves. Lefties Logan Salow (1-0, 3.00 ERA), Zach Logue (1-1, 3.86 ERA), Dylan Dwyer (2-0, 6.00 ERA), Daniel Tillo (0-0, 6.00 ERA) and Brad Schaenzer (0-1, 6.14 ERA) have each appeared in at least seven games in relief. Zach Pop (0-1, 5.59 ERA) has worked in eight games with 15 strikeouts in 19.1 innings.
Vanderbilt (26-7, 7-5 SEC) is coming off a 7-4 midweek win over Middle Tennessee State on Tuesday, opening up the game with a four-run fourth inning. Last weekend, LSU won the series vs. Vanderbilt in Baton Rouge, with the Dores winning the finale, 9-7 with five runs over the seventh and eighth innings.
The Commodores have hit .290/.394/.433 as a team through 33 games, scoring 261 runs, with 62 doubles, 14 triples, 24 homers and stealing 51 bases. Defensively, Vandy has fielded .975, turning 26 double plays and throwing out 15 would-be basestealers. On the mound, Vandy has a 3.15 team ERA in 300 innings, with 13 saves, allowing 246 hits and 116 walks, striking out 345.
At the plate for the Dores, sophomore OF Jeren Kendall has hit .351 with nine doubles, two triples, six homers and 37 RBI, stealing 18-of-24 bases. Ethan Paul has hit .345 with five doubles, two triples, two homers and 19 RBI. Junior OF Bryan Reynolds has hit .333 with 10 doubles, two triples, eight homers and 36 RBI, with IF Tyler Campbell hitting .290 with one double, two triples, one homer and 27 RBI, stealing five bases. Alonzo Jones has hit .287 with eight doubles, two triples, one homer and 27 RBI, stealing eight bases. Catcher Jason Delay has hit .275 with seven doubles and 22 RBI and junior OF Ro Coleman has a .255 average with two doubles, one triple, one homer and 11 RBI. 1B Kyle Smith has hit .250 with two doubles, three homers and 11 RBI. Sophomore 3B Will Toffey has hit .224 with five doubles and 12 RBI, drawing 37 walks for a .426 on-base percentage.
In relief for Vandy, Matt Ruppenthal (2-1, 2.22 ERA), Collin Snider (2-0, 3.50 ERA), Ryan Johnson (4-0, 4.22 ERA) and Hayden Stone (0-1, 4.22 ERA) each have appeared in double-digit games.
Vanderbilt leads the all-time series with Kentucky, 144-141-5, with Vandy leading 75-62-4 in games played in Nashville. Vanderbilt has won six consecutive meetings in the series, dating back to a series win for the Wildcats in Lexington in 2009. The Commodores last lost a series to UK in Nashville in 2008, with UK last sweeping in 2000 in Nashville. Vanderbilt last swept the Wildcats in Nashville in 2010, also sweeping UK in 2013 during its national-title run.
Kentucky – 22-10, 8-4 SEC
Vanderbilt – 26-7, 7-5 SEC
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change)
Friday, April 15 * at No. 4 Vanderbilt * 7:30 p.m. [SEC Network +]
Saturday, April 16 * at No. 4 Vanderbilt * 3 p.m. [SEC Network +]
Sunday, April 17 * at No. 4 Vanderbilt * 2 p.m. [SEC Network +]
UK Radio Network
WLAP 630-AM [Neil Price]
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday at Vanderbilt
Jr., RHP Zack Brown (2-5, 6.39 ERA) vs. R-So., RHP Jordan Sheffield (4-2, 3.47 ERA)
Saturday at Vanderbilt
Sr., RHP Dustin Beggs (7-0, 2.40 ERA) vs. So., RHP Kyle Wright (4-2, 1.99 ERA)
Sunday at Vanderbilt
Sr., RHP Kyle Cody (3-2, 4.89 ERA) vs. TBA