No. 23 Baseball Embarks on California Road Swing
SAN DIEGO -- Off to an unbeaten start to the season, the 23rd-ranked Kentucky baseball team will hit the road for a three-game swing, facing off with San Diego State, San Diego and Monmouth Thursday-Saturday in San Diego.
Kentucky (7-0) is off to its third unbeaten start to a season in the last four years, as UK opened the 2007 and 2008 with a school-record 19-0 start. So far in 2010, the Wildcats have posted a series sweep over two-time defending Mid-American Conference champion Bowling Green, in addition to claiming the 2010 Caravelle Resort Invitational in Conway, S.C., posting wins over Virginia Tech, West Virginia and now-No. 8 Coastal Carolina. Tuesday, UK utilized a two-homer and three-hit performance from sophomore third baseman Andy Burns in a 5-2 win over Morehead State.
All three games will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with Dick Gabriel calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the Friday game live on WLAP 630-AM and the Saturday and Sunday game on WGVN 1580-AM. All games will be broadcast live on UKathletics.com.
UK will turn to sophomore right-hander Alex Meyer (2-0, 3.38 ERA) in the first game Thursday against San Diego State. A 6-foot-9, 220-pounder, Meyer has picked up two wins in as many starts, tossing 10.2 innings and striking out 14, while issuing just four walks. San Diego State, coached by Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn, will send All-American Addison Reed (1-1, 3.29 ERA), a right-hander who functioned as the Aztecs closer last season. Reed has made two starts this season, tossing 13.2 innings and allowing only nine hits, while striking out 17.
In the game Saturday, junior southpaw Logan Darnell (1-0, 4.50 ERA) gets the call against San Diego, facing sophomore left-hander Sammy Solis (2-0, 0.82 ERA). In his last start, Darnell tossed six innings to pick up his first win as a starter against Bowling Green State, allowing four runs and striking out a career-high six. Solis has made two starts this season, fanning 10 in 11 innings, allowing only one earned run and scattering nine hits.
Sunday, Kentucky freshman southpaw Taylor Rogers (2-0, 0.66 ERA), will make his third career start against Monmouth senior left-hander Kyle Breese. Rogers, a 6-foot-3, 170-pounder, has made two excellent starts to open his career, including tossing 7.2 shutout inning in his collegiate debut against a hot-hitting West Virginia team. Last season, Breese totaled a 5-3 record and a 7.31 ERA, striking out 43 in 60.1 innings.
The trip to San Diego will mark a homecoming for UK head coach Gary Henderson, who got his undergraduate degree in English and his master’s degree in sports psychology at San Diego State. Henderson pitched for the Aztecs from 1982-84, later serving as an assistant coach, functioning as the head coach of the junior varsity squad in 1988. All told, Henderson spent 14 years as a baseball coach on the west coast. UK assistant coach and offensive guru Brian Green is also returning to the west coast for the weekend. Green served as an assistant coach for San Diego in 2002, also working as an assistant coach at Riverside, Cal Poly-Pomona, Chapman University, Hawaii and most recently, UCLA. As an assistant with San Diego, Green helped lead the Toreros to their first West Coast Conference title in 2002, with USD leading the conference in batting average, runs scored, walks and the fewest strikeouts in the league offensively. Following the year, USD head coach Rich Hill was named West Coast Conference Coach of the Year.
San Diego State (3-6) is coming off a game with UC Riverside Thursday night, suffering a 10-4 setback, after allowing UC Riverside a nine-run inning in the third frame. San Diego State started Craig Rasmussen, who allowed four runs in 2.1 innings of action, suffering his second loss of the year. SDSU leftfielder Brandon Meredith led the way offensively against UC Riverside, totaling four hits – including a homer – and two RBI. Offensively, the Aztecs have been led by Jordan Van Hoosier, who leads the team with a .385 (10-for-26) average. Blair Moore (.370 avg., 5 RBI) and Jomel Torres (.346 avg., HR, 6 RBI) have helped face the lineup. On the mound, SDSU has totaled a 4.33 team ERA, fanning 69 in 79 innings. The Aztecs opened the season suffering a four-game sweep at the hands of No. 22 Oklahoma, also falling to UC Riverside and No. 19 San Diego.
San Diego (4-5) is coming off an 11-4 loss to No. 18 Cal State Fullerton in Fullerton, Calif., Tuesday night. The Toreros jumped out to a three-run lead after the top of the first, but Cal State Fullerton responded with eight runs over the next three innings to claim the win. San Diego has hit for a .272 team average and totaled a 5.35 team ERA. James Meador (.424 avg., 2 HR, 11 RBI) has led the way for the Toreros, with Kalei Hanawahine (.333 avg., 4 RBI), Bryan Haar (.313, 2 HR, 8 RBI), Steven Chatwood (.296 avg., HR, 5 RBI) and Chris Engell (.176 avg., 3 RBI) rounding out the players who have played in all nine games. In the bullpen, Matt Tompson (0-1, 3.38 ERA), leads the team with two saves in 5.1 innings.
Monmouth has yet to open its 2010 season after having its first three games, scheduled with George Mason, cancelled due to weather. Monmouth is coming of a 32-25 season, including a 15-11 finish in the Northeast Conference. Monmouth won the NEC 2009 and participated in the Ole Miss Regional in Oxford, Miss., last season.
Offensively, UK has been led by junior preseason All-American second baseman Chris Bisson, who leads UK in average (.414), at bats (29), hits (12), doubles (two), triples (one), RBI (10), slugging percentage (.759) and stolen-base attempts (five). Seniors Keenan Wiley (.364 avg., HR, 6 RBI), Gunner Glad (.304 avg., 5 RBI) and Marcus Nidiffer (.313 avg.) have helped pace the UK offensive attack that has hit for a .290 average. Burns leads the team with three homers, adding a .269 average, with a double, triple and four RBI. As a team, UK has drawn more walks (31) then it has struck out (30), also getting plunked by 22 pitches and owning a .419 team on-base percentage.
In the bullpen for the Wildcats junior right-hander Matt Little leads the team with three saves in as many opportunities, fanning five in seven innings, totaling a 1.29 ERA and allowing only two hits in seven innings. Braden Kapteyn has added a 1-0 record and a save in two appearances, striking out three in 3.1 innings. As a team, UK owns a 2.71 ERA, striking out 52 in 63 innings.
UK will be meeting the three teams for the first time in program history.