No. 22 Baseball Hosts Ball State in Final Non-SEC Weekend
March 6, 2014
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Winners of nine consecutive games, No. 22 Kentucky will host Ball State in the final three-game non-conference weekend series of the 2014 regular season, with first pitch of the series opener slated for 4 p.m. ET on Friday at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The series will resume on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET and conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
All three games will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with Dick Gabriel voicing the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the games live on WWTF 1580-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky (11-2) enters the final non-league weekend of the year riding a nine-game winning streak, emerging on Monday as a consensus top-25 team, ranking No. 22 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers and Perfect Game, and No. 23 by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball.
The Wildcats are coming off a midweek doubleheader sweep over Cincinnati on Wednesday, getting a 7-0 win in the opener and an 11-4 win in the finale. UK got the first complete-game shutout in a midweek game in the UK modern-era (2003-present) from sophomore Dylan Dwyer in the opener, before UK got a three-RBI game from A.J. Reed and three hits from Austin Cousino. Last week, UK posted a three-game sweep of Eastern Michigan, in its first home weekend of 2014.
UK will turn to the weekend rotation of junior southpaw A.J. Reed (3-0, 1.00 ERA) on Friday to face off with BSU senior righty T.J. Weir (1-1, 5.28 ERA). On Saturday, UK will turn to junior right-hander Chandler Shepherd (2-0, 3.32 ERA) for the start against the 2014 preseason and 2013 Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year, junior right-hander Scott Baker (1-1, 5.14 ERA). On Sunday, UK had not yet announced a starting pitcher, with BSU set to start senior lefty Clay Manering (1-1, 4.08 ERA).
A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed has emerged as the top player in college baseball as a junior, leading the NCAA in homers and RBI at the plate and ranking tied for the league lead in wins on the mound. Reed has worked 18 innings in his three starts, allowing 11 hits and two runs, walking seven and striking out 11, with opponents hitting .172. In his three-year career, Reed has appeared in 33 games with 22 starts, including 17 straight starts in a weekend series opener. A 6-foot-4, 240-pound preseason first-team All-America selection, Reed has a 10-11 record and a 3.16 ERA in his career, working 154 innings, walking 31 and striking out 114. On Friday in an 8-2 win over Eastern Michigan, Reed worked six innings, allowing two hits and four walks, striking out two without allowing a run. Reed held EMU to a 2-for-20 mark at the plate, scattering just two singles. Weir will get the start for BSU on Friday, his fourth start of the year. Weir has worked 15.1 innings, allowing 20 hits and five walks, striking out 17. In 2013, Weir owned a 4-2 record and a 3.90 ERA in 18 games and five starts, saving three games and striking out 50 in 60 innings.
Shepherd, ranked as the 70th-best college prospect available in the preseason by Baseball America, will be making his fourth consecutive weekend start to open 2014. A native of Louisa, Ky., Shepherd has worked a team-high 19 innings in 2014, allowing 17 hits and four walks, striking out 13. In his three-year career, Shepherd has appeared in 47 games with 13 starts, owning a 10-1 record and a 3.31 ERA. In 130.2 innings, Shepherd has walked 37 and struck out 85 in his career. On Saturday in a win over Eastern Michigan, Shepherd worked a career-long eight innings, allowing five hits and three unearned runs, walking one and striking out six. Shepherd allowed just a three-run EMU inning in the third as a UK error allowed all the runs to score. Baker is the preseason and the 2013 Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year after a 12-2 record and a 2.18 ERA a year ago. In 2014, Baker has made three starts, with a 1-1 record and a 5.14 ER, working in 14 innings, allowing 15 hits and six walks, striking out 10.
Manering, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound southpaw, has made three starts for Ball State in 2014, working 17.2 innings, allowing six walks and striking out 12. In 2013, Manering appeared in 22 games in relief, with two saves, a 1-2 record and a 3.98 ERA, tossing 20.1 innings, walking 16 and striking out 13.
UK has hit .323 as a team in 2014, with a .477 slugging and a .436 on-base percentage. The Wildcats have 33 doubles, three triples, 10 homers and 124 runs in 13 games, walking 73 times and striking out 83 times, stealing 28 bases. On the mound, UK has a 2.58 ERA as a team in 115.1 innings, walking 41 and striking out 85. Defensively, UK has a .968 fielding percentage, turning 14 double plays and allowing eight steals.
Individually, UK has been led by third-team preseason All-America centerfielder Austin Cousino, who has hit .446 (25-for-56) with 20 runs, six doubles, two triples, one homer and nine RBI, stealing seven bases. First-team preseason All-America slugger A.J. Reed leads college baseball and the SEC in homers (seven) and RBI (24), hitting .426 (20-for-47) with four doubles, a .541 on-base percentage and a .957 slugging mark. Sophomore Rightfielder Kyle Barrett has hit .333 (19-for-57) with two doubles, one homer and 12 RBI, stealing six bases. Third baseman Max Kuhn has hit .327 (18-for-55) with five doubles, 11 RBI and a steal. Leftfielder Ka’ai Tom has hit .325 (13-for-40) with four doubles, eight RBI and four steals. Catcher Micheal Thomas has hit .303 (10-for-33) with three doubles, seven RBI and a .455 on-base percentage. Shortstop Matt Reida has hit .250 (10-for-40) with three doubles, nine RBI and three steals. Freshmen JaVon Shelby has hit .238 (5-for-21) with a double, homer and four RBI, with Connor Heady hitting .179 (5-for-28), with 11 walks and a .395 on-base percentage.
In the bullpen, UK has been led by a staff-high six appearances from junior righty Spencer Jack (1-0, 0.00 ERA), who has worked 10.1 innings. Freshman Logan Salow (1-0, 0.00 ERA) has worked six innings with nine strikeouts, with sophomore Zach Strecker (0-1, 0.00 ERA) working in four games, along with Andrew Nelson (0-0, 2.45 ERA) and Taylor Martin (0-0, 9.64 ERA). Sophomore Ryne Combs (1-0, 2.16 ERA) has worked in 8.1 high-leverage innings in three games in relief, allowing just three hits.
UK and Ball State have met six times all-time, with the series tied 3-3. UK has won two of the last three in a series that opened in 1985 with a 6-5 BSU win in Lexington.
The last time the two teams met it was in the 2006 NCAA Lexington Regional at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Ball State and UK met in the opener in an electric atmosphere as UK hosted the first ever NCAA Tournament game in Lexington. UK ran into a buzz saw of lefty Ben Snyder, who worked eight innings, allowing four hits and one run, walking two and striking out nine in the win. Kyle Heyne worked a clean inning for the save. UK started Craig Snipp, who worked 7.1 innings, allowing 10 hits and three runs, striking out eight, with Andrew Albers working 1.2 innings to keep UK in the game in relief. UK got a 2-for-3 game from SEC Player of the Year Ryan Strieby. The two teams met in the first of a doubleheader at Cliff Hagan in a NCAA Tournament elimination game, with UK posting a 12-9 win to advance to face College of Charleston in the championship game. UK started Tommy Warner, who worked 1.2 innings, allowing five hits and four runs. Matt Robinson worked six innings for a win, allowing 10 hits and five runs, with Albers working 1.1 shutout innings in relief for his seventh save. UK got a 4-for-5 game from John Shelby, who also hit a homer. UK also got a 4-for-5 game from Ryne Wilkes.
Ball State (9-3) has hit .266 as a team through 12 games, with 19 doubles, one triple, seven homers and 62 runs scored, stealing 11 bases. On the mound, BSU has a 4.33 ERA as a team in 12 games, working 108 innings, walking 47 and striking out 106. Defensively, Ball State has fielded .970, turning seven double plays and allowing five steals. Individually, BSU has been paced by a .423 average from Alex Call. Brandon Estep has hit three homers, with Sean Godfrey hitting two homers and driving in 13 RBI.
A HAWAIIAN WHO FLIES
One of UK’s bright spots in 2014 has been the play of sophomore outfielder Ka’ai Tom, a native of Hawaii. The first Hawaiian born player in program history, Tom has made starts in 11 of UK’s 13 games in leftfield. Tom, who transferred from Fort Scott (Kan.) junior college after an all-America season in 2013, has hit .325 in 12 games, with four doubles, eight RBI and five walks, stealing four bases. In fact, Tom’s first 38 career NCAA at bats came without him striking out.
REED LEADS COLLEGE BASEBALL IN HOMERS, RBI
Junior two-way star A.J. Reed enters the week leading the nation in home runs (seven) and RBI (24) through 13 games. Reed made history with a five-homer stretch in three games at the Old Dominion Tournament, becoming the first player in school history to turn the trick.
Junior A.J. Reed and sophomore Kyle Barrett enter the series with Ball State sporting 15-game hitting streaks. Over the streak, Reed has hit .393 (22-for-56), while Barrett has hit .339 (21-for-62) over his 15-game streak, also reaching base in 31 consecutive games. Austin Cousino also enters the weekend with an eight-game hitting streak, with Ka’ai Tom owning a five-game hitting streak.
FIRST COMPLETE-GAME SHUTOUT IN A MIDWEEK GAME IN UK HISTORY
The Wildcats got a historic start from Dylan Dwyer in a Wednesday win over Cincinnati. Dwyer, a native of Murray, Ky., worked the first complete-game shutout in a midweek game in the modern-era of the Kentucky program (2003-present). Dwyer’s complete-game shutout was the first for UK since Alex Meyer tossed a complete-game shutout vs. No. 1 Vanderbilt in 2011. It marked the first complete-game for a UK pitcher in a midweek game since Greg Dombrowski worked a complete-game and allowed one run in a 2005 win over Murray State.
In his third career start, Dwyer worked a career-long nine innings, scattering three singles and two walks and striking out a career-high eight. He threw 113 pitches, with 65 going for strikes. Dwyer, a native of Murray, Ky., retired 10 consecutive hitters from the second to sixth innings.
“Dylan Dwyer did a good job throwing strikes and only walked two guys and went nine innings,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “He didn’t do a great job of 0-0 strikes, but did a very good job of throwing strikes after that. He threw a really good mix the entire day. (In a midweek doubleheader) You don’t have to go a complete game, but you have to get some innings. It should really help his confidence going forward. He is really talented. It is just a matter of putting it all together. He has to stay poised, repeat his delivery and finish guys off. He did a really good job of that today.”
NINE-GAME WINNING STREAK
Kentucky enters the series with Ball State having won nine consecutive games, the third-best streak in the Southeastern Conference, behind 12-game win streaks for South Carolina and Tennessee to open the year. It marks the longest winning streak for UK since winning 22 consecutive games to open 2012, the longest streak in UK history and the second-longest in SEC annals.
During its nine-game streak, UK has hit .330 as a team, with 20 doubles, three triples, eight homers and 91 runs scored, stealing 18 bases, fielding .979 and owning a 1.44 team ERA, with opponents hitting .204. A.J. Reed leads UK with a .467 average over the streak, with Austin Cousino hitting .447.
REIDA’S STREAK SNAPPED AT 129 STRAIGHT STARTS
UK senior shortstop Matt Reida has hit streak of 129 consecutive starts at shortstop snapped on Wednesday in a midweek doubleheader against Cincinnati. Reida suffered a minor injury during pregame infield/outfield, forcing his removal from the lineup. The streak – the 12th longest in the NCAA at the time – dated back to the season finale in 2011 at Florida and spanned a total of 1,019 days since UK had last started someone not named Reida at shortstop (Taylor Black). UK turned to an all-freshmen middle infield duo, with Connor Heady starting at shortstop and JaVon Shelby starting at second base for the twinbill.
Ball State: 9-3
Kentucky – No. 22 (NCBWA, USA Today, Perfect Game), No. 23 (Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball)
Ball State – not ranked
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) -- Lexington, Ky.
Friday, March 7 * vs. Ball State * 4 p.m.
Saturday, March 8 * vs. Ball State * 2 p.m.
Sunday, March 9 * vs. Ball State * 1 p.m.
Radio (UK IMG Network with Dick Gabriel)
Friday: WWTF 1580-AM in Lexington
Saturday: WWTF 1580-AM in Lexington
Sunday: WWTF 1580-AM in Lexington OR WLAP 630-AM in Central Kentucky
Live video, audio and stats on UKathletics.com
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday vs. Ball State
Jr., LHP/1B A.J. Reed (3-0, 1.00 ERA) vs. Sr., IF/RHP T.J. Weir (1-1, 5.28 ERA)
Saturday vs. Ball State
Jr., RHP Chandler Shepherd (2-0, 3.32 ERA) vs. Jr., RHP Scott Baker (1-1, 5.14 ERA)
Sunday vs. Ball State
TBA vs. Sr., LHP Clay Manering (1-1, 4.08 ERA)
Live video, audio and stats on UKathletics.com
Cliff Hagan Stadium (3,000)
Parking at Cliff Hagan Stadium is FREE.
UK will utilize two lots: the C8 lot behind Shively Sports Center and Parking Structure 7 on the corner of Complex Drive and Jerry Claiborne Way. Both parking lots are only steps away from Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Fans who park in the PS7 lot will be given a parking value card to exit the structure free of charge. Value cards should be picked up at the baseball ticket booth prior to the fifth inning.
Fans should not use the university “R” lots adjacent to the dorms or on the south side of Nutter Training Facility. These lots are patrolled by the university 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Fans that park in these lots may be ticketed or towed. Plenty of parking is available in the C8 and PS7 lots.
SINGLE GAME TICKET PRICES
$5 - General Admission Seating - Adults
$2 - General Admission Seating - Kids/Seniors
SEASON TICKET PRICES
$35 General Admission
$55 Reserved Seating