Baseball Opens SEC Play at No. 6 South Carolina
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Kentucky baseball team will open Southeastern Conference play with a three-game series at No. 6 South Carolina, with first pitch in the series opener on Friday at Carolina Stadium slated for 7 p.m. Saturday's game is scheduled for a 4 p.m. first pitch and the series will conclude on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at Carolina Stadium.
The three games will be broadcast live on SEC Network+ and WatchESPN. The games will also be broadcast live on the UK Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the games live on Fox Sports 1580-AM or online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky (13-3) enters the SEC opener riding an 11 game winning streak, tied for the sixth-longest in program history and the longest for the Wildcats since a record 22-game stretch in 2012. UK posted a 9-1 win at Cincinnati on Wednesday in its midweek test after rain forced the home game with UC to be rescheduled into a road tilt a day later. UK posted a five-game sweep in its first home week, including wins over Murray State and Northern Kentucky last week. UK opened up the year on the longest road stretch for the program since 2001 after its home-opening week was canceled and forced UK to travel to Port Charlotte, Fla., for an impromptu four games.
UK will turn to the pitching rotation of sophomore right-hander Zack Brown (1-1, 1.74 ERA) on Friday night in the series opener, on Saturday junior right-hander Dustin Beggs (2-1, 2.59 ERA) and junior righty Kyle Cody (2-1, 3.43 ERA) in the finale on Sunday. The Gamecocks will counter on Friday with sophomore flamethrower Wil Crowe (2-1, 3.47 ERA), junior southpaw Jack Wynkoop (3-1, 2.00 ERA) on Saturday and freshman right-handed talent Clark Schmidt (2-0, 2.35 ERA) on Sunday.
A native of Seymour, Ind., Brown is coming off one of the best start in recent UK history, hurling a complete-game shutout on Saturday in a win over Northern Kentucky. He scattered only two hits, didn't issue a walk and struck out a career-best 11. On the year, Brown has appeared in four games with three starts, tossing 20.2 innings, allowing only 14 hits and five walks, striking out 23. In his two-year career, Brown has worked in 23 games with eight starts, totaling 49.1 innings, with 16 walks and 41 strikeouts. Crowe has worked in 23.1 innings in 2015, allowing 24 hits and seven walks, striking out 31.
Beggs, a native of Roswell, Ga., has started four weekend games for UK in his NCAA debut season. A 17th round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2014 MLB Draft, Beggs has worked a team-leading 24.1 innings, walking only three and striking out 20. Beggs, who led all of junior college baseball in strikeouts last season, is coming off his second quality start of the year on Saturday vs. Northern Kentucky, firing seven innings, allowing three runs on five hits and a walk, striking out eight on 76 pitches. Wynkoop has worked a team-leading 27 innings in 2015, allowing only 19 hits and five walks, striking out 23.
Cody, a 6-foot-7, 245-pound native of Chippewa Falls, Wis., will be making his fifth start of the year on Saturday vs. USC. Cody has worked 21 innings, allowing 14 hits and three walks, striking out a team-best 26. In his last start on Saturday vs. Northern Kentucky, Cody worked seven strong innings, allowing just one run on four hits, not issuing a walk and striking out eight. This outing came a week after Cody earned SEC Co-Pitcher of the Week honors after working seven no-hit innings. In his three-year career, Cody has appeared in 37 games and started a team-leading 20, owning a 9-4 record and a 3.94 ERA, with five saves in 116 innings, striking out 93. Schmidt has appeared in six games with one start in 2015, working 15.1 innings, allowing 18 hits and only two walks, striking out 14.
The Wildcats have hit .312 as a team in 2015, with a .408 slugging and a .394 on-base percentage. UK has belted 26 doubles, four triples and seven homers in 16 games, scoring 101 runs. On the mound, UK has a 3.21 team ERA in 146 innings, walking 48 and striking out 144, holding opponents to a .228 average. Defensively, UK has fielded .968 as a team, turning 14 double plays and allowing 18 steals.
At the plate, UK has been paced by junior leftfielder Ka'ai Tom, who is coming off the second cycle in program history on Wednesday in a win at Cincinnati. Tom has hit .450 with five doubles, one triple, one homer and 19 RBI, stealing four bases in 2014. Catcher Zach Arnold has hit .375 with four doubles, with centerfielder Kyle Barrett sporting a .383 average with five doubles and three steals. First baseman Evan White has a .340 mark with a double, homer and nine RBI, with infielder Riley Mahan owning a .326 average with three doubles, one triple and six RBI. Shortstop Connor Heady has hit .324 with a homer and three RBI, with third baseman Thomas Bernal batting .313 with five doubles and 15 RBI. Second baseman JaVon Shelby owns a .305 average with two doubles, one triple, two homers and 13 RBI. Outfielder Storm Wilson has hit .222 with a triple, three RBI and five steals. Catcher Greg Fettes has launched two homers and driven in nine runs.
In the bullpen for the Wildcats, senior righty Andrew Nelson (2-0, 3.00 ERA) and junior righty Zach Strecker (1-0, 5.14 ERA) lead the team with seven appearances each. Senior right-hander Spencer Jack (0-0, 7.36 ERA) has a team-best two saves, joining Nelson and sophomore southpaw Logan Salow (1-0, 6.23 ERA) as players with saves. Dylan Dwyer (2-0, 0.00 ERA), Brad Schaenzer (0-0, 0.75 ERA), Zack Logue (1-0, 1.59 ERA), Robert Zeigler (1-0, 5.91 ERA) and Zach Pop (0-0, 16.20 ERA) have each appeared in at least three games.
South Carolina (14-3) enters its SEC opener having won seven consecutive games, including a three-game sweep of Miami (Ohio), a two-game midweek sweep over Penn State and wins over Charleston Southern and High Point.
The Gamecocks have hit .274 as a team in 2015, with 18 doubles, one triple, 13 homers and 104 runs scored in 17 games. USC has a .385 slugging and a .377 on-base percentage, stealing 20 bases. On the mound, USC has a sparkling 2.19 team ERA in 152 innings, walking only 51 and striking out 146. Defensively, USC has fielded .970, turning 18 double plays and allowing 12 steals.
Individually, USC has been led at the plate by first baseman Kyle Martin, who has three doubles, three homers and 18 RBI to complement his team-best .368 average. Two-way star Alex Destino - the preseason SEC Freshman of the Year by Baseball America - has hit .358 with three homers and 17 RBI. Outfielder Elliott Caldwell has a .356 average with eight RBI, with outfielder Gene Cone batting .351 with a homer and three RBI and shortstop Jordan Gore sporting a .309 mark with 11 RBI. Second baseman Marcus Mooney has a .250 average and Max Schrock has hit .241 with two homers and 12 RBI, leading the team with a 17-2 walk-strikeout ratio.
In the bullpen for USC, lefty Vince Fiori (2-0, 0.69 ERA) has appeared in a team-high eight games in relief, with a save in 13 innings. Taylor Widener (0-0, 1.17 ERA) has five saves with 15 strikeouts and only two hits allowed in 7.2 innings. Reede Scott (0-0, 2.13 ERA), John Parke (1-0, 0.00 ERA), Brandon Murray (1-0, 1.69 ERA) and Josh Reagan (1-1, 2.79 ERA) have each appeared in at least four games.
South Carolina leads the all-time series, 45-34, including a 26-10 all-time mark in games played in Columbia, S.C. The Wildcats are looking for their first win in Carolina Stadium history and its first at South Carolina since 2008, when Marcus Nidiffer belted a grand slam to highlight a 15-3 win. UK's last series win at South Carolina came when the Wildcats swept the Gamecocks in 1999 at historic Sarge Frye Field. The Wildcats have won the last three series meetings in Lexington between the two schools.
In the last meeting in the series, UK posted a series win over the top-ranked Gamecocks in 2014, with UK ranked as high as No. 27. UK opened the series with a 13-5 win behind eight strong innings from AJ Reed, who allowed three earned runs in his fourth win of the year. UK got homers from Michael Thomas and JaVon Shelby as the Wildcats jumped out to a 10-1 lead after three and a 13-1 lead after five innings. UK got three hits from Thomas Bernal in the win, with USC starter Jordan Montgomery allowing 10 hits and nine runs in two innings. The Wildcats then clinched the series with a 2-1 win in the second game, getting 7.1 innings from starter Chandler Shepherd and the fifth homer of the year from Micheal Thomas. UK used Kyle Cody in relief after a three-week absence due to minor injury, with Cody limited to a fastball only role as he rehabilitated, getting three outs an d allowing a hit. Spencer Jack came on in relief in the ninth inning with the tying run on third base and one out, getting a strikeout to set the stage for Logan Salow to pick up the final save by getting Max Schrock to ground out to JaVon Shelby. South Carolina starter Jack Wynkoop turned in seven innings, allowing just five hits and two runs, walking one and striking out nine. USC posted an 8-3 win in the series finale, getting a quality start from Wil Crowe, who allowed just three runs in six innings, with Joel Seddon working 2.1 perfect innings in relief for the save. UK starter Andrew Nelson tossed 5.1 innings, allowing four earned runs, walking two and striking out five. UK was limited to five hits, including a late RBI knock from Marcus Carson.
In the last meeting in South Carolina, the Gamecocks swept the Wildcats in a doubleheader on Saturday after Friday was rained out, before posted a sweep clinching win on Sunday. In the opener of the twinbill, Nolan Belcher outdueled AJ Reed, with Belcher working 7.2 innings, allowing six hits and two runs. Reed worked 5.1 innings, allowing nine hits and three earned runs. UK got a homer from Zac Zellers as part of a two-run rally in the sixth to take the lead, before homers in the bottom of the frame from Joey Pankake and LB Dantzler sparked five unanswered runs to lift USC to a win, with Adam Westmoreland working the final four outs for the save. The two teams squared off in an extra-inning thriller in the nightcap, with USC posted a 7-6 win in the bottom of the 11th inning. Jordan Montgomery worked 5.2 innings in the start for USC, allowing four hits and two earned runs, striking out seven. UK got homers from Reed and Greg Fettes, with USC getting a homer from Max Schrock. After USC took a 5-1 lead into the top of the sixth inning, UK rallied to take a 6-5 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning. With the tying run on third and two outs, UK turned to record-setting closer Trevor Gott, who surrendered the game-tying RBI single and set up extra innings. Gott worked the final 2.2 innings, with Brison Celek's RBI single in the 11th inning walking off the win for USC. UK starter Jerad Grundy tossed five innings, allowing nine hits and four runs. Chandler Shepherd worked 2.2 innings in relief, allowing one hit and one unearned run. USC swept the series on Sunday with a 3-1 win, with Jack Wynkoop outdueling Corey Littrell, with USC plating two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth for the advantage. Littrell worked 7.2 innings, allowing five hits and three runs. Wynkoop allowed nine hits and one unearned run, not issuing and walk and striking out three. Dantzler belted his 12th homer of the year in the win, with Tyler Webb notching the save, his 12th of the year.
Kentucky - 13-3, 0-0 SEC
South Carolina - 14-3, 0-0 SEC
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change)
at No. 6 South Carolina * Friday, March 13 * 7 p.m.
at No. 6 South Carolina * Saturday, March 14 * 4 p.m.
at No. 6 South Carolina * Sunday, March 15 * 1:30 p.m.
Radio and Television
Friday, March 13
- Fox Sports 1580-AM in Lexington
- SEC Network+
Saturday, March 14
- Fox Sports 1580-AM in Lexington
- SEC Network+
Sunday, March 15
- Fox Sports 1580-AM in Lexington
- SEC Network+
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday at South Carolina
So., RHP Zack Brown (1-1, 1.74 ERA) vs. So., RHP Wil Crowe (2-1, 3.47 ERA)
Saturday at South Carolina
Jr., RHP Dustin Beggs (2-1, 2.59 ERA) vs. Jr., LHP Jack Wynkoop (3-1, 2.00 ERA)
Saturday at South Carolina
Jr., RHP Kyle Cody (2-1, 3.43 ERA) vs. Fr., RHP Clarke Schmidt (2-0, 2.35 ERA)