Baseball Hosts Murray State in Tuesday Tilt
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Winners of five of its last six games, the Kentucky baseball team looks to continue its momentum, hosting Murray State in the final non-conference tune-up before Southeastern Conference play begins, with first pitch on Tuesday set for 4 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (9-7) has posted wins in five of its last six contests, including a series sweep over Niagara last weekend. The Wildcats used dynamic pitching last week to secure four wins during the five¬-game week, posting a 1.40 ERA as a team. Kentucky opened the week with an 8-1 win over Eastern Kentucky, using strong pitching from starter Corey Littrell, who allowed one run in seven innings, before falling on Wednesday vs. Middle Tennessee State after an error allowed six unearned runs to score in the eighth inning.
During the weekend, the Wildcat pitching staff shut down Niagara, holding the Purple Eagles to just three runs scored, including UK getting a complete-game shutout from junior Alex Meyer on Saturday in a 4-0 win. The Wildcats won the opener 9-2 on Friday, before Meyer's dynamic outing on Saturday secured the series. On Sunday, UK rode a strong pitching performance from sophomore Jordan Cooper and strong relief from Mike Kaczmarek to a 2-1 win to sweep the Purple Eagles.
The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WGVN 1580-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky will start Littrell (2-1, 6.32 ERA) in his third career start on Tuesday vs. Murray State. Littrell, who was just named SEC Freshman of the Week earlier on Monday, has appeared in four games with two starts, tossing 15.2 innings with 11 strikeouts. In his award-winning start last Tuesday, Littrell went a career-long seven inning, allowing just three hits and one run, striking out five and throwing 17-of-25 first-pitch strikes and carrying a no-hit bid into the fourth inning. Murray State has yet to announce a starter for Tuesday.
Murray State (8-7) is off to a solid start this season and is coming off three wins in four games vs. IPFW last weekend. The 'Breds have hit .299 as a team through 15 games, with three homers, and totaled a 4.80 ERA on the mound as a team, adding a .952 fielding percentage. Murray State has been led at the plate by Brandon Elliott, who has hit .435 (20-for-46) with five doubles and five RBI through 13 games. Jacob Rhodes has hit .347 (17-for-49) with three doubles and 13 RBI, while Zach Noonan has batted .345 (19-for-55) with five doubles, one triple, two homers and 13 RBI. Travis Issak has also hit .305 (18-for-59) with five doubles, one homer and 13 RBI. In the bullpen for Murray State, Cameron Finch leads the team with seven relief outings, totaling a 0-1 record and a 1.93 ERA with three saves in 14 innings.
UK leads the overall series with Murray State, 11-4, including an 8-1 record in games played in Lexington. The Wildcats have won nine consecutive games in the series and will be meeting Murray State in Lexington for the first time since an 8-5 win during the 2007 campaign.
In the last meeting, UK traveled to Paducah, Ky., hometown of UK junior outfielder Chad Wright, in the final non-conference game of the 2010 season. The Wildcats got a strong starting outing from Joe Devine, who went 5.1 innings and allowed three hits and one run. Logan Darnell picked up the save with the final 1.2 innings in relief. At the plate, UK got two hits from Chris Bisson and two RBI from Taylor Black.
Kentucky has been a well-rounded team in 2011, totaling a .295 batting average and a 3.51 team ERA, fielding at a .978 clip. The Wildcats have been led by centerfielder Brian Adams, who has hit .368 (14-for-38) with five doubles and five RBI. Wright has hit .351 (20-for-57) with six doubles, two homers and 14 RBI, stealing 9-of-10 bases. Braden Kapteyn has batted .316 (18-for-57) with four doubles, one triple, two homers and 12 RBI, while freshman J.T. Riddle has hit .310 (9-for-29) with four doubles.
The Wildcats check throughout the SEC stats, ranking second in the league in doubles (41), third in home runs (11), second in hit batters (29) and first in sacrifice bunts (24). On the mound, UK ranks fourth in strikeouts (137) and first in looking strikeouts (56), picking off the third-most runners in the league (six). With a .978 fielding percentage, UK ranks third-best in the SEC and with 10 runners caught stealing check in second best in the league.
Individually, Wright ranked 10th in the league in on-base percentage (.472), while Thomas McCarthy ranked third in the SEC in doubles (eight) and Taylor Black ranks third in the league in triples (two). Michael Williams leads UK with three homers, ranking fifth-best in the league and Kapteyn leads the SEC with eight hit by pitches. Wright also ranks third in stolen bases (nine). On the mound, Meyer leads the conference in strikeouts (39) and strikeouts looking (19), also ranking eighth in opponent batting average (.184) and third in innings pitched (27.2). Taylor Rogers checks in 10th in the league in innings pitched (25.1), while Kaczmarek ranks eighth in the league with two saves. Defensively, Black ranks fourth in the league in assists (48), with Williams throwing out seven runners attempting to steal, second-best in the league.