No. 16 Baseball Hosts 2-time NCAA Champs, No. 2 S. Carolina
March 15, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Off to a 18-0 start to the season and sitting just one win shy of the school record, No. 16 Kentucky opens up Southeastern Conference play with the two-time defending NCAA Champions, No. 2 South Carolina. UK will host the Gamecocks in a three-game series at Cliff Hagan Stadium, starting Friday at 7 p.m. ET, Saturday at 2 p.m. ET and Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
The 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 on Friday and Sunday live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. On Saturday, the game will be found on WGVN 1580-AM in Lexington. The Friday game will be televised live on CSS, with Matt Stewart and former Tennessee great Rusty Ensor calling the game. On Sunday, the game will be televised live on Fox Sports South, with Andy Demetra and Larry Conley calling the finale.
Kentucky (18-0) enters the SEC lidlifter riding the second-longest winning streak and second-best start to a season in program history, sitting just one win shy of equaling the start the 2007 and 2008 team's opened its seasons with. UK's 18-0 record is the best in the NCAA, with the Wildcats the lone unbeaten team in college baseball. UK's 18 consecutive wins is the longest winning streak in college baseball.
The Wildcats will send their regular weekend rotation to the mound against the Gamecocks, with junior southpaw Taylor Rogers (4-0, 4.24 ERA) set to face off with South Carolina All-America and College World Series hero, senior southpaw Michael Roth (2-0, 0.93). On Saturday, UK junior lefty Jerad Grundy (3-0, 2.25 ERA) will make his SEC debut against USC junior righty Matt Price (2-0, 3.10 ERA), a consensus preseason All-America selection. On Sunday, UK sophomore southpaw Corey Littrell (2-0, 1.88 ERA) will face off with South Carolina's junior righty Colby Holmes (3-0, 0.93 ERA).
A native of Littleton, Colo., Rogers will be making his 32nd career start on Friday, with 31 coming in conference play. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound lefty has made four starts in 2012, posting a league-leading 33 strikeouts and just six walks in 23.1 innings. In his last start, Rogers Worked 6.1 innings in a win over Canisius, allowing five runs and striking out five, with three of his earned runs coming after he exited the game in the seventh, with UK trying to extend his pitch count in preparation of conference play. One of the most decorated players in the history of college baseball, Roth will make his fifth start of the year vs. UK on Friday. The lefty has tossed 29 innings, allowing only 14 hits and five walks, striking out 30, with opponents bating .140. In his last start, Roth tossed a gem, going just one out shy of a complete game shutout, with 8.2 innings pitched in a 2-1 win over Princeton, fanning 10 without a walk allowed.
Saturday, Grundy will make his fifth start of the year for the Wildcats. The former Miami (Fla.) and Heartland CC transfer has hurled 24 innings in 2012, allowing 15 hits and seven walks, striking out 23. Opponents have hit .180 off Grundy. In his last two starts, Grundy has been dominating, going 2-0 with a 0.63 ERA, tossing 14.1 innings, with only six hits and two walks allowed, striking out 16. Last Saturday, Grundy worked a career-long 7.1 innings, allowing only three hits and no runs, walking two with seven punchouts. USC will send the former top reliever in college baseball, Price, to the mound on Saturday. He has converted to the starting role in 2012 and has made four starts. Price has tossed 20.1 innings, allowing only 10 hits and seven walks, striking out 27. In Price's last start vs. Princeton on Saturday, the righty went six innings, allowing four hits and one run, walking one and striking out six in 106 pitches.
In the finale, UK will send Littrell to the bump for his fifth start of 2012. A native of Louisville, Ky., Littrell owns a staff-best 1.88 ERA, hurling 24 innings, with 17 hits and six walks allowed, striking out 28. Opponents are hitting Littrell at a .210 clip. In his last start, Littrell worked five innings, allowing one run in his final frame of work. He surrendered six hits and two walks, striking out eight in a no decision. Holmes, a veteran righty, will start for the fifth time for the Gamecocks in 2012. He has tossed 19.1 innings, allowing 15 hit and seven walks, striking out 22. Holmes is coming off five shutout innings in a win over Princeton, allowing only four hits and one walk, striking out six in 83 pitches.
The Wildcats have been paced by the most potent offensive attack in the circuit, batting .343 as a team with 19 homers in 18 games. On the mound, UK has a 3.00 ERA, leading the NCAA in strikeouts per nine innings pitched with 178 strikeouts in 162 innings. Defensively, UK's .978 fielding mark ranks among the top three in the loop, with shortstop Matt Reida helping anchor the middle infield with the second-most assists in the league.
Individually, outfielder Cameron Flynn has emerged as a leading hitter, batting .439 with four doubles, six homers and 16 RBI. Freshman centerfielder Austin Cousino has batted .395 at the top of the order, with eight doubles, one triple, one homer and 14 RBI, stealing four bases. Outfielder Zac Zellers owns a .383 average with five doubles, one triple, three homers and 10 RBI. Slugger A.J. Reed has hit .373 in his first collegiate season, with six doubles, two homers and 26 RBI. Catcher Luke Maile owns a .359 average with five doubles, three homers and 21 RBI, with outfielder Lucas Witt adding a .351 average with a double and eight RBI. Second baseman J.T. Riddle has hit .339 with three doubles and 13 RBI.
In the bullpen, right-hander Trevor Gott (1-0, 2.70 ERA) leads UK with three saves in eight relief outings. Right-hander Tim Peterson (1-0, 0.96 ERA) has appeared in a staff-best nine games with 13 strikeouts in 9.1 innings. Senior lefty Alex Phillips (2-0, 2.40 Era) has pitched in eight games with 16 strikeouts in 15 innings, while Reed (3-0, 2.04 ERA) has fanned 16 in 17.2 frames. Lefty Sam Mahar (0-0, 2.14 ERA) righty Chris Garrison (0-0, 6.75 ERA), right-hander Walter Wijas (1-0, 7.56 ERA) and southpaw Jeff Boehm (0-0, 6.75 ERA) play a prominent role in the bullpen.
South Carolina (15-1) enters the series having claimed back-to-back NCAA titles under the leadership of head coach Ray Tanner and the heroics of standouts like Roth, Price and first baseman Christian Walker. Through 2012, the second-ranked Cocks have suffered only one loss, in the series finale at Clemson on March 5, winning 13 consecutive home games to open the year. The Gamecocks are paced by an eye-popping pitching staff, with a 1.73 team ERA, striking out 162 in 145.1 innings pitched, with 10 saves. Offensively, USC has hit .280 as a club, with 84 runs scored in 16 games, belting 11 homers and stealing eight bases, with the defense contributing a .977 fielding mark.
Individually, Walker - the preseason All-America slugger - has hit .345 with four doubles, one homer and 16 RBI. Outfielder Evan Marzilli owns a .323 average with seven doubles, one triple and eight RBI, swiping six bases. Kyle Martin has hit .419 in 12 games with a homer and three RBI, while newcomers Tanner English, LB Dantzler, Grayson Greiner and Joey Pankake are all everyday contributors.
In the bullpen, righty Forrest Koumas (1-1, 2.79) has emerged as the closer with three saves and 11 strikeouts in eight relief outings. Tyler Webb (2-0, 0.00 ERA) has a save in a team-best nine relief outings, striking out 17 in 13.2 frames. Nolan Belcher (1-0, 1.80 ERA) has appeared in six games with two saves, striking out six in five innings. Ethan Carter (1-0, 0.00 ERA) has fanned 10 with only three hits allowed in 10 innings.
The Gamecocks lead the overall series between the two teams 41-29, with the Wildcats leading the series in Lexington, 17-14.
In the meeting last year, South Carolina came away with the series sweep in three electric atmospheres in Columbia, S.C. In the opener, UK fell 3-1, as Alex Meyer and Roth dueled through eight innings. Meyer was the tough-luck loser, with Roth going eight innings with only one run allowed and six strikeouts and Meyer fanning eight over the complete game. Price came on to record the save in the ninth and seal the opening win. UK got four hits, coming from Chad Wright, McCarthy, Braden Kapteyn and Brian Adams. On Saturday, in front of a sold-out 8,242, Littrell made his SEC debut on the mound for UK, tossing six strong innings with two runs allowed. Holmes started for South Carolina as Koumas battled an allergic reaction. Holmes went five innings, allowing two runs with four strikeouts, with Price again finishing off the game with two shutout frames in the 4-3 win. Carolina plated the winning and walk-off run in the bottom of the 10th inning. Adrian Morales led off the bottom of the 10th with a pop up that dropped in shallow centerfield for a double, with USC walking off with the win. Witt led UK at the plate in the Saturday game with two hits while batting leadoff. In the series finale, Koumas returned to the mound with 6.1 shutout innings for USC, while Rogers worked 6.1 innings and allowed only two earned runs in a 4-1 loss. UK got two hits from Williams, with Riddle and Maile also collecting knocks. Overall, UK's pitching staff held South Carolina in check with a 3.20 ERA during the series, with the UK bats batting .181 as a club.
In the last meeting between the two teams in Lexington, UK won the series with wins on Saturday and Sunday late in the conference season. UK suffered a 13-9 loss in the opener to SC and ace Blake Cooper, with Price saving the game. On Saturday Jordan Cooper turned in one of his best career outings in a 2-1 win over the Gamecocks to even the series. UK won the finale and the series with a gusty Meyer performance on Sunday, with the righty making his return from mononucleosis in the start, tossing seven innings without an earned run allowed.
Kentucky - 18-0, 0-0 SEC
South Carolina - 15-1, 0-0 SEC
Kentucky: No. 16 (Collegiate Baseball), No. 20 (USA Today/ESPN coaches), No. 24 (NCBWA)
South Carolina: No. 2 (Collegiate Baseball), No. 3 (Baseball America, USA Today/ESPN, NCBWA)
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) -- Lexington, Ky.
Friday, March 16 * vs. No. 2 South Carolina * 7 p.m. ET
Saturday, March 17 * vs. No. 2 South Carolina * 2 p.m. ET
Sunday, March 18 * vs. No. 2 South Carolina * 1 p.m. ET
Radio (UK IMG Radio Network with Dick Gabriel)
Friday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Saturday: WGVN 1580-AM in Lexington
Sunday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Friday: CSS with Matt Stewart and Rusty Ensor
Sunday: Fox Sports South with Andy Demetra and Larry Conley (Insight-Lexington channel 52)
Cliff Dwellers: Be sure to register at the gazebo to earn your way towards an official Cliff Dweller T-Shirt. Attend any four SEC home games and get a white version, eight games for the blue version and 12 games for the black version.
Ice Cream Sundaes: Fans can enjoy Ice Cream Sundaes at the ballpark on Sunday.
Autograph Sunday: Fans can take part in SEC Autograph Sunday's following the series finale on Sunday.
Inflatable Games: Weather permitting, kids can enjoy the inflatable games down the third-base line.
Live video, audio and stats on UKathletics.com
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday vs. South Carolina
Jr., LHP Taylor Rogers (4-0, 4.24 ERA) vs. Sr., LHP Michael Roth (2-0, 0.93 ERA)
Saturday vs. South Carolina
Jr., LHP Jerad Grundy (2-0, 2.25 ERA) vs. Jr., RHP Matt Price (2-0, 3.10 ERA)
Sunday vs. South Carolina
So., LHP Corey Littrell (2-0, 1.88 ERA) vs. Jr., RHP Colby Holmes (3-0, 0.93 ERA)
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 brand-new 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 will be 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