No. 20 Baseball Hosts No. 19 Ole Miss on SEC Opening Weekend
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After opening up the 2010 season with 14 wins in 17 games, the 20th-ranked Kentucky baseball team opens Southeastern Conference play, hosting No. 19 Ole Miss in a three-game set, beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The two teams will play Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (14-3, 0-0 SEC) has jumped out of the gate strong in 2010, soaring to No. 20 in the nation in the latest USA Today/ESPN Coaches top 25 poll. The Wildcats have had wins at San Diego and No. 8 Coastal Carolina to open the season, posting three-game sweeps over Bowling Green, the defending Mid-American Conference champion, and IPFW. UK has suffered losses at San Diego State and at the hands of Murray State and Evansville in midweek matchups.
UK is coming off an 11-1 win over defending Horizon League champion Wright State Wednesday. The Wildcats used five solid innings from junior right-hander Kyle Jackson in his first career start and hits from eight of nine position starters to post the win. UK’s bullpen tossed four shutout innings in relief of Jackson, who picked up his first career win. UK’s four shutout innings from the bullpen extended Kentucky’s scoreless innings pitched in relief streak to eight full innings, dating back to March 14 against IPFW.
The three games will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price and Dick Gabriel calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the games on Friday and Sunday live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville live on WKJK 1080-AM. Saturday’s game can be heard live in Lexington on WGVN 1580-AM. All three games will be broadcast live on UKathletics.com.
“Ole Miss is going to have one of the best starting pitchers in the country (Drew Pomeranz) and one of the best pitching staffs in the conference,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “They will be extremely tough. They are going to bring a lot of returning position players to Lexington, a group with experience. They are going to have tremendous depth in the pitching staff and they have high-end pitching.”
Friday’s pitching matchup will mark one of the marquee pitching matchups all year in college baseball, as UK will send junior southpaw Logan Darnell (3-0, 2.17 ERA) to the mound to face off with acclaimed Ole Miss southpaw Drew Pomeranz (2-0, 1.54 ERA). Darnell leads the SEC with 29 innings pitched, striking out 23 and allowing 27 hits and a .248 opponent average. Pomeranz, an All-American lefty, has struck out 40 in 23.1 innings, allowing only 17 hits and a .198 opponent average. Last Friday, Darnell went eight innings against IPFW, allowing just one run. Pomeranz hurled 6.1 innings against Louisville last week, striking out 12 and walking three, allowing just three hits and one run.
On Saturday, UK will turn to freshman southpaw Taylor Rogers (3-0, 4.30 ERA) for his first career SEC start, facing off with senior right-hander Aaron Barrett (4-0, 1.80 ERA). Rogers, who was named SEC Freshman of the Week after his first career start, has tossed 23 innings, allowing 26 hits, walking just six and striking out 14. Of his four starts, three have been quality starts, including hurling seven shutout innings in his last start Saturday against IPFW. Barrett has totaled impressive numbers for the Rebels through four starts, winning each game and striking out 30 in 25 innings, allowing only 15 hits and a .190 opponent average. In his Saturday start against Louisville, Barrett went 6.2 innings, allowing three runs, four walks and striking out nine.
Sunday, the Wildcats will turn to sophomore right-hander Alex Meyer (3-2, 7.29 ERA), who leads the team with 26 strikeouts in his 23 innings. Meyer, a 6-foot-9, 220-pounder, has started four games and appeared in five games overall. In his last start, Meyer hurled five innings and allowing one run against IPFW. Ole Miss will counter with junior lefty Matt Tracy (1-1, 3.38 ERA), who has started three games and appeared in five, tossing 21.1 innings and striking out 19. Sunday against UL, Tracy went 4.2 innings, allowing 10 hits and seven runs.
Ole Miss (13-4, 0-0 SEC) is coming off a 17-1 shellacking of Arkansas-Pine Bluff Tuesday and a series loss to No. 8 Louisville in Oxford, Miss., last weekend. The Rebels have hit for a .297 team average and totaled an eye-popping 2.96 ERA on the mound. Offensively, Taylor Hashman has led the team with a .367 (11-for-30) average, adding a homer and nine RBI. Tanner Mathis (.359 avg., 3 2B, 7 RBI), Tim Ferguson (.353 avg., 4 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 11-11 SB), Alex Yarbrough (.353 avg., 11 RBI), Matt Smith (.339 avg., 3 HR, 19 RBI) and Matt Snyder (.333 avg., 3 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI) have provided the offensive firepower for the Rebels. Catcher Taylor Hightower (.319 avg., 4 HR, 17 RBI) leads the team behind the dish, while infielder Zach Miller (.254 avg., 4 2B, HR, 20 RBI) paces the team in RBI, with Miles Hamblin (.235 avg., 2 HR, 17 RBI) and David Phillips (.291 avg., 6 2B, 4 HR, 17 RBI) helping to round out the offensive attack.
In the bullpen, right-hander David Goforth (0-1, 1.08 ERA) leads the team with three saves in seven appearances, fanning five in 8.1 frames. Brett Huber (0-0, 3.21 ERA) has also appeared in seven games, striking out 17 in 14 innings, with Eric Callender (0-0, 2.70 ERA) totaling two saves in six relief appearances.
UK trails the all-time series between the two schools, 36-25, holding a 17-13 lead in games played in Lexington. The Wildcats have lost five consecutive meetings in the series, last posting a series win over Ole Miss in 2008 in Lexington. UK has won two consecutive series in Lexington against Ole Miss, claiming the series in 2006 and 2008, also winning in 2007 in Oxford.
Last season, UK got swept in Oxford, falling 4-3 in a Friday night game in front of 7,977 fans. In the Friday night game, UK got three runs in the third inning and carried a 3-2 entering the bottom of the eighth inning before allowing two go-ahead runs. In the Ole Miss Saturday win, Pomeranz went 6.2 innings and struck out eight, allowing just seven UK hits in a 10-3 Rebels win. In the Sunday game, Ole Miss posted an 8-0 shutout win with Scott Bittle tossing a complete-game shutout, striking out 13 and allowing just three UK hits.
Over the last two seasons, the most memorable game between the two teams came in an epic, late-night matchup at the 2008 SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., a three-hour and 50-minute instant classic. In a game that began at 10:40 p.m. ET and finished well after 2 a.m. ET, UK and Ole Miss battled in a back-and-forth contest, with the lead changing hands or tied nine times over the final six innings. After UK took a 7-6 lead with a run in the top of the ninth inning behind All-American sluggers Sawyer Carroll and Collin Cowgill, UK entered the final half inning needing three outs with the heart of the Ole Miss order coming up to the plate. Senior reliever Andrew Albers started the inning, allowing a first-pitch single into centerfield from Logan Power. The Wildcats turned to right-hander Scott Green to close the game out with the tying run on. The 6-foot-8, 245-pound junior needed three pitches to strike out clean-up hitter Cody Overbeck, getting the slugger to chase on a low breaking ball. Ole Miss outfielder Michael Guerrero, the fifth man in the lineup, got an inside fastball from Green, clocked in the mid-90s with the first pitch, turning on the ball and sending it soaring just inside the leftfield foul pole for the walk-off homer.
The Wildcats have been led offensively by senior centerfielder Keenan Wiley, who paces the team with a .390 (23-for-59) average, adding two homers and 14 RBI, drawing six walks and striking out just three times. Preseason All-American second baseman Chris Bisson has hit .381 (16-for-42) with two homers and 11 RBI, returning this week after missing the previous five games due to injury. Senior Gunner Glad has hit .357 (22-for-59) with four doubles, two homers and 15 RBI, while sophomore Chad Wright leads the team with 16 RBI, adding a .357 (25-for-70) average with two doubles, a triple and two homers. Sophomore Braden Kapteyn leads the team with six doubles, hitting .321 (17-for-53) with a homer and eight RBI, while sophomore Cory Farris has hit three homers and added 10 RBI in nine games. Andy Burns leads the team in homers, hitting four and adding 10 RBI.
In the bullpen, Matt Little leads UK with seven appearances, totaling four saves, a 1-0 record and a 0.59 ERA. Little has struck out 21 in 15.1 innings, allowing only five hits and a .109 opponent average. Kapteyn has added a save in his 6.2 innings, totaling a 0.00 ERA and a 1-0 record, striking out six. Junior right-hander Nick Kennedy has returned from 2009 injury to pitch in two games in relief, totaling a save in 6.2 innings, striking out seven.
UK has several players in the midst of impressive hitting streaks. Burns, a native of Fort Collins, Colo., has hit safely in 13 consecutive games, a career long and the 11th longest active hitting streak in college baseball. Bisson has hit safely in 12 games, dating back to 2009, with his streak ranking as the 12th longest active hitting streak in the NCAA. Wiley, a native of Richmond, Ky., has hit safely in 11 consecutive games, while Kapteyn has added a 10-game streak and Wright a six-game hitting streak.
The Wildcats check in throughout the SEC stats, and as a team rank seventh in the league in batting average (.306), third in on-base percentage (.424), third in home runs (20), leading the conference in stolen bases. On the mound, UK ranks fifth in the league in ERA (3.67) and checks in eighth in fielding percentage (.965), leading the league in chances (707) and assists (226). Individually, Wiley ranks 13th in the SEC in average (.390), with Kapteyn ranking sixth in the league in doubles (six). Burns’ four homers check in seventh most in the conference, while Taylor Black ranks second in the SEC in hit by pitches (10). Junior Neiko Johnson leads the league in steals, swiping 15-of-15 bases. On the mound, Darnell leads the league in innings pitched (29.0), ranking ninth in ERA (2.17) and fourth in batters struck out looking (10). Little ranks second in the league in saves (four) and second in games finished (seven). Defensively, the slick-fielding Black ranks first in the SEC in assists (60).
In three years and 10 games against Ole Miss, Wiley leads the way for UK, hitting .333 (12-for-36), scoring eight runs, adding two doubles and four RBI, stealing 2-of-2 bases. Nidiffer has hit 0.56 (1-for-18) in six career games against the Rebels. Bisson has hit .167 (2-for-12) in four games against the Rebels, with Glad (2-for-10) and Burns (3-for-11) also owning experience against Ole Miss. On the mound, Meyer turned in a gem against Ole Miss last season, striking out 10 and walking just one in 6.1 innings, allowing just five hits and two runs, leaving his first career Friday night start last season with a lead.
Kentucky – 14-3, 0-0 SEC
• Last time out: defeated Wright State, 11-1
Ole Miss – 13-4, 0-0 SEC
• Last time out: defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 17-1
• Gary Henderson (San Diego State, 1984)
• 42-29 (.592) – second year
• Mike Bianco (LSU, 1989)
• 474-278-1 (.630) – 13th year
• No. 22 (Baseball America)
• No. 26 (Collegiate Baseball)
• No. 20 (NCBWA)
• No. 18 (Rivals.com/Yahoo! Sports)
• No. 20 (USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll)
• No. 17 (Ping! Baseball)
• No. 21 (Baseball America)
• No. 20 (Collegiate Baseball)
• No. 22 (NCBWA)
• No. 19 (USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll)
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) -- Lexington, Ky.
Friday, March 19 * vs. No. 19 Ole Miss * 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 20 * vs. No. 19 Ole Miss * 1:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 21 * vs. No. 19 Ole Miss * 1:00 p.m.
Radio (BBSN with Neil Price/Dick Gabriel)
• WLAP 630-AM in Lexington
• WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
• WGVN 1580-AM in Lexington
• WLAP 630-AM in Lexington
• WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Live video, audio and stats on UKathletics.com.
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday vs. Ole Miss
LHP Logan Darnell (3-0, 2.17 ERA) vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz (2-0, 1.54 ERA)
Saturday vs. Ole Miss
LHP Taylor Rogers (3-0, 4.30 ERA) vs. RHP Aaron Barrett (4-0, 1.80 ERA)
Sunday vs. Ole Miss
RHP Alex Meyer (3-02, 7.29 ERA) vs. LHP Matt Tracy (1-1, 3.38 ERA)
Check in at the promotions gazebo and register yourself to be an Official Cliff Dweller. Fans that attend any four SEC home games will receive a white Cliff Dweller t-shirt, while eight SEC games will get you a blue Cliff Dweller t-shirt and 12 SEC games will get you a black Cliff Dweller t-shirt. UK marketing will keep track of the attendance and as you hit each mark we’ll give you your t-shirt.
Each individual fan will have their own entry so be sure to make it to as many SEC games this season as possible to get the best rewards!
Again, check in at the promotions gazebo starting on Friday and at every SEC game you attend to take part
Baseball Ice Cream Sundaes in collectable UK mini batting helmet
Cliff Hagan Stadium (3,000)
Parking at Cliff Hagan Stadium is FREE.
UK will utilize three lots during UK’s spring break: the C8 lot behind Shively Sports Center, the “R” lot, adjacent to the dorms or on the south side of the Nutter Training Facility, and the brand-new Parking Structure 7 on the corner of Complex Drive and Jerry Claiborne Way. All three 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.