Baseball Hosts No. 20 Miss. State in 3-Game Series

March 19, 2015

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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Kentucky baseball team will open its home Southeastern Conference schedule with a three-game series with No. 20 Mississippi State, with first pitch in the series opener slated for 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The series will resume on Saturday at 2 p.m. and conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m.

The three games will be broadcast live on SEC Network+ and WatchESPN with Jeff Piecoro and Keith Madison voicing the action. The games will also be broadcast live on the UK Radio Network, with Dick Gabriel voicing the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the games live on Fox Sports 1580-AM and online at UKathletics.com.

UK will turn to the rotation of sophomore right-hander Zack Brown (1-2, 2.77 ERA) on Friday, junior righty Dustin Beggs (2-2, 3.23 ERA) on Saturday and junior right-hander Kyle Cody (2-1, 3.62 ERA) in the finale on Sunday. Mississippi State will counter with redshirt junior righty Preston Brown (3-1, 2.15 ERA) on Friday, sophomore righty Austin Sexton (3-0, 2.12 ERA) on Saturday and sophomore southpaw Vance Tatum (2-0, 2.73 ERA) on Sunday.

A native of Seymour, Ind., Brown has appeared in five games with four starts, tossing one complete-game shutout that saw him fan 11 in a win over Northern Kentucky. Brown has worked 26 innings, allowing only 16 hits and 10 walks, striking out 27. Brown has appeared in 24 games with nine starts, owning a 2-3 record and a 4.28 ERA, tossing 54.2 innings with 45 strikeouts and 21 walks. Brown
made his first career SEC Friday night start at No. 7 South Carolina, suffering a hard-luck loss despite a competitive performance. He allowed the go-ahead grand slam after walking the bases loaded in the fifth inning, with Max Schrock touching him for the two-out slam with UK nursing a very slim 1-0 lead. Brown got an out in the sixth inning after the slam, before a hit and an error allowed an unearned run to score on his line. Brown has made five starts for the Bulldogs in 2015, working 29.1 innings, allowing 26 hits and 13 walks, striking out 32. In his last start on Saturday vs. Alabama, Brown worked six innings, allowing five hits and two runs, walking four and striking out five on 117 pitches, allowing Bama damage in the fourth inning alone. Alabama won the game with an eight-run rally in the eighth, erasing a 5-2 hole for the opening win, getting three runs off Ross Mitchell, one off Trevor Fitts, three off Daniel Brown and one run off Houston in relief.

Beggs, a native of Rosswell, Ga., has made five weekend starts for UK after leading all of junior college baseball in strikeouts in 2014. Beggs has worked a staff-leading 30.2 innings, allowing 26 hits and eight walks, striking out 26. Beggs made his fifth start of the year in his SEC debut at No. 7 South Carolina on Saturday, suffering his second loss of the year. He worked into the seventh inning, tossing 6.1 innings, allowing four hits and four runs, walking five and striking out six. His line was dented by two bad pitches, a Alex Destino two-run homer in the second inning and a Elliott Caldwell two-run homer in the sixth inning in the 4-3 UK loss. Sexton has made five starts in 2015, with one complete game, working 29.2 innings, allowing just 19 hits and seven walks, striking out 32. Sexton is coming off a complete-game win over Alabama on Saturday to even the series, allowing just eight hits and one run on a walk and seven strikeouts, throwing 123 pitches.

A 6-foot-7, 245-pound native of Chippewa Falls, Wis., Cody has made five weekend starts, working 27.1 innings, allowing 20 hits and four walks, striking out a team-high 30. Cody has appeared in 38 games with 21 starts, owning a 9-4 record and a 3.95 ERA in his career, working 123 innings with five saves, striking out 98. Cody made his fifth start of the year in his SEC debut at No. 7 South Carolina on Sunday, taking a no decision after working a quality start. He allowed six hits and three runs, walking one and striking out four. Cody was victimized by some bad defense and luck, as a miscommunication on a pop-up in the infield in the first inning led to a two-out run and a ball lost in the outfield sun led to a leadoff triple and run in the fourth inning, denting his line. After UK rallied to tie the game at 2-2 in the sixth inning, Max Schrock led off with a double and scored on a wild pitch and sac fly to regain the lead. UK took the lead in the ninth inning with Cody out of the decision, but the Gamecocks tied it in the bottom of the frame and had a walk-off homer in the10th inning. Tatum has made four starts and one relief appearance in 2015, working 29.2 innings, allowing 19 hits and seven walks, striking out 33. In his last start vs. Alabama on Sunday, Tatum worked seven innings, allowing seven hits and four runs in a no-decision, allowing one walk and striking out seven on 124 pitches, with the Tide scoring four runs in the eighth off the MSU bullpen combination of Myles Gentry, Zac Houston and Ross Mitchell for the win.

Kentucky (13-7, 0-3 SEC) is coming off a midweek loss to Ohio on Tuesday, after a series sweep to open league play last weekend at No. 7 South Carolina.

The Wildcats have hit .294 as a team in 2015, with a .382 slugging and a .379 on-base percentage, belting seven homers and scoring 116 runs in 20 games. On the mound, UK has a 3.84 ERA as a team in 180.2 innings, allowing 160 hits and walking 65, striking out 172. Defensively, UK has fielded .968, turning 17 double plays and allowing 23 of 28 stolen-base attempts.

Individually, UK has been paced at the plate by junior leftfielder Ka'ai Tom, who has hit .387 with seven doubles, one triple, one homer and 20 RBI, stealing five bases. Catcher Zach Arnold has hit .385 with four doubles and three RBI. Centerfielder Kyle Barrett has a .370 average with five doubles, 10 RBI and six steals. Second baseman JaVon Shelby has hit .324 with three doubles, one triple, two homers and 16 RBI. First baseman Evan White has charted a .303 average with a double, homer and 11 RBI. Freshman infielder Riley Mahan sports a .296 average with four doubles, one triple and six RBI. Third baseman Thomas Bernal has a .265 average with five doubles and 16 RBI, with shortstop Connor Heady batting .260 with a homer and three RBI. Greg Fettes has launched two homers and Storm Wilson owns a .239 average with seven RBI and a club-high six steals.

In relief for the Wildcats, freshman lefty Zach Logue (1-0, 1.80 ERA), senior righty Andrew Nelson (2-0, 4.00 ERA), junior right-hander Zach Strecker (1-0, 4.91 ERA) and sophomore lefty Logan Salow (1-1, 5.91 ERA) have each appeared in eight games. Senior righty Spencer Jack (0-0, 8.31 ERA) has two saves in seven games, with lefty Brad Schaenzer (0-0, 1.10 ERA), southpaw Dylan Dwyer (2-0, 1.80 ERA), righty Bo Wilson (0-0, 2.70 ERA), junior right-hander Taylor Martin (0-0, 5.40 ERA), righty Robert Zeigler (1-1, 9.00 ERA), freshman right-hander Zach Pop (0-0, 10.12 ERA) and junior southpaw Matt Snyder (0-0, 10.12 ERA) have each appeared in at least three games.

Last week, the Kentucky baseball team completed a four-game road week during its SEC opener at No. 7 South Carolina, with the Gamecocks sweeping the Wildcats. UK picked up a 9-1 midweek win at Cincinnati on Wednesday, in a game that was originally scheduled for Tuesday in Lexington.

The Wildcats posted a 9-1 win in midweek play at Cincinnati on Wednesday, as Tom hit for the second cycle in the history of the program and the first since Jeff Abbott in 1994. UK then traveled to face the seventh-ranked Gamecocks, seeking its first win in Carolina Stadium and its first since 2008. After a 10-1 setback in the opener, on the strength of a fifth-inning go-ahead grand slam from Max Schrock, USC then edged UK 4-3 on Saturday to clinch the home series. In a wild series finale, UK fell behind early on a pair of pop-ups that were allowed to drop into the infield that led to two runs. UK fought back to take a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth before Elliott Caldwell homered to even the game and Kyle Martin ended it with a two-run homer in the 10th inning.

Mississippi State (17-6, 1-2 SEC) is coming off a midweek win over Eastern Illinois on Tuesday, after suffering a series loss in Starkville, Miss., vs. Alabama. As a team, MSU has hit .290 with a .379 slugging and a nation-leading .425 on-base percentage, stealing 28 bases and belting seven homers. On the mound, MSU has a 3.25 ERA with six saves in 208 innings, walking 80 and striking out 199. Defensively, MSU has fielded .976, turning 28 double plays and allowing only 15 steals in 30 chances.

The Bulldogs have been led at the plate by Jacob Robson, who has hit .431 with two doubles, five RBI and 14 steals. Jake Vickerson has hit .370 with a homer and 10 RBI. Seth Heck has a .344 mark with three doubles and nine RBI, with Cody Brown batting .333 with six doubles, two triples and nine RBI. Ryan Gridley has hit .328 with five doubles, a homer and 12 RBI. Wes Rea has a .314 average with five doubles and a team-best 16 RBI. Matt Spruill has hit .279 with two triples, with Reida Humphreys slugging two homers and driving in 10 runs with a .261 average. Brent Rooker has hit .216 with two homers and 11 RBI.

In the bullpen for MSU, lefty Ross Mitchell (3-2, 3.30 ERA) has appeared in a team-high 11 games, working 30 innings with a save, walking nine and striking out eight. Trevor Fitts (1-2, 1.50 ERA) has four saves in 10 games, working 12 innings. Levi Mintz (0-0, 0.00 ERA), Zac Houston (0-0, 3.60 ERA) and Daniel Brown (1-0, 4.15 ERA) have each appeared in at least five games in relief.
MSU leads the all-time series

In the last meeting between the two schools, the Wildcats posted a thrilling 12-inning win in the SEC Tournament Quarterfinals in 2014 in Hoover, Ala. After MSU jumped out to a 4-1 lead, UK rallied with three runs to chase MSU starter Ross Mitchell in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Bulldogs regained the lead in the seventh with a run, before UK answered in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game. The Bulldogs then scored a run in the top of the ninth inning to take a 6-5 lead. A leadoff double from AJ Reed against the shift and acclaimed closer Jonathan Holder led to the game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning. After the two teams traded scoreless frames in the 10th and 11th innings, with UK closer Spencer Jack working around leadoff errors in two frames, centerfielder Austin Cousino ended the 12th inning with a throw to catcher Micheal Thomas, who applied the tag to keep the game tied at 6-6. UK loaded the bases in the bottom of the 12th inning for pinch hitter Zach Arnold, who chopped a grounder into the hole on the left side, scoring Matt Reida and lifting UK to the comeback win. UK starter Zack Brown worked 3.2 innings, allowing one run, with Sam Mahar working an innings in relief with two runs allowed. Zach Strecker worked 3.1 innings, allowing two runs, before Jack posted four innings without an earned run for the win. Mitchell worked 5.1 innings in the start for MSU, allowing four runs in 5.1 innings. Holder, Ben Bracewell, Vance Tatum, Myles Gentry and Preston Brown worked in relief, with Brown suffering the loss with two hits and two walks in the 12th inning. UK was led at the plate by the eighth homer of the year from Micheal Thomas and a four-hit game from Reida.

In the last meeting in Lexington in the series, UK posted a series win over the Bulldogs in 2013. After the Wildcats suffered a 8-4 loss in the series opener, UK answered with a doubleheader sweep to claim the series the following day. In the opener, Jacob Lindgren worked 4.1 innings, allowing four runs, before Ross Mitchell worked 4.2 shutout innings for the win. AJ Reed allowed two earned runs in five innings, with Chandler Shepherd eating up four innings in relief, allowing one earned run as UK committed four errors. In the first game of the series-concluding doubleheader, Jerad Grundy fired eight innings without allowing a walk, surrendering two runs and striking out a career-high 10, with Trevor Gott picking up his seventh save to even the series. Kendall Graveman allowed three runs in five innings, before Ben Bracewell worked 2.2 shutout innings, striking out four. UK jumped out to a 3-1 lead after six innings, fighting off a run in the ninth that kept Grundy for the complete game. Reed belted his sixth homer of the year, driving in two runs. In the finale, UK rode strong outing from Corey Littrell, who allowed one earned runs in seven innings, surrendering just two hits and walking six. Walter Wijas picked up the win in relief, as he worked two innings, with Austin Cousino walking the game off with a single of the first base bag in the bottom of the ninth inning. UK opened the game with three runs in the first, chasing starter Evan Mitchell without recording an out, with Ross Mitchell walking a hitter in the first inning. Luis Pollorena tossed 4.1 one-hit innings, with Myles Gentry getting two outs, before Chad Girodo worked three innings with the decisive run scoring to saddle him with the loss. Jonathan Holder allowed the hit to Cousino, walking the bases loaded, before the UK centerfielder smacked the single off the base.

Records
Kentucky: 13-7, 0-3 SEC
Mississippi State:

Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) -- Lexington, Ky.
Friday, March 20 * vs. No. 20 Mississippi State * 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 21 * vs. No. 20 Mississippi State * 2 p.m.
Sunday, March 22 * vs. No. 20 Mississippi State * 1 p.m.

SEC Network+ with Jeff Piecoro and Keith Madison
SEC Network+ and WatchESPN

Radio (UK Radio Network with Dick Gabriel)
Friday-Sunday: Fox Sports 1580-AM in Lexington

Internet Coverage
Live audio and stats on UKathletics.com

Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday vs. No. 20 Mississippi State
So., RHP Zack Brown (1-2, 2.77 ERA) vs. R-Jr., Preston Brown (3-1, 2.15 ERA)
Saturday vs. No. 20 Mississippi State
Jr., RHP Dustin Beggs (2-2, 3.23 ERA) vs. So., RHP Austin Sexton (3-0, 2.12 ERA)
Sunday vs. No. 20 Mississippi State
Jr., RHP Kyle Cody (2-1, 3.62 ERA) vs. So., LHP Vance Tatum (2-0, 2.73 ERA)

Promotions
The series will be dubbed Teacher Appreciation Weekend, with all teachers able to get up to four free tickets to each game by pre-registering via email to greg.herbert@uky.edu. Also, fans can submit their favorite teacher to WeAreUK@uky.edu and enter them in for a personalized UK jersey. In addition, all fans can get $1 off their ticket prices by mentioning the Teacher Appreciation Weekend promotion.

Friday's series opener with the Bulldogs will also mark the first set of trading card giveaways to the first 1,000 fans. Saturday will serve as the main day of the Teacher Appreciation Weekend and Sunday fans are invited to a postgame autograph session.

Stadium
Cliff Hagan Stadium (3,000)

Parking
Free gameday parking is available in the C-8 lot beyond rightfield or in the E lot adjacent to Cliff Hagan Stadium. The C-8 lot will be filled on a first come, first served basis. Once C-8 is filled, vehicles will be directed to park in the E lot next to Cliff Hagan Stadium. After the E lot is full, a limited amount of parking will be available in Parking Structure No. 7 on the ground floor. If you're parking in PS#7, please exchange your ticket for a pink payment voucher at the ticket booth, prior to the end of the fourth inning. Additionally, overflow parking will be available in the smaller E lots close to Cooper Dr., as well as the C-6 lot at Commonwealth Stadium. All fans are asked to please follow the signage provided to the nearest parking location.

Tickets
SINGLE GAME TICKET PRICES
$5 - General Admission Seating - Adults
$2 - General Admission Seating - Kids/Seniors

SEASON TICKET PRICES
$35 General Admission
$55 Reserved Seating