UK Faces West Virginia for First Time in 18 Years

March 23, 2009

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Winners of 10 consecutive non-conference games, the Kentucky baseball team hits the road, traveling to Charleston, W.Va., to face off with West Virginia. First pitch of the Mountaineer Power Classic at Appalachian Power Park, home of the West Virginia Power class A minor league team, is slated for 6:05 p.m. ET.

The game is being played in Charleston, W.Va., at the South Atlantic League affiliate of the Pittsburg Pirates. Kentucky will be meeting West Virginia for the first time in 18 years, since UK won a February, 1991, neutral-site meeting. UK leads the all-time series 10-1, with the lone Kentucky loss coming in Lexington in 1988. The game is being billed as the first-annual Mountaineer Power Classic.

Kentucky (15-5, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) will send freshman right-hander Sean Bouthilette to the mound for his fourth career starting assignment. The Elizabethtown, Ky., native has totaled a 2-0 record and a 3.72 ERA in 9.2 innings, striking out seven and allowing opponents to hit for a .237 average. Bouthilette had a stellar outing in his last appearance, coming out of a depleted UK bullpen in extra innings at New Orleans. Inserted into a bases-loaded, bottom of the 10th-inning jam, Bouthilette got out of the frame and after Chris Wade belted the go-ahead solo homer in the top of the 11th, the freshman sat down the heart of the Privateer order, for his second career win. Bouthilette’s best start came in his first career starting assignment, UK’s third game of the year against Troy in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder, tossed five scoreless innings against the Trojans, allowing only two hits while striking out three. West Virginia has yet to release a starting pitcher for the matchup.

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 WLAP 630-AM.

The Wildcats have been led offensively by catcher Marcus Nidiffer and infielder Chris Bisson. Nidiffer leads UK with four homers and a .413 average, adding 17 RBI. Bisson, UK’s second baseman, has notched a .380 average as the lead-off hitter, cranking out a team-best eight doubles and 19 RBI. Freshmen Chad Wright (.351 avg., HR, 9 RBI, 4-4 SB), Braden Kapteyn (.348, HR, 11 RBI), Andy Burns (.262, 3B, 2 HR, 15 RBI) and Cory Farris (.295, 7 RBI, 2-2 SB) have had an immediate positive impact on the Wildcat lineup. On the mound, UK’s 3.47 team ERA ranks second-best in the conference, led by Friday and Saturday starters James Paxton and Chris Rusin, who rank second and third respectively in the SEC in strikeouts.

Over the weekend, UK posted a series win over Vanderbilt, highlighted by pitching gems from Paxton Friday and Rusin’s complete-game Saturday. UK fell in the finale Sunday, 4-2, giving up two go ahead runs in the sixth inning. In the mid-week, UK posted a win at New Orleans, a 5-4 win in 11-innings, courtesy of Wade’s homer.

West Virginia (15-5, 3-0 Big East), has hit for an impressive .381 team average, while posting a 4.99 staff ERA. The Mountaineers have been led by Dan DiBartolomeo’s .479 average, including three homers and 24 RBI. Vince Belnome (.455, 2 HR, 35 RBI), Jedd Gyorko (.430, HR, 18 RBI, Mark Dvoroznak (.423, 3 RBI), Tobias Streich (.371, 3 HR, 30 RBI), Austin Markel (.363, 4 HR, 19 RBI), Justin Ellis (.360, 16 RBI), Grant Buckner (.342, 20 RBI) and Joe Agreste (.299, HR, 21 RBI) have highlighted the WVU lineup. In the bullpen, Chris Enourato (5-0, 1.74 ERA) has posted a staff-best two saves in seven relief appearances, striking out 32 in his 20.2 innings.

After facing WVU Tuesday, UK will host its second consecutive Big East opponent, Cincinnati at Cliff Hagan Stadium Wednesday. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m. ET Wednesday.