Baseball Travels to Bama for First SEC Road Test

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Winners of eight of its last nine games  the Kentucky baseball team hits the road for its first Southeastern Conference road series of the 2011 season, traveling to face Alabama in a three-game series, with first pitch of game one on Friday set for 7:35 p.m. ET at “The Joe” at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The series will resume on Saturday at 3:05 p.m. ET and on Sunday at 2:05 p.m. ET.

Kentucky (14-8, 2-1 SEC) won its first league series of the year last weekend, besting Tennessee in two of three games, securing the Friday and Sunday games to open up SEC play in second place in the SEC Eastern Division. The Wildcats are coming off a pair of midweek wins, topping Cincinnati on Tuesday and posting a win over Canisius on Wednesday night. UK is currently in a streak of wins in eight of its last nine games and 10 of its last 12 contests. UK completed an 11-game home stand with nine wins, after returning from the prestigious 2011 Houston College Classic hosted by the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

On Tuesday, UK posted a 4-2 win over Cincinnati, riding strong pitching from starter Corey Littrell and reliever Braden Kapteyn. Littrell gave UK his third quality start in four career starting efforts and Kapteyn locked down the save with three strikeouts in the ninth inning. In a 12-4 win over Canisius on Wednesday, UK got four-RBI games from Kapteyn and shortstop Taylor Black.

The three games 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 games live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM, in addition to complete coverage online at UKathletics.com.

UK will send its weekend starting rotation, starting with junior right-hander Alex Meyer (3-2, 2.60 ERA) on Friday vs. Alabama senior ace righty Nathan Kilcrease (2-1, 2.30 ERA). On Saturday, UK will turn to sophomore right-hander Jordan Cooper (1-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. junior Bama southpaw Adam Morgan (3-1, 4.23 ERA). UK will turn to sophomore southpaw Taylor Rogers (2-1, 4.45 ERA) on Sunday to face Crimson Tide sophomore right-hander Tucker Hawley (4-1, 2.67 ERA).

A 6-foot-9, 220-pounder, Meyer ranks as one of the top starting pitchers in college baseball, leading the SEC in strikeouts, fanning 46 in 34.2 innings. A native of Greensburg, Ind., Meyer has started five games, allowing only 23 hits and 15 walks in his 34.2 innings, allowing only a .200 opponent batting average. In his last start, Meyer is coming off a winning effort in Friday-night outing vs. Tennessee last week. Meyer went seven innings, allowing only two earned runs, walking two and striking out seven. Kilcrease has started five games this year, striking out a club-best 35 in 31.1 innings, walking only six.

Cooper, a native of Shelbyville, Tenn., has made five weekend starts for the Wildcats, with Cooper tossing 28.1 innings, with one save. A 6-3, 215-pounder, Cooper has walked only 13 and struck out 20 in his 28.1 innings in 2011. In his last start, Cooper was solid through five innings, allowing four runs with UK owning a 6-4 lead entering the top of the fifth. UT struck for a six-run inning, including a pair of three-run homers, with Cooper’s final line at nine runs through 5.1 innings pitched. Morgan has started five weekend games, tossing 27.2 innings, striking out 25.

A native of Littleton, Colo., Rogers will be making his sixth weekend start of the year, with the southpaw ranking second on the team with 30.1 innings. Rogers has walked only four on the year, striking out 23 in 30.1 frames, hurling three quality starts. In his last start, Rogers went five innings, allowing eight hits, with two earned runs and two strikeouts. Rogers allowed three runs in the game, with UT plating single runs in the second, third and fourth innings. Hawley will be making his sixth start of the year, with the righty owning 30.1 innings pitched, walking only two and striking out 18.

The Wildcats have been led offensively by freshman J.T. Riddle, the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week. Riddle leads UK with a .373 average (19-for-51) with five doubles, one homer and 10 RBI, stealing 4-of-4 bases. UK junior leftfielder Chad Wright has hit .355 (27-for-76), with eight doubles, three homers and 18 RBI, stealing 11-of-14 bases. Black has added a .341 average (30-for-88) with six doubles, two triples, one homer and 19 RBI, stealing 6-of-8 bags. Junior centerfielder Brian Adams, who is splitting time with the football team as a scholarship wide receiver in spring practice, has hit .333 (19-for-57) with six doubles, eight RBI and five stolen bases.

In the bullpen, UK senior Mike Kaczmarek (0-0, 1.42 ERA) leads UK with four saves, while Kapteyn (0-1, 4.32 ERA) has added two saves. Kapteyn has appeared in six games with 16 strikeouts and one walk in 8.1 innings pitched. Freshman Trevor Gott (1-1, 0.00 ERA) has appeared in a team-best nine games with one save, striking out 19 in 14.2 innings. Sophomore Walter Wijas (3-0, 1.42 ERA) has pitched 16.1 innings in relief, walking five and striking out 15.

Alabama (15-7, 2-1 SEC) is coming off a series win over Ole Miss, posting wins in the Saturday and Sunday contests. The Tide have hit .290 has a team through 22 games, hitting seven homers and stealing 17 bases, while fielding .971 as a team. On the mound, Bama has posted a 3.25 team ERA with seven saves, striking out 163 in 196.1 innings pitched.

The Crimson Tide has been led offensively by preseason All-American centerfielder Taylor Dugas, who has hit .377 (29-for-77) with nine doubles, three triples, two homers and 11 RBI, stealing three bases. Catcher Brock Bennett has hit .406 (28-for-69) with two doubles and 10 RBI, while Jared Reaves has batted .363 (29-for-80) with a homer and 21 RBI. Andrew Miller has batted .351 (20-for-57), including a .636 (7-for-11) mark on the weekend in Oxford, Miss.

In the bullpen for the Tide, Jonathan Smart (0-0, 1.80 ERA) has appeared in 10 games with four saves, tossing 20 innings and striking out 11. Nathan Kennedy (1-0, 2.90 ERA) has appeared in nine games with a save in 9.1 innings, while Trey Pilkington (1-0, 3.88 ERA) has tossed 14.1 frames in his seven appearances.

Alabama leads the all-time series with the Wildcats, 54-33, including a 25-14 mark in Tuscaloosa.

Records
Kentucky: 14-8, 2-1 SEC
Alabama: 15-7, 2-1 SEC

Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) -- Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Friday, March 24 * vs. Alabama * 7:35 p.m.
Saturday, March 25 * vs. Alabama * 3:05 p.m.
Sunday, March 26 * vs. Alabama * 2:05 p.m.

Radio (BBSN with Neil Price)
Friday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington or WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Saturday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington or WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Sunday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington or WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville

Internet Coverage
Live video, audio and stats on UKathletics.com

Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday vs. Alabama
Jr. RHP Alex Meyer (3-2, 2.60 ERA) vs. Sr., RHP Nathan Kilcrease (2-1, 2.30 ERA)
Saturday vs. Alabama
So., RHP Jordan Cooper (1-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. Jr., LHP Adam Morgan (3-1, 4.23 ERA)
Sunday vs. Alabama
So., LHP Taylor Rogers (2-1, 4.45 ERA) vs. So., RHP Tucker Hawley (4-1, 2.67 ERA)

Stadium
“The Joe” at Sewell-Thomas Stadium (6,571)