No. 2 Baseball Travels to No. 18 Georgia

March 29, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Off to a nation-leading 25-1 start to the season and sitting atop the Southeastern Conference standings through two weekends, No. 2 Kentucky travels to face off with No. 18 Georgia in a three-game series, starting Friday at 7 p.m. ET at Foley Field. The series will resume Saturday at 4 p.m. ET and conclude Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.

Kentucky (25-1, 5-1 SEC) sits in a tie atop the SEC standings with No. 1 Florida and No. 3 Arkansas, with UK’s 25 wins leading the NCAA. The Wildcats extended their school-record home winning streak to 19 on Tuesday with a midweek win over Western Kentucky, 7-4. UK is coming off a series win at Tennessee last weekend after opening up conference play with a series sweep of the two-time defending NCAA Champions, No. 2 South Carolina.

The three games will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the games live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.

UK will send its regular weekend rotation to the mound for the seventh consecutive weekend, with junior southpaw Taylor Rogers (4-1, 3.82 ERA) to start the series lidlifter Friday vs. Georgia sophomore ace lefty Alex Wood (3-1, 2.00 ERA). On Saturday, UK junior lefty Jerad Grundy (3-0, 2.88 ERA) will start opposite of Georgia senior right-hander Michael Palazzone (0-2, 3.41 ERA). Sunday, UK sophomore southpaw Corey Littrell (3-0, 2.04 ERA) will start against freshman right-hander Pete Nagel (0-0, 2.81 ERA).

A native of Littleton, Colo., Rogers will be making his seventh consecutive Friday-night start. Rogers has hurled a staff-leading 35.1 innings with 33 hits and eight walks allowed, striking out 42. In his last start at Tennessee on Friday, Rogers suffered a hard-luck loss, tossing a quality start in 6.1 innings, allowing three hits and two runs, striking out five. Wood has tossed 36 innings in seven appearances and six weekend starts, allowing 33 hits and just three walks, striking out 39. In his last start, Wood worked 4.1 shutout innings at Vanderbilt, allowing only four hits and one walk, striking out one and UGA posting a 1-0 win.

Grundy, a junior lefty transfer from Miami (Fla.) and Heartland, has started for six consecutive Saturday’s for the Wildcats. In his 34.1 innings, Grundy has allowed only 27 hits and 11 walks, striking out 28 and holding opponents to a .211 average. In his last start at Tennessee, Grundy tossed 4.2 shutout innings with only four hits allowed before a rain storm halted the game in the bottom of the fifth inning with two runners on and Grundy one out shy of qualifying for the win with a 5-0 lead. After the game resumed on Sunday, UK’s bullpen allowed the two runners to score, with Grundy finishing with 4.2 innings and two runs allowed. Palazzone has worked 29 innings for UGA in 2012, making five starts in six outings, allowing 30 hits and seven walks, striking out 24. Palazzone worked seven strong innings at Vandy last Saturday, allowing six hits and two runs, walking two and striking out seven in an eventual 5-4 Vanderbilt walk-off win in the ninth inning.

On Sunday, Littrell – a native of Louisville, Ky., and the 2010 Louisville Slugger Kentucky High School Player of the Year – will make his seventh start of 2012. He has worked 35.1 frames, allowing 30 hits and nine walks, striking out 36, with opponents batting at a .244 clip. Littrell faced a challenging test on Sunday, as he started a seven-inning game at UT that served as the rubber match of the series. Littrell was dominating in the clutch outing, allowing only four hits – two infield knocks – and one walk, striking out five without allowing an earned run. Nagel has appeared in eight games with five starts, hurling 25.2 innings, allowing 18 hits and eight walks, striking out 22. Nagel started at Vanderbilt last Sunday, working four innings, allowing three hits and one run, walking one and striking out three.

The Wildcats lead the SEC in nearly every offensive category, including average (.321), on-base percentage (.421), runs (202), hits (282), RBI (185) and hit batters (53). On the mound, UK ranks third in the league in strikeouts, with its .980 fielding percentage checking in second in the SEC and eighth in the NCAA.

Individually, freshman A.J. Reed has hit .360 with seven doubles, two homers and 29 RBI to lead UK as the No. 4 hitter in the lineup. At leadoff, freshman centerfielder Austin Cousino has established himself as one of the top young players in college baseball, batting .358 with 10 doubles, one triple, three homers and 18 RBI, stealing five bases. Lucas Witt has hit .357 with a double and eight RBI, while catcher Luke Maile has batted .337 with six doubles, six homers and 30 RBI, owning a 17-8 walk-strikeout ratio. Cameron Flynn has slugged six homers with 19 RBI and a .328 average, while outfielder Zac Zellers has also hit .320 with six doubles, three homers and 11 RBI. Second baseman J.T. Riddle has hit .315 with six doubles, one triple, one homer and 18 RBI, while Thomas McCarthy has hit .284 with five doubles, two homers and 11 RBI.

In the bullpen, sophomore right-hander Trevor Gott (1-0, 1.74 ERA) has saved five games in six chances, appearing in 12 games with 18 strikeouts in 10.1 innings. Reed (4-0, 2.11 ERA) has appeared in six games with three starts and 20 strikeouts in 21.1 innings. Tim Peterson (2-0, 2.25 ERA) has appeared in a staff-leading 13 games with 12 innings and 16 strikeouts. Alex Phillips (3-0, 2.11 ERA) has appeared in 10 games with one save and 19 strikeouts in 21.1 innings. Walter Wijas (2-0, 6.08 ERA) and Sam Mahar (1-0, 2.19 ERA) have each appeared in 10 games in relief.

Georgia (17-9, 3-3 SEC) has hit .282 as a team through 26 games, slugging 16 homers and posting a 105-167 walk-strikeout ratio, stealing 22 bases. On the mound, UGA owns a stellar 2.75 team ERA, with four saves and 193 strikeouts in 232.2 innings, allowing opponents to hit at a .245 clip and fielding .976.

Individually, Georgia has been led offensively by Curt Powell, who owns a .364 average with four doubles, one triple, one homer and 11 RBI, stealing four bases. Hunter Cole has hit .320 with six doubles, four homers and 13 RBI, stealing five bases. Shortstop Kyle Farmer has hit .318 with 13 doubles, three homers and 18 RBI, while third baseman Colby May has returned to his 2011 form, batting .309 with three doubles, two homers and 12 RBI. Conor Welton has hit .267 with a double and 11 RBI, while catcher Brett DeLoach owns a .266 average with three doubles, one homer and nine RBI. Outfielder Peter Verdin has hit .264 with two doubles, one triple and 11 RBI.

In the bullpen, UGA has been paced by Blake Dieterich (3-1, 0.93 ERA) who has appeared in 12 games out of the pen with four saves in 19.1 innings, walking seven and striking out 14. Bryan Benzoe (3-1, 2.79 ERA) has appeared in a team-high 13 games, with 23 strikeouts and three walks in 19.1 innings. Chase Hawkins (2-0, 1.40 ERA) has appeared in 12 games with 12 strikeouts and two walks in 19.1 innings, while Ross Ripple (0-0, 3.86 ERA) has appeared in 10 games, along with Earl Daniels (1-1, 1.64 ERA).

Georgia leads the all-time series between the two schools, 125-86-1, including a 65-34 mark in games played in Athens. UK has won three of the last four meetings between the two teams, snapping a steak of eight consecutive losses to the Bulldogs.

In the 2011 series, UK won the first and second games of the set, before the Bulldogs salvaged the series with a win in the finale. UK opened the series with a 7-4 win on Friday night vs. UGA and Wood, using a quality start from Alex Meyer. UK was led offensively by McCarthy’s 3-for-4 game with his 18th double of the year. UK got 10 hits and six runs in five innings off Wood in the opener in 2011, with Wood walking three and striking out three. Phillips came on to get the save for UK, tossing 2.2 innings to finish off the win. In the second game, UK opened up with a 7-0 lead through two innings, plating a staggering amount of offense off Palazzone. He allowed 15 hits and 11 runs in 5.1 innings, walking one and striking out four in 124 pitches, as UGA left him in the game after allowing 10 runs through his first five innings. Littrell started for UK and went six innings, allowing seven this and four runs, walking three and striking out six in his sixth win of the year. McCarthy hit two homers in the game, going 4-for-5 with four RBI, with Taylor Black adding four RBI. Georgia posted a 7-6 win over UK in the finale, getting four runs in the second inning, with UK rallying but falling just short of the sweep, as Tyler Maloof notched his NCAA-leading 16th save of the year. Jordan Cooper started for UK, going 4.2 innings with nine hits and five runs allowed. UK got three hits and three RBI from McCarthy, with Black adding a 3-for-5 game.

In the last meeting in Athens, Georgia won the series on the regular-season finale weekend, picking up wins in the first two games, before UK rallied to take the finale 14-11 on Gunner Glad’s three-run homer in the ninth inning. UK was led in that series by Brian Adams, who hit 8-for-12) with a homer, double, triple and six RBI.

Records
Kentucky – 25-1, 5-1 SEC
Georgia – 17-9, 3-3 SEC

Rankings
Kentucky: No. 2 (Collegiate Baseball), No. 7 (USA Today/ESPN coaches), No. 10 (NCBWA), No. 10 (Baseball America)
Georgia: No. 26 (Collegiate Baseball), No. 18 (USA Today/ESPN coaches), No. 18 (NCBWA), No. 25 (Baseball America)

Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) -- Athens, Ga.
Friday, March 30 * at No. 18 Georgia * 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 31 * at No. 18 Georgia * 4 p.m.
Sunday, April 1 * at No. 18 Georgia * 2 p.m. ET

Radio (UK IMG Radio Network with Neil Price)
Friday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Saturday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Sunday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville

Internet Coverage
Live audio and stats on UKathletics.com

Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday at Georgia
Jr., LHP Taylor Rogers (4-1, 3.82 ERA) vs. So., LHP Alex Wood (3-1, 2.00 ERA)
Saturday at Georgia
Jr., LHP Jerad Grundy (3-0, 2.88 ERA) vs. Sr., RHP Michael Palazzone (0-2, 3.41 ERA)
Sunday at Georgia
So., LHP Corey Littrell (3-0, 2.04 ERA) vs. Fr., RHP Pete Nagel (0-0, 2.81 Era)

Stadium
Foley Field