Baseball Travels to Defending NCAA Champs, No. 3 S. Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Coming off a midweek win over Tennessee Tech, the Kentucky baseball team hits the road for a three-game series, traveling to face the defending NCAA Champions, No. 3 South Carolina, with first pitch of the series opener on Friday set for 7 p.m. ET at Carolina Stadium. The series will resume on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET and on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
All three games will be televised on Fox Sports South, with the games available regionally on Insight-Lexington (channel 52/HD: 929). The Big Blue Sports Network will air all three games of the series, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the games on WLAP 630-AM in Central Kentucky and on WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville, in addition to coverage on UKathletics.com. The Saturday game will be broadcast on WGVN 1580-AM in Lexington to accommodate the men's basketball radio broadcast at the final four.
Kentucky (15-11, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) posted an 11-8 win in its lone midweek contest during the week, defeated former UK outfielder Matt Bragga's Tennessee Tech club, the defending Ohio Valley Conference Champions.
Last weekend, the Wildcats traveled to face red-hot Alabama in a three-game series, with the Crimson Tide claiming a series sweep to vault into the top 25. In the series opener, Tide ace right-handed senior Nathan Kilcrease hurled a complete-game shutout in a 4-0 win, with Bama putting the game away with two runs in the eighth inning. In the Saturday contest, UK battled back from a 5-1 hole to even the game before an error allowed the bottom of the ninth inning to continue long enough for a two-out walk-off, 6-5 win. In the Sunday game, Bama plated four runs in the first inning and UK couldn't recover, with the Tide sweeping the Wildcats 8-3.
UK will mix up its weekend pitching rotation for the first time this season, inserting freshman southpaw Corey Littrell (4-1, 5.17 ERA) in place of sophomore righty Jordan Cooper (1-1, 6.25 ERA) for the Saturday game. On Friday, UK junior right-hander Alex Meyer (3-3, 3.05 ERA) will make the start and on Sunday sophomore southpaw Taylor Rogers (2-2, 5.45 ERA) will make his seventh start of the year. South Carolina will start ace lefty and 2010 College World Series hero Michael Roth (5-1, 1.50 ERA) on Friday vs. Meyer. In the Saturday game, sophomore righty Colby Holmes (2-0, 4.00 ERA) will make his second start of the year. South Carolina has not yet announced a starter for the Sunday contest.
Meyer, a 6-foot-9, 220-pounder, has started six games for UK, hurling a staff-leading 41.1 innings, allowing only 30 hits, walking 21 and striking out 54. Opponents have hit .214 off Meyer, a native of Greensburg, Ind. In his last start, Meyer competed through 6.2 innings vs. Kilcrease and Bama. Meyer took the loss allowing seven hits and four runs, walking six and striking out eight in his outing. Meyer left with two outs and one runner on base in the seventh inning, before an inherited runner scored to disrupt a quality start. Roth has appeared in seven games with six starts this year, tossing 42 innings, allowing 37 hits and 11 walks, striking out 44. In his last start, Roth went 8.1 innings in his fifth win of the year at Florida allowing 10 hits and two runs, walking two and striking out six in a 9-2 win at No. 1 UF.
Saturday, UK will turn to Littrell, in his first career SEC start. A native of Louisville, Ky., Littrell has functioned highly successfully as a midweek starter in his first collegiate season. A 6-3, 190-pound native of Louisville, Ky., Littrell has made five midweek starts this season, leading UK with four wins. The 2010 Louisville-Slugger Kentucky High School Player of the Year, Littrell has hurled 31.1 innings, allowing 32 hits with 11 walks, striking out 27. Littrell has put up stellar numbers as a starter, going 4-0 with a 2.89 ERA in his five starts, tossing 28 innings, with seven walks and 21 strikeouts. In his three relief outings, Littrell has a 0-1 record and a 24.30 ERA, allowing eight hits and 10 runs in 3.1 innings, walking four and striking out six. Holmes has appeared in five games with one start, tossing 18 innings, walking eight and striking out 17.
In the Sunday game, Rogers will make his seventh weekend start of the season. A 6-3, 170-pound native of Littleton, Colo., Rogers has hurled 34.2 innings, only walking four with 28 strikeouts. Rogers owns three quality starts this season, a year after leading UK in innings pitched (83) as a true freshman. In his last start, Rogers had the worst outing of his season, allowing nine hits and six runs through 4.1 innings, not issuing a walk and striking out five. Rogers was roughed up in the first inning vs. Bama, allowing four runs on six hits, before settling down to retire 11 consecutive hitters before two runs scored in the fifth inning to chase him from the game.
As a team, UK has hit .307 as a team, with 155 runs scored, 18 homers and 48 stolen bases through 26 games. On the mound, the Wildcats have a 3.90 team ERA, with eight saves, walking 77 and striking out 219 in 228.2 innings, posting a .973 fielding percentage.
Freshman J.T. Riddle has led the Wildcats through his first 21 career games, batting .364 with five doubles, two homers and 14 RBI, stealing 4-of-5 bases. Junior leftfielder Chad Wright has hit .344 with eight doubles, three homers and 19 RBI, leading the team with 12 stolen bases. Senior shortstop Taylor Black - who hit 10 homers in SEC play last year - has hit .343 with eight doubles, two triples, one homer and 19 RBI, stealing eight bases. Centerfielder Brian Adams, who is splitting time in the spring with both football as a scholarship wide receiver and baseball, has hit .323 with six doubles, nine RBI and six steals. Catcher Luke Maile has added a .310 average with eight doubles, two homers and 16 RBI, while Braden Kapteyn has hit .310 with four doubles, one triple, three homers and a team-high 25 RBI. Third baseman Thomas McCarthy leads the team with 10 doubles, adding a .303 average with one triple, two homers and 11 RBI, stealing seven bags.
In the bullpen, UK has been led by freshman righty Trevor Gott (1-2, 0.00 ERA0, who has appeared in 11 games with one save. Gott, the 2010 Gatorade Kentucky High School Player of the Year out of Lexington, Ky., has walked 10 and struck out 20 in 17.1 innings. Senior Mike Kaczmarek (0-0, 1.23 ERA) leads the team with four saves in nine relief outings, while Walter Wijas (3-0, 1.31 ERA) and Alex Phillips (1-1, 2.63 ERA) have each appeared in 11 games. Kapteyn (0-1, 6.10 ERA) has posted two saves in eight relief appearances, striking out 19 in 10.1 innings with only two walks. Kapteyn has been victimized by two rough relief outings out of his eight appearances. In his six clean outings, Kapteyn has totaled two saves in 7.1 innings, allowing only three hits and no walks, striking out 14.
South Carolina (19-5, 4-2 SEC) is coming off a huge series win at No. 1 Florida, considered the most talented team in college baseball. The Gamecocks won the series opener and claimed the finale to clinch the series. As a team, SC has hit .292 with 169 runs and a league-leading 25 homers in 24 games, stealing 16 bases. On the mound, Carolina has an impressive 2.87 ERA, saving seven games in 213 innings, walking 78 and striking out 205, fielding .970 as a club. In its second year at sparkling new Carolina Stadium, the Gamecocks have averaged a staggering 7,246 fans per game through 18 home dates in 2011, including a season-high 8,242 fans for a game with Clemson on March 4.
The Gamecocks have been led by All-American outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who has hit .303 with seven doubles, one triple, six homers and 22 RBI. Third baseman Adrian Morales leads the team with a .370 average with six doubles, three homers and 19 RBI, while slugging first baseman Christian Waler has added a .341 average with five homers and a team-best 25 RBI. Jake Williams has hit .338 with two homers and 16 RBI, while outfielder Adam Matthews has batted .292 with four doubles, two homers and 13 RBI. Second baseman Scott Wingo has hit .282 with two homers and 11 RBI, while shortstop Peter Mooney has a .250 mark with nine RBI. Catcher Brady Thomas has added a .240 average with three homers and 13 RBI.
South Carolina has been paced by closer Matt Price (2-2, 3.86 ERA) in the bullpen, who has six saves in 13 relief outings. A year after being boosted in the CWS by its strong bullpen, the Gamecocks return several relief stars, including John Taylor (2-0, 0.44 ERA) who leads the team with 15 outings, striking out 25 in 20.2 innings, allowing only six hits. Submarine righty Jose Mata (2-0, 1.88 ERA) has appeared in eight games, while Bryan Harper (0-0, 5.59 ERA), the brother of Washington Nationals No. 1 overall pick Bryce Harper, has appeared in 10 games.
The Gamecocks lead the overall series with UK, 38-29, including a 20-10 mark in games played in Columbia. Last time the two teams met in Columbia, UK posted a series win, falling in the opener 13-9, before posting a 2-1 win behind Jordan Cooper on Saturday and riding a strong outing from Meyer to a 9-3 win on Sunday. The Wildcats have not won a series in Columbia since sweeping the Gamecocks in 1999 at Sarge Frye Field.
UK ranks throughout the SEC stats, checking in fifth in batting average (.307), fourth in slugging percentage (.449) and third in on-base percentage (.404). The Wildcats rank third in hits (61), second in doubles (59), fourth in homers (18), first in hit batters (48) and fourth in stolen bases (48). On the mound, UK ranks fourth in innings pitched (228.2), picking off a league-leading 10 runners. Defensively, UK ranks fourth in fielding percentage (.973), fifth in chances (977), fourth in putouts (686) and sixth in assists (265). Individually, Riddle ranks 12th in the SEC in on-base percentage (.450), while Black ranks fifth in runs (25), sixth in hits (36), seventh in triples (two), first in plate appearances (125) and second in at bats (105). Wright ranks 10th in on-base percentage (.462), fifth in stolen bases (12) and third in plate appearances (123). On the mound, Meyer ranks ninth in opponent batting average (.214), fifth in innings pitched (41.1), second in strikeouts (54) and first in batters struck out looking (26). Kaczmarek ranks sixth in the league in saves (four), while Kapteyn ranks fourth in the league in games finished (eight). Littrell ranks second in the SEC in pickoffs (three), while Nick Kennedy and Cooper rank fifth in the SEC with two pickoffs. Defensively, Black ranks third in assists (78), while Michael Williams ranks third in the SEC in runners caught stealing (eight).
Kentucky: 15-11, 2-4 SEC
South Carolina: 19-5, 4-2 SEC
No. 3 (Baseball America)
No. 4 (USA Today/ESPN Coaches)
No. 3 (Collegiate Baseball)
No. 3 (NCBWA)
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) -- Columbia, S.C.
Friday, April 1 * at No. 3 South Carolina * 7 p.m.
Saturday, April 2 * at No. 3 South Carolina * 4:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 3 * at No. 3 South Carolina * 1 p.m.
Radio (BBSN with Neil Price)
Friday: WLAP 630-AM in Central Kentucky; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Saturday: WGVN 1580-AM in Lexington; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Sunday: WLAP 630-AM in Central Kentucky; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Television (with Larry Conley and Andy Demetra)
Friday: Fox Sports South (Insight-Lexington channel 52/HD: 929)
Saturday: Fox Sports South (Insight-Lexington channel 52/HD: 929)
Sunday: Fox Sports South (Insight-Lexington channel 52/HD: 929)
Live video, audio and stats on UKathletics.com
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday at South Carolina
Jr., RHP Alex Meyer (3-3, 3.05 ERA) vs. Jr., LHP Michael Roth (5-1, 1.50 ERA)
Saturday at South Carolina
Fr., LHP Corey Littrell (4-1, 5.17 ERA) vs. So., RHP Colby Holes (2-0, 4.00 ERA)
Sunday at South Carolina
So., LHP Taylor Rogers (2-2, 5.45 ERA) vs. TBA
Carolina Stadium (8,242)