Baseball Faces Second Straight No. 1, Hosts 28-2 Texas A&M
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- For the first time in school history, Kentucky will face the nation's top-ranked team in consecutive weekends, playing host to No. 1 Texas A&M in a three-game series, slated to begin on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The series will resume on Friday at 7 p.m. and conclude on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The three games will be televised live on the SEC Network, with Tom Hart and Louisville native and Tennessee great Chris Burke calling the action. The three games will also be broadcast live on the UK Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans can hear the Thursday and Friday games live on WLAP 630-AM in Central Kentucky and on Saturday on Fox Sports Radio 1580-AM. All three games will also be on WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville and online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky will send the weekend rotation of sophomore righty Zack Brown (2-2, 2.47 ERA) on Thursday, junior right-hander Dustin Beggs (3-2, 3.09 ERA) on Friday and junior right-hander Kyle Cody (2-2, 5.45 ERA) on Saturday. Texas A&M will counter with junior right-hander Grayson Long (5-0, 2.50 ERA) on Thursday, junior righty Kyle Simonds (2-0, 0.00 ERA) on Friday and junior southpaw Matt Kent (6-0, 2.78 ERA) in the finale.
A native of Seymour, Ind., Brown has appeared in seven games with six starts, working 40 innings, allowing 31 hits and 18 walks, striking out 34. In his two-year career, Brown has appeared in 28 games with 11 starts, tossing 68.2 innings, allowing 73 hits and 29 walks, striking out 52. In his last start on Friday at No. 1 LSU, Brown worked 6.2 innings, allowing nine hits and three runs -- two earned -- walking three and striking out three. Long has made seven starts for TAMU in 2015, owning 39.2 innings, allowing only 28 hits and 15 walks, striking out 50. In his last start on Friday vs. Missouri, Long worked five innings, allowing five hits and three runs, walking two and striking out seven on 90 pitches. Long allowed all of his Missouri runs in the sixth inning, allowing three consecutive hitters to reach, with all three runs scoring in the frame off the bullpen. In his start vs. UK in 2014, Long improved to 5-1 with eight innings, allowing only eight hits and two runs, walking one and striking out eight on 113 pitches.
Beggs, a native of Roswell, Ga., has made seven consecutive weekend starts, tossing 43.2 innings, allowing 37 hits and 10 walks, striking out 33. In his last start on Saturday at No. 1 LSU, Beggs pitched well enough for Kentucky to win, hurling seven innings, allowing seven hits and two runs -- one earned -- not issuing a walk and striking out five. Simonds has appeared in nine games with one start, owning a save in 25.2 innings, allowing only 14 hits and 10 walks, striking out 19. A 6-foot-4 righty, Simonds has yet to allow an earned run in his debut season out of Hutchinson Community College, holding opponents to a .161 clip. In his first career start on Friday vs. Missouri, Simonds tossed five innings, allowing three hits and two unearned runs, walking three and striking out one on 81 pitches, with the Tigers plating two runs in the fourth.
A native of Chippewa Falls, Wis., Cody has made seven weekend starts in 2015, tossing 36.1 innings, allowing 35 hits and seven walks, striking out 33. In his career, Cody has tossed 132 innings in 40 games with 23 starts, owning a 9-5 record and a 4.43 ERA, striking out 100. In his last start, Cody took a no decision on Sunday at No. 1 LSU, working five innings, allowing eight hits and six runs -- five earned -- not issuing a walk and striking out three. Cody was in the midst of a dominant outing before allowing a two-run third inning and a four-run fifth inning to end his outing. Cody has one career appearance vs. Texas A&M, picking up a save in a shutout inning in support of AJ Reed's Friday-night victory in College Station in 2014. Kent has made seven starts in 2015, tossing 45.1 innings, allowing 50 hits and only issuing three walks, striking out 37 and allowing only five extra-base hits. In his last start on Saturday vs. Missouri, Kent worked six shutout innings, not issuing a walk and working around seven hits, striking out three.
The Wildcats are coming off a five-game week that included the first road series win at a No. 1 ranked team in program history.
Kentucky (18-11, 4-5 SEC) has hit .302 as a team in 2015, with a .402 slugging and a .387 on-base percentage. UK has belted 53 doubles and 13 homers, scoring 179 runs in 29 games, stealing 39 bases. On the mound, UK has a 4.45 ERA as a team, with 264.2 innings, allowing 92 walks and 210 strikeouts. Defensively, UK has a .960 fielding percentage, turning 30 double plays and throwing out seven runners.
Individually, UK has been paced at the plate by junior leftfielder Ka'ai Tom, who has hit .387 with nine doubles, one triple, two homers and 30 RBI, stealing 10 bases. Centerfielder Kyle Barrett has a .372 average with six doubles, one homer and 16 RBI, swiping seven bases. Freshman first baseman Evan White has a .324 mark, with four doubles, one triple, one homer and 16 RBI, with sophomore second baseman JaVon Shelby sporting a .303 mark with seven doubles, one triple, two homers and 21 RBI. Third baseman Thomas Bernal has a .301 average with six doubles and 20 RBI, with catcher Zach Arnold owning a .286 average with five doubles and six RBI. Outfielder Marcus Carson has hit .255 with two doubles, five RBI and five steals. Outfielder Storm Wilson has a .253 average with three doubles, two triples, one homer and 10 RBI, swiping six bases. Shortstop Connor Heady has a .228 average with a homer and nine RBI, with catcher Greg Fettes belting three homers. Freshman infielder Riley Mahan has hit .282 with four doubles, one triple, one homer and eight RBI.
In relief for the Wildcats, senior righties Andrew Nelson (2-2, 4.40 ERA) and Spencer Jack (1-0, 3.27 ERA), and junior righty Zach Strecker (2-0, 4.11 ERA) have appeared in at least 12 games, with Jack owning four saves and Nelson one. Southpaws Dylan Dwyer (2-0, 2.65 ERA), Zach Logue (1-1, 5.49 ERA) and Logan Salow (1-1, 9.26 ERA) have each appeared in at double-digit games in relief.
Last week, UK opened the weekend at No. 1 LSU with a thrilling 5-4 win at LSU in the opener in 12 innings, getting a game-winning two-RBI double with two outs from Ka'ai Tom in the top of the final frame, with relievers Zach Strecker and Spencer Jack turning in heroic performances, with Strecker earning the win and Jack his fourth save. UK took LSU into the eighth inning on Saturday in a 2-2 game, before an inside-the park, three-run home run led to a five-run inning and a 7-3 win to even the series. The finale continued a wild series, with the lead changing hands or tied eight times. Down to its last out in the ninth inning, UK pinch hitter Riley Mahan lined a sinking fly ball into shallow leftfield, with the outfielder attempting a diving play, the fielder backing up the play slipped and Mahan slide in for the game-tying inside-the-park home run. UK fought through extra innings and a time curfew that forced the game to finish by the SEC travel curfew the 11th inning, Greg Fettes -- who came in to catch in the ninth -- belted a go-ahead homer and a Marcus Carson bunt single and two-out RBI knock from Tom gave UK a 12-10 lead it would hold behind 3.2 innings in relief from Jack for the win. It marked UK's first series win at LSU since 2007, its second in program history, and the first series win over a No. 1 ranked team on the road in UK annals. Last Tuesday, UK suffered the loss at Western Kentucky in a game that was played at the Bowling Green Ballpark. UK bounced back on Wednesday with a 9-4 win that was highlighted by Storm Wilson's first homer of the year and the first career win for Taylor Martin.
Kentucky has now notched consecutive series wins over ranked foes, after besting No. 20 Mississippi State a week ago, and now owns five wins over top-25 teams in 2015. UK's series win marked its third consecutive season with a series win over a No. 1 ranked team. The Wildcats now have eight wins in the Gary Henderson era over No. 1 ranked teams, including three of UK's four all-time series wins over top-ranked foes.
Texas A&M (28-2, 7-2 SEC) own the nation's best record entering the weekend play, suffering only two losses, a 6-2 series finale at Alabama and a 3-2 opener vs. Missouri last week. TAMU opened the year 24-0 and 5-0 in conference play before suffering its first loss, in the second game of a doubleheader. In midweek play, TAMU posted a 19-4 win vs. Sam Houston State on Tuesday.
The Aggies have hit .321 as a team in 2015, with a .477 slugging and a .417 on-base percentage, belting 31 homers and stealing 22 bases. Defensively, TAMU has fielded .969 with 22 double plays and 14 runners caught stealing. On the mound, the Aggies have an eye-popping 2.03 team ERA in 271 innings, allowing 230 hits and 77 walks, striking out 272 and holding opponents to a .228 average.
At the plate, TAMU has been led by All-America outfielder Nick Banks, who is hitting .435 with six doubles, two triples, two homers and 20 RBI. Ronnie Gideon has a .380 average with six homers and 25 RBI, with Mitchell Nau hitting .361 with a homer and 27 RBI and Logan Taylor hitting .358 with six homers and 26 RBI. Blake Allemand has a .336 average with two homers and 22 RBI, Hunter Melton has hit .333 with three homers and 21 RBI and Ryne Birk has a .296 average with three homers and 20 RBI.
In relief for the Aggies, lefty Ty Schlottmann (2-1, 1.69 ERA) has appeared in 17 games to lead the team, tossing 16 innings. Andrew Vinson (3-0, 0.00 ERA) has appeared in 16.1 innings, allowing seven hits and no walks. Mark Ecker (0-0, 0.00 ERA), Ryan Hendrix (0-0, 0.73 ERA) and Jason Freeman (2-0, 2.50 ERA) have each appeared in double-digit games, with Hendrix saving five games.
The all-time series between the two schools is tied, 3-3, with UK winning the 2014 meeting in College Station. The two teams have never met in Lexington, with the series beginning in 1989 with a two-game set, with the teams meeting in 2002 in a February tilt.
In the last meeting in 2014, UK rode heroics from AJ Reed to a series win in College Station. UK posted a win in the opener, 6-3, behind a game-winning hit from Thomas Bernal and a win on the bump from Reed. UK then secured the series with an 11-4 result on Saturday, before suffering a 14-2 loss in the finale. UK hit .306 in the series, fielded .975 with three errors, turning five double plays, and had a 6.58 ERA, walking seven and striking out 11 in 26 innings. TAMU hit .321 with 21 runs, fielding .982 and owning a 6.00 ERA on the mound. In the opener, Reed worked eight innings, allowing three runs -- with only one run earned. The two teams traded three-run innings in the first and second, before UK got the go-ahead hit from Bernal in the top of the ninth inning, with Kyle Cody coming on to secure his fourth save of the year. Bernal was 3-for-5 with four RBI in the game, with Ka'ai Tom driving in two runs. Jason Jester worked for TAMU in the start, allowing three runs and getting one out. Ty Schlottmann then worked 6.2 shutout, two-hit innings, before Parker Ray allowed the three decisive runs in 1.2 innings. Dylan Dwyer pitched UK to the win on Saturday, working 6.2 innings, allowing five hits and one run, with UK getting the 15th homer of the year from Reed and the fifth from Max Kuhn. Reed was 4-for-6 with four RBI, as UK scored 10 runs over the final five innings. In the finale, Grayson Long worked eight innings and allowed two runs as TAMU scored five runs in the first and eight runs off starter Andrew Nelson. Reed hit his 16th homer of the year, an opposite-field shot, with Bernal collecting two hits and TAMU's Nick Banks cranking his second career blast.
Kentucky: 18-11, 4-5 SEC
Texas A&M: 28-2, 7-2 SEC
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) -- Lexington, Ky.
Thursday, April 2 * vs. No. 1 Texas A&M * 7 p.m.
Friday, April 3 * vs. No. 1 Texas A&M * 7 p.m.
Saturday, April 4 * vs. No. 1 Texas A&M * 1 p.m.
SEC Network with Tom Hart and Chris Burke
SEC Network+ and WatchESPN
Radio (UK Radio Network with Neil Price)
Thursday-Friday: WLAP 630-AM in Central Kentucky
Saturday: Fox Sports 1580-AM in Lexington
Thursday-Saturday: WKJK 180-AM in Louisville, UKathletics.com
Live audio and stats on UKathletics.com
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Thursday vs. No. 1 Texas A&M
So., RHP Zack Brown (2-2, 2.47 ERA) vs. Jr., RHP Grayson Long (5-0, 2.50 ERA)
Friday vs. vs. No. 1 Texas A&M
Jr., RHP Dustin Beggs (3-2, 3.09 ERA) vs. Jr., RHP Kyle Simonds (2-0, 0.00 ERA)
Saturday vs. No. 1 Texas A&M
Jr., RHP Kyle Cody (2-2, 5.45 ERA) vs. Jr., LHP Matt Kent (6-0, 2.78 ERA)
Thursday, April 2 -- 7 p.m.
"What's Your Favorite Color, Baby?" Night at `The Cliff'. -- The first 1,000 fans can choose either a free blue or white t-shirt. All fans can get $1 hot dogs before first pitch and $1 off ticket price before 6:45 p.m.
Friday, April 3 -- 7 p.m.
"Community Hero Night" -- Know someone who does amazing work for the Bluegrass? Nominate them as our Community Hero of the Year to WeAreUK@uky.edu and one hero will win a personalized UK baseball jersey.
Saturday, April 4 -- 1 p.m.
Team Autographs -- meet the team post game and get an autograph from your favorite Wildcat.
Cliff Hagan Stadium (3,000)
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.
SINGLE GAME TICKET PRICES
$5 - General Admission Seating - Adults
$2 - General Admission Seating - Kids/Seniors
SEASON TICKET PRICES
$35 General Admission
$55 Reserved Seating