Baseball Travels to No. 15 Ole Miss for Three-Game Set
April 2, 2009
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Winners of three straight series with the Ole Miss Rebels, dating back to 2006, the Kentucky Wildcats hit the road for a pivotal three-game Southeastern Conference set, facing No. 15 Ole Miss Friday-Sunday, at Swayze Field.
Kentucky (18-9, 4-5 SEC) is coming off a home series loss to No. 28 South Carolina last weekend, and two mid-week wins over Marshall and Wright State. The Wildcats have not lost a SEC series to the Rebels since the 2005 season, claiming three consecutive meetings, including the last meeting at Ole Miss in 2007. UK utilized a win in the rubber match in 2007 in Oxford to claim the series, and posted wins in the first two games in 2008 to claim the series. The last time these two teams met, it ended up as one of the better SEC Tournament games in the regal history of the conference, as Ole Miss edged UK on a Michael Guerrero two-run, walk-off home run in Hoover, Ala., in the second round of the 2008 conference tourney. In the last regular-season meeting in 2008, on the final weekend of the season, Ole Miss got two runs in the 11th inning to take a post-season clinching win over UK.
The Wildcats notched two mid-week wins Tuesday and Wednesday, using great pitching in both wins, just a week removed from posting a 10.02 team ERA during UK’s 1-4 week. In Tuesday’s 2-0 blanking of Marshall, southpaw Mike Kaczmarek tossed five shutout innings, allowing only one hit while striking out a career best five, and first baseman Gunner Glad notched UK’s lone two RBI in the first inning, a two-out, two-run single into center field. Glad continued to electrify the UK lineup against Wright State Wednesday, a Raider team that upset No. 1 Georgia in Athens earlier in the season. The junior from Tulsa, Okla., notched his second multi-homer game of the season, belting his fifth and team-high sixth homers of the year, all coming in 31 at bats in 2009. Glad hit three homers in the series-opener with the Gamecocks, adding a career-high five runs scored and five RBI.
Glad has led the way offensively with his power numbers, hitting .419 (13-for-31), with a double, six homers and 15 RBI. Second baseman Chris Bisson has totaled a team-best .387 average, with a club-high nine doubles and 27 RBI. Catcher Marcus Nidiffer has added a .364 average, with five homers and 20 RBI. Shortstop Chris Wade (.295 avg., 5 2B, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 8-9 SB) and infielder Spencer Korus (.410 avg., 3 2B, 2 HR, 12 RBI) have assisted in providing a veteran presence for a young Wildcat lineup. Freshmen Chad Wright (.338, 3 2B, HR, 9 RBI), Braden Kapteyn (.322, 6 2B, HR, 13 RBI), Andy Burns (.257, 3 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 18 RBI) and Cory Farris (.278, 8 RBI) have all seen immediate starting action for UK.
Fans can hear the game 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 and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM.
UK will shake up its starting weekend rotation for the first time in SEC play, turning to freshman right-hander Alex Meyer (1-1, 4.30 ERA) to start the Friday matchup, facing Ole Miss ace lefty Drew Pomeranz (2-0, 3.55 ERA). Saturday, UK southpaw Chris Rusin (4-1, 3.21 ERA) gets the starting call, facing Phillip Irwin (4-1, 2.83 ERA). Sunday, UK junior James Paxton (4-1, 5.62 ERA) will start opposite All-American Scott Bittle (1-2, 3.06 ERA), who heads to the weekend rotation after functioning as one of the top lock-down closers in college baseball in 2008. Bittle, a second-round 2008 MLB Draft pick of the New York Yankees, has started just one game since 2008, last Sunday, when the righty went seven innings of one-hit ball, striking out 10.
Rusin, Meyer and Paxton have paced UK on the mound, with Rusin ranked second in the league with 55 strikeouts in 42 innings of work, hurling two complete games. In his last four starts, Rusin has worked all but 1.1 innings, tossing two complete games, an 8.2-inning performance against No. 28 South Carolina, and eight innings in the final non-conference weekend against Indiana State. Paxton ranks third in the conference with 49 strikeouts in his 32 innings, walking only eight. In the bullpen, Tyler Henry (0-3, 4.88 ERA), Logan Darnell (3-0, 3.63 ERA, 2 saves), Clint Tilford (1-2, 3.16 ERA) and Braden Kapteyn (1-0, 4.82 ERA, 3 saves) have done the most work for UK.
Ole Miss (19-8, 5-4 SEC) has been led offensively by its All-SEC sparkplug, 2007 SEC Freshman of the Year, Jordan Henry, who leads the club with a .371 average, 17 RBI, a 26-8 walk-strikeout ratio, and a club-high 18 steals. Logan Power (.344, 3 HR, 27 RBI), Tim Ferguson (.324, 12 RBI, 11-12 SB), Zach Miller (.316, 1 HR, 14 RBI), Kevin Mort (.315, 15 RBI), Jeremy Travis (.309, 6 HR, 22 RBI), Matt Snyder (.308, 5 HR, 18 RBI) and Matt Smith (.302, 4 HR, 25 RBI) have been fixtures in the Ole Miss lineup. In addition, Ole Miss is led by arguably the top defensive catcher in the conference, Brett Basham (.259, 1 HR, 8 RBI). In the Ole Miss bullpen, Rory McKean (4-1, 5.16 ERA), Brett Bukvich (3-1, 4.91 ERA) and David Goforth (1-0, 3.21 ERA) have complemented Jake Morgan (3-1, 2.45 ERA), who has struck out a club-high 32 in 18.1 relief innings in 2009.
The Rebels lead the all-time series between the two schools, 33-25, including a 19-8 mark in Oxford. UK has won seven of the last 10 games with the Rebels.