Baseball Travels to Face No. 28 Louisville
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Winners of eight consecutive non-conference games, the Kentucky baseball team hits the road for a rivalry tilt at No. 28 Louisville on Tuesday, with first pitch at Jim Patterson Stadium set for 6 p.m. ET.
The game 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 game live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM, in addition to coverage on UKathletics.com.
The game will also be televised live on Wazoo Sports Network with Bob Valvano and Drew Deener calling the action. The telecast will be able throughout the state of Kentucky, with the game on Insight-Lexington and Insight-Louisville on channel 524. Fans throughout the state can check local listings for television information in your area. The game will also be available live on WazooSports.com.
Kentucky (16-17) has won eight consecutive non-league games, dating back to a loss against Middle Tennessee State on March 9 at Cliff Hagan Stadium. UK has posted midweek wins over Xavier, Tennessee Tech, Cincinnati, Canisius and Murray State during the streak, also besting Niagara in the final three-game series of the year before Southeastern Conference play began. UK opened league play with a series win over Tennessee, before falling in nine consecutive SEC games, the longest conference losing streak since the 2005 campaign.
The Wildcats have totaled the eight-game non-SEC winning streak behind a well-rounded club, batting .344 with nine homers, totaling a 2.12 ERA and fielding .971 as a team. During the eight-game streak, UK has been led by Brian Adams, who has hit .480 in eight starts, with a homer, seven RBI and stealing six bases.
Kentucky has dominated the series with Louisville, winning 24 of the last 34 games in the series and owning a 64-33-1 overall mark all time. UK leads the series 22-16-1 in games played in Louisville and has posted a 9-6 mark in Louisville in the last 15 games. Since UK emerged as a contender on the national college baseball scene in claiming the league crown in the top conference in college baseball in 2006, Louisville has become a power in the Big East, including making a surprise run to the 2007 College World Series. Since the 2006 season, the two teams have engaged in two highly competitive games in each season, splitting the series for four consecutive seasons.
UK will turn to sophomore right-hander Jordan Cooper (2-1, 5.89 ERA) for his eighth start of the year and his second consecutive midweek start. UK’s opening-day starter at No. 20 College of Charleston on Feb. 18, Cooper was bumped out of the weekend rotation after allowing 14 runs in a combined seven innings pitched over two starts vs. Tennessee and Alabama. UK put freshman southpaw Corey Littrell – the 2010 Louisville Slugger Kentucky High School Player of the Year out of Trinity High School in Louisville – into the weekend rotation before the series at No. 3 South Carolina, the defending NCAA champions. Louisville will counter with freshman right-hander Jeff Thompson, a 6-foot-6, 265-pound native of Greenville, Ind. Thompson has made nine appearances and two starts this year, tossing 18.2 innings, allowing 13 hits and 10 walks, striking out 22 and holding opponents to a .188 batting average.
Cooper has tossed 36.2 innings, allowing 14 walks and striking out 26, notching one save in his two relief outings. A native of Shelbyville, Tenn., Cooper has tossed two quality starts on the year, including a career-high nine-strikeout game vs. red-hot Utah in the finale of the 2011 Houston College Classic, hosted by the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Cooper is coming off five innings vs. Xavier on Tuesday, his first midweek start since early in his freshman season. Cooper didn’t walk a hitter in his start Tuesday, striking out six and allowing only two runs. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder is no stranger to making starts vs. Louisville, as Cooper will make his third career start vs. the Cardinals. In his two starts as a freshman vs. UL, Cooper went 6.2 innings, allowing six hits and no runs, pitching three innings in his second start of the year vs. UL and 3.2 frames in his first start in 2010 vs. the Cardinals.
Throughout the year, UK has been led offensively by two-way star Braden Kapteyn, who leads UK in average (.339), runs (31), hits (43), homers (four) and RBI (33). Freshman J.T. Riddle has hit .323 with six doubles, three homers and 18 RBI, stealing five bases. Chad Wright has hit .322 with eight doubles, four homers and 24 RBI, stealing 13 bases, while senior shortstop Taylor Black has hit .321 with 10 doubles, two triples, one homer and 19 RBI, swiping 10 bases. Third baseman Thomas McCarthy has batted .306 with 11 doubles, four homers and 20 RBI, Adams has totaled a .304 mark with eight doubles, while Luke Maile has batted .279 with four homers and 22 RBI, stealing five bags.
In the bullpen, UK has used lefty Alex Phillips (1-1, 3.00 ERA) a team-high 16 times, while Walter Wijas (3-0, 1.96 ERA) and Trevor Gott (1-3, 0.43 ERA) have each appeared in 14 games. Senior Nick Kennedy (0-1, 3.48 ERA) and senior lefty Mike Kaczmarek (0-0, 8.10 ERA) have each pitched in 13 relief outings, with Kaczmarek leading UK with four saves. Kapteyn (0-1, 5.54 ERA) owns a 7-1 career record with eight saves, striking out 22 in 13 innings in 2011.
Last year, UK won the meeting in Lexington, 5-0, before falling in an intense, see-saw battle in Louisville, a 10-9 UL walk-off win. In the first meeting in 2010, UK rode a dominating relief performance from Kaczmarek, who tossed four shutout innings, allowing only one base runner after Cory Farris misjudged a routine pop-up in rightfield for the lone hit he allowed. UK got five runs in the game, shutting out the Cardinals, with Gunner Glad belting a homer and UK getting hits from Wright, Black, Keenan Wiley and Marcus Nidiffer. In the second meeting, the two teams squared off in an instant classic, with UL walking off with the 10-9 win. UK struck for single runs in the first and second innings, before UL evened up the game with two runs in the fourth. The Cardinals took the lead with three runs in the sixth and UK plated two in the seventh to cut the lead. UL took a 6-3 lead with a run in the bottom of the eighth inning, before UK mounted a furious rally off acclaimed UL closer Neil Holland, plating five runs on four hits off Holland to take a 9-6 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. UK turned to closer Matt Little to seal the win, needing only three outs with a three-run lead. Little gave up four runs and got only one out, with UL getting a walk-off single off Kapteyn for a drama-filled 10-9 win.
The Wildcats rank throughout the SEC stats, including ranking sixth in batting average (.292), fourth in slugging percentage (.441), third in on-base percentage (.395), fifth in hits (317), second in doubles (70) and second in home runs (27). The Wildcats led the SEC in hit batters (67) and sacrifice bunts (40), ranking fourth in stolen bases (57). On the mound, UK ranks second in batters struck out (265) and strikeouts looking (97), picking off the second-most runners in the league (10). Individually, Wright ranks 12th in the SEC in on-base percentage (.444) and fifth in stolen bases (13). Kapteyn ranks fourth in RBI (33), eighth in runs (31), 10th in total bases (64) and first in hit by pitches (14). McCarthy ranks seventh in the SEC in doubles (11), while Black checks in 12th in stolen bases (10). Defensively, Black ranks fifth in assists (93) and third among SEC shortstops in assists. Michael Williams has nabbed nine runners attempting to steal, third-best in the SEC.
Louisville (20-11, 6-3 Big East) is coming off a league series win over Cincinnati, a team UK also beat, 12-4. UL posted a 7-4 win Friday night and a 5-3 win Saturday before falling in the finale, 5-2, to the Bearcats. The Cardinals have posted a .254 batting average with 15 homers and 35 stolen bases in 31 games. On the mound, the Cards have totaled a strong 2.58 ERA with 219 strikeouts in 276 innings, saving 12 games and fielding .970 as a club.
Individually, second baseman Ryan Wright leads the Cards with a .303 average, totaling seven doubles, four homers and 21 RBI through 31 games. Ryan Seiz has hit .288 with two homers and 12 RBI, while Stewart Ijames leads UL in the power categories, belting seven homers and adding 25 RBI and a .271 average. J.J. Ethel has batted .253 with five RBI, while Cade Stallings ranks fifth on the club with a .231 mark.
On the mound, UL has been led by righty Tony Zych (0-1, 2.51 ERA), who has nine saves in 14 relief outings, tossing 14.1 innings, allowing 13 hits and five walks and striking out 15. Zych, the top prospect in the prestigious Cape Cod League in 2010, had a rough outing against UK in 2009, allowing three hits, two runs and two walks in one inning in a UK 8-7 win in Louisville. Last year, Zych got two outs vs. UK, allowing one hit in the UL win in Louisville, and tossing the eighth inning in UK’s 5-0 win in Lexington. Derek Self (2-0, 0.91 ERA) has appeared in 11 games with one save in 29.2 innings, allowing only 18 hits and five walks, striking out 22. Paducah, Ky., native Gabriel Shaw (0-1, 6.57 ERA) – who allowed a homer to fellow Paducah native Wright in 2009 in Louisville – has appeared in 10 games with one save in 12.1 innings, walking six and striking out eight.