Baseball Travels to Face Miss. St. on Super Bulldog Weekend

April 15, 2009

UK Game Notes (PDF)

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Fresh off a come-from-behind, 8-7 win at state rival Louisville, the Kentucky baseball travels to Southeastern Conference foe Mississippi State for a three-game series at Dudy-Noble Field. Game times are slated for 7:30 p.m. ET Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Kentucky (19-16, 4-11 SEC) posted a dramatic comeback win over Louisville in the Derby City Tuesday, using a three-run rally in the top of the eighth inning and a single run in the top of the ninth to cement the win. UK freshmen Chad Wright, Andy Burns and Braden Kapteyn played a major role in the win, with Wright leading UK with a 3-for-5, two-RBI day at the top of the line-up, including his second homer of the year and his first career triple. Burns added his fifth double of the year in the first inning to get UK’s scoring started and Kapteyn turned in the best pitching performance of his career, notching the win with three pressure-packed inning in relief, striking out four and allowing one hit and one run.

The game will mark a meeting with former UK head coach John Cohen, now in his first year at tradition-rich Mississippi State. Cohen guided the UK program to its most successful three-year period in program annals, including two NCAA regional appearances and UK’s first SEC Championship in 2006. Cohen, a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., totaled a .610 winning percentage and a 175-112-1 record in five years at the helm of the Wildcats. UK named one of the architects of the program the last five years, then-associate head coach and pitching coach Gary Henderson, the 25th head coach of the program. Henderson, who was responsible for all recruiting and pitching during his five seasons as associate head coach, immediately secure the fourth-best recruiting class in the NCAA, just a year after his pitching staff led the SEC in ERA.

The Wildcats have been led offensively throughout the season by its sophomore second baseman, Chris Bisson, a native of Orleans, Ontario. Bisson has batted for a robust .380 average, leading the team in runs scored, hits, doubles and stolen bases. Veteran shortstop Chris Wade, a 2008 freshman All-American, leads the club with 30 RBI, batting .288 with seven doubles, one triple and four homers, swiping 8-of-10 bases. Junior catcher Marcus Nidiffer (.311, 5 HR, 22 RBI), junior center fielder Keenan Wiley (.250, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 7-8 SB) and senior infielder Spencer Korus (.348, 2 HR, 13 RBI) have helped provide an experienced presence in the UK lineup. Wright (.324, 3 2, 3B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 4-5 SB), Burns (.257, 5 2B, 3B, 4 HR, 20 RBI), Kapteyn (.309, 7 2B, HR, 13 RBI) and Cory Farris (.268, 8 RBI) have all seen extensive time in the Wildcat lineup.

On the mound, UK will start junior southpaw James Paxton (4-2, 6.07 ERA) in his ninth start of the year, facing Mississippi State junior lefty Tyler Whitney (2-3, 4.24 ERA). Paxton, a 6-foot-4, 215-pounder from Ladner, British Columbia, has struck out 65 in 43 innings. Saturday, senior lefty Chris Rusin (4-3, 4.53 ERA) will get the starting nod, opposite of MSU freshman southpaw Nick Routt (4-2, 3.07 ERA). Rusin, who ranks fifth-best all-time in the 105-year history of the program with 20 career wins, has struck out 64 in 53.2 innings. Sunday, freshman right-hander Alex Meyer (1-2, 4.69 ERA) will get his eighth career start. In 40.1 innings, Meyer – a 6-foot-8, 205-pounder from Greensburg, Ind., has struck out 44 and allowed only 30 hits, fewest in the SEC among starting pitchers. Meyer’s .213 opponent batting average ranks fourth-best in the conference.

The games can be heard live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with the two-man crew of Neil Price and Dick Gabriel calling the action. All games can be heard live in Lexington on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM.

Mississippi State (19-18, 5-10 SEC) will host Kentucky for Super Bulldog Weekend, an annual event centered around the football spring practice and a three-game series in baseball. The event, which usually draws the largest crowds for college baseball in the nation on the year, is the second straight trip to Starkville that UK has faced the Bulldogs on Super Bulldog Weekend, doing so in 2007, a 2-1 series win for MSU. The Bulldogs are coming off a 8-1 loss to Ole Miss in the annual Governors Cup, held in Pearl, Miss., at Trustmark Park. MSU started Ricky Bowen, using Crosswhite, Swindle, Drew Hollinghead and David Hayes in relief. Ole Miss senior starter Brett Bukvich struck out 11 in six innings, allowing the only MSU run.

MSU has been led by a .292 team batting average and a 5.65 team ERA. Russ Sneed (.361, 6 HR, 29 RBI), Scott DeLoach (.350, 14 RBI), Jet Butler (.333, 4 HR, 33 RBI), Grant Hogue (.314, HR, 17 RBI, 21-24 SB) and Ryan Powers (.306, 2 HR, 19 RBI) have played in 30 or more games and hit for an average above .300. Connor Powers leads the club with 11 homers and 40 RBI, hitting .308 and adding a team-high 12 doubles. In the bullpen, Lee Swindle (1-1, 5.09) and Greg Houston (1-1, 5.49 ERA) have each appeared in at least 11 games, with Chad Crosswhite (0-3, 8.40 ERA) leading the team with five saves in 12 appearances.

The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 28-50, including a 33-10 all-time mark in Starkville. UK has won four of the last six meetings with Mississippi State and six of the last nine. UK has not won a series in Starkville since the 1998 season.