Baseball Travels for Showdown with No. 19 Western Kentucky

Live blog from Bowling Green, Ky. 

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Fresh off a 6-5 win over No. 7 Florida on Sunday, the Kentucky baseball team will return to action with a midweek tilt against No. 19 Western Kentucky, with first-pitch Tuesday at the Bowling Green Ballpark, slated for 7 p.m. ET.

The game will be played at the ballpark of the Bowling Green Hot Rods, the low class A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. The ballpark was built in 2009 and owns a capacity of 4,569. In the last meeting between the two teams in Bowling Green in 2008, the atmosphere was record breaking, as a WKU school-record 3,057 fans packed the 1,500 capacity stadium on the WKU campus, witnessing a drama-filled 2-1 UK win. The game was one of four road rivalry non-conference games for the Wildcats in 2008 where the host school set a new school-record for single-game attendance (at Cincinnati: 1,094; at Louisville: 3,652; at Murray State: 1,651).  

In the 2008 meeting, UK won an exciting pitching duel in front of the packed crowd. UK started then freshman lefty Mike Kaczmarek in the game, lasting one inning with a walk and three hits allowed before then-senior Tommy Warner came on in relief for the Wildcats. Warner tossed five innings with one run allowed and five strikeouts, before turning the ball over for a perfect bullpen outing, with Brock Baber getting two outs without a hit allowed, Andrew Albers pitching two perfect innings with three strikeouts and Scott Green throwing one slider to get a strikeout, notch a save and close out the game. Offensively first-team All-American outfielder Collin Cowgill and first-team All-Southeastern Conference second baseman Ryan Wilkes each blasted solo home runs in the game with the Hilltoppers, lifting UK to the 2-1 win. Cowgill's homer was a no-doubt jack that sailed over the batters eye, deep behind the center-field fence at Nick Denes Field.

Kentucky (22-14) and WKU met earlier in the year in Lexington, with the Hilltoppers posting a 6-3 win, scoring four runs over the sixth and seventh innings to break open UK's narrow 3-2 lead and secure the first win of the two-game, home-and-home series. UK started freshman Sam Kidd, who went 2.1 innings, allowing two hits and one unearned run, walking two and striking out one. UK also used Kaczmarek for two innings and freshman Jordan Cooper, who allowed three runs in his two innings of work to suffer his first career loss. UK also utilized Kyle Jackson, Nick Kennedy and Matt Little in the late innings. Offensively, UK got one multi-hit game, as senior centerfielder Keenan Wiley went 2-for-4, with UK also getting hits from Gunner Glad, Marcus Nidiffer, Chris Bisson and Neiko Johnson, with Glad belting a home run. WKU had a four-hit outing from first baseman Jake Wells, with leadoff hitter Matt Payton totaling a game-high three RBI.

Over the weekend, Kentucky fell in a three-game series with the seventh-ranked Gators, suffering a 10-8 loss Friday night and a 6-3 result Saturday evening. On Sunday, UK rebounded with six runs over the first three innings and held off a late rally from UF to secure a 6-5 win.

Kentucky sits in a three-way tie for the eighth and final spot in the 2010 SEC Tournament, at the halfway point of the conference season. The Wildcats are tied with Alabama (5-10) and Mississippi State (5-10) for the eighth spot in the tournament. The SEC takes the winners of the Eastern and Western Division and the remaining six teams based on winning percentage to the annual tournament held at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala. The three teams hold a one-game lead on Tennessee (4-11). UK owns the tie-breaker on Alabama, courtesy of a series victory over the Crimson Tide, while UK and Mississippi State do not play each other in 2010. The remaining SEC schedule will remain rugged, as UK travels to No. 23 Auburn (8-7), Georgia (3-12) and Tennessee, hosting No. 6 LSU (11-4) and No. 5 South Carolina (11-4).

UK is in the midst of a brutal stretch in the schedule, facing a ranked opponent in 19 of 21 games, including a stretch of 15 straight ranked foes. UK has posted eight wins over ranked opponents this season and following the weekend rank No. 25 in the NCAA RPI.

Western Kentucky will start junior right-hander Brian Edelen (3-0, 3.62 ERA) for the second consecutive game against the Wildcats. Edelen has pitched in 13 games with seven starts, hurling 32.1 innings, allowing only 30 hits and walking 19 with 21 strikeouts. UK has not announced a starting pitcher.

The Wildcats have been led by a .301 team average and a 4.76 ERA on the mound, fielding at a .963 clip. Offensively, UK has been led by sophomore leftfielder Chad Wright, who leads UK with a .367 average (54-for-147), with club-high 10 doubles, adding two triples, two homers and 31 RBI, stealing seven bases. Glad has hit for a .341 average (46-for-135) with eight doubles, seven homers and a team-leading 34 RBI. Wiley has hit .338 (44-for-130) with five doubles, four homers and 27 RBI, stealing 11 bases. Bisson has batted .331 (41-for-124) with six doubles, two homers and 20 RBI, leading the team with 17 walks and stealing 15 bases. Shortstop Taylor Black has hit .296 (32-for-108) with five doubles and five homers, clubbing 23 RBI and stealing seven bags. Nidiffer has hit .284 (25-for-88) with five homers and 16 RBI, while Cory Farris has belted seven homers and hit for a .275 (25-for-91) average. Sophomore third baseman Andy Burns ranks third in the SEC and leads the team with 11 homers, batting .271 (35-for-129) with 21 RBI and six steals.

In the bullpen, UK has been led by Little (1-1, 3.14 ERA), who leads the team with six saves in nine attempts, totaling 41 strikeouts in 28.2 innings, allowing only 18 hits and a .188 opponent average. Kennedy (3-1, 4.09 ERA) has totaled 12 relief appearances, tossing 22 innings and striking out 29, adding one save. Braden Kapteyn (1-0, 2.25 ERA) has picked up a save in nine relief outings tossing 12 inning with 12 strikeouts. Kaczmarek (1-0, 2.84 ERA) has pitched in 11 games out of the pen, tossing 12.2 innings with 10 strikeouts. Cooper (2-3, 6.25 ERA) has pitched in 14 games with two starts, tossing 31.2 innings and striking out 21.

Western Kentucky (27-12) has emerged as the top program in the Sun Belt Conference, claiming the league title a year ago and advancing to an NCAA Regional. The Hilltoppers have soared in the national rankings but are in the midst of a four-game losing streak, falling in a three-game series at FAU and in a midweek tilt at Louisville. WKU has hit for a .313 team average, fielding .976 and totaling a 4.40 ERA on the mound.

The Hilltoppers have been led by Matt Payton, who paces the team with a .397 average (62-for-156), with 11 doubles, nine triples, seven homers and 43 RBI. All-American catcher Matt Rice has hit .376 (62-for-165) with 13 doubles, three triples, eight homers and 49 RBI. Centerfielder Kes Carter has batted .366 (59-for-161) with nine doubles, six homers and 43 RBI, stealing 10 bases. Jared Andreoli has batted .350 (57-for-163) with nine doubles, four triples and three homers, adding 36 RI and 12 stolen bases. Wells has hit .304 (48-for-158) with a homer and 31 RBI.

In the bullpen for WKU, Rye Davis (2-2, 1.62 ERA) leads the team with seven saves, striking out 44 in 33.1 innings. Craig Stem (1-2, 4.00 ERA), Phile Wetherell (0-1, 6.61 ERA), Taylor Hayden (2-1, 7.96 ERA), Tyler Gilliland (0-0, 3.24 ERA), Bart Carter (1-0, 3.00 ERA) and Ross Hammonds (3-0, 1.17 ERA) have each appeared in 10 or more games out of the WKU pen.

UK ranks throughout the SEC stats, checking in sixth in average (.301), fourth in slugging (.488) and fifth in on-base percentage (.401), also ranking second in homers (52), first in hit batters (79) and first in stolen bases (75). Defensively, UK ranks second in chances (1453) and first in assists (442) and double plays (38). Individually, Wright ranks ninth in the league in hits (54) and 12th in doubles (10). Burns checks in third in home runs (11), while Black ranks third in the league in HBP (14). Neiko Johnson ranks second in the SEC in steals (17), while Bisson checks in sixth in stolen bases (15). Little ranks fourth in saves (six) and second in games finished (15), while Nidiffer leads the SEC in pickoffs (four). Defensively, Glad ranks third in chances (325), second in double plays (32) and fourth in putouts (291). Black checks in second in assists (119) and ninth in double plays (22).

The Wildcats lead the all-time series with Western Kentucky, 30-22, including a 12-9 mark in games played in Bowling Green. UK has won three of the last six games in the series and five of the last eight games overall.

Tickets for the game can only be purchased by calling the WKU Ticket Office at 270.745.5222 and are also available online at wkusports.com.

GAME CENTER

Records
Kentucky - 22-14
Western Kentucky - 27-12

Head Coaches
Kentucky
•    Gary Henderson (San Diego State, 1984)
•    50-40 (.556) - 2nd year
Western Kentucky
•    Chris Finwood (VMI, 1988)
•    201-216 (.482) - 8th year

Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) -- Bowling Green, Ky.
Tuesday, April 20 * at No. 19 Western Kentucky * 7 p.m.

Radio (BBSN with Neil Price)
Tuesday
•    WLAP 630-AM in Lexington
•    UKathletics.com

Internet Coverage
Live audio and stats on UKathletics.com

Tentative Pitching Matchups
Tuesday vs. Western Kentucky
TBA vs. RHP Brian Edelen (3-0, 3.62 ERA)

Stadium
Bowling Green Ballpark (4,569)