No. 1 Baseball Travels to Face Defending SEC Champ Vandy
April 26, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Fresh off a series win over the top-ranked LSU Tigers, No. 1 Kentucky returns to action with a three-game series, traveling to Nashville to take on defending Southeastern Conference Champion Vanderbilt, with the series set to begin on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET at Hawkins Field. The series will resume on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET and conclude on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.
Kentucky (35-7, 13-5 SEC) enters the series leading the league, owning a one-game lead over Western Division front-runner LSU and a two-game lead over top-ranked Florida in the Eastern Division. The Wildcats have won all six of their league series in 2012, including road victories at Tennessee, No. 18 Georgia and No. 9 Arkansas, in addition to home series wins over No. 2 South Carolina, No. 10 Ole Miss and No. 1 LSU.
UK has four league weekend remaining in the regular-season, at Vanderbilt (19-22, 7-11 SEC), vs. Florida (32-10, 11-7 SEC), vs. Alabama (17-25, 6-12 SEC) and at Mississippi State (25-16, 8-10 SEC).
The Wildcats will be coming off a midweek loss at No. 20 Louisville, UK’s 14th ranked opponent in the last 16 games. The Cardinals swept the two-game home-and-home series with the Wildcats, also claiming a win in the first meeting between the two teams at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The three games will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, available in Central Kentucky on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky will send its regular weekend rotation of junior lefty Taylor Rogers (4-2, 5.01 ERA) on Friday, junior left-hander Jerad Grundy (4-1, 4.24 ERA) on Saturday and sophomore southpaw Corey Littrell (6-0, 2.51 ERA) on Sunday. Vanderbilt will counter with sophomore right-hander T.J. Pecoraro (0-1, 3.71 ERA) on Friday, freshman right-hander Tyler Beede (1-4, 4.78 ERA) on Saturday and sophomore lefty Kevin Ziomek (3-6, 5.44 ERA) on Sunday.
A native of Littleton, Colo., Rogers has made 10 series-opening starts for the Wildcats in 2012, tossing 55.2 innings, allowing 67 hits and 13 walks, striking out 58. The 2011 Cape Cod League All-Star is coming off a quality start vs. No. 1 LSU last Friday night, tossing six innings, allowing eight hits and five runs – three earned – walking two and striking out four. In his last start vs. Vanderbilt in 2010, Rogers worked a complete-game eight innings in a 2-1 loss, allowing seven this and two runs – one earned – not issuing a walk and he allowed only two VU runs in the first inning. Rogers will be opposed by Pecoraro, who has made six appearances and two starts this year. Pecoraro has pitched 17 innings, allowing 17 hits and seven walks, striking out 13. In his last start on Friday at Alabama, Pecoraro worked five innings, allowing six hits and four runs – three earned – walking three and striking out three.
Grundy, a transfer from Heartland CC and Miami (Fla.), will be making his 11th start in the middle game of a series this year. In 51 innings, Grundy has allowed 47 hits and 23 walks, striking out 39. In his last start, Grundy rebounded after three consecutive sub-par starts to turn in one of his best career outings. Grundy worked six innings vs. LSU, allowing only six hits and one run, walking three and striking out three. Beede, ranked as the top freshmen in college baseball in the preseason by Baseball America and a future first-round pick, will be making his eight start of the year in 10 outings. Beede has tossed 49 innings, allowing 57 hits and 13 walks, striking out 45. In his last start, Beede worked into the seventh inning at Alabama, tossing 6.1 innings, allowing six hits and four runs, walking two and striking out one.
A native of Louisville, Ky., Littrell will be making his 11th series finale start of the year, with the lefty named to the College Baseball Hall of Fame National Pitcher of the Year Award watch list on Tuesday. Littrell has solidified his role as one of the top starting pitchers in college baseball during a stretch of four consecutive wins in series-deciding rubber matches. Littrell has started five consecutive rubber matches, with UK winning all five, despite taking a no decision on Sunday vs. No. 1 LSU. In his 10 starts, Littrell has tossed 61 innings, allowing 63 hits and 16 walks, striking out 52. In his last start, Littrell tossed 5.2 innings, allowing eight hits and five runs, walking two and striking out four vs. the Tigers, allowing a LSU run in the second, two in the fourth and two in the sixth to end his outing. Ziomek emerged as one of the top freshmen in college baseball last year while serving in a variety of roles for the Dores as they advanced to the College World Series. In 11 games and 10 starts in 2012, Ziomek has tossed 51.1 innings, allowing 49 hits and 23 walks, striking out 51. In his last start at Alabama, Ziomek worked 3.2 innings, allowing eight hits and six runs – five earned – walking three and striking out three.
The Wildcats have been paced by an offensive attack that leads the SEC in nearly every category. UK has hit .313 as a team with 47 homers in 42 games, stealing 36 bases. On the mound, UK sports a 3.60 ERA as a club, with 13 saves, 110 walks and 339 strikeouts in 372 innings, fielding .973 and turning 37 doubles plays.
UK has been led offensively by freshman centerfielder Austin Cousino, who on Wednesday became the third UK player in program history to earn a spot on the USA National Team roster. Cousino has hit .345 with 17 doubles, one triple, seven homers, 35 RBI and nine steals. Senior Thomas McCarthy – who on Thursday was named a finalist for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award – has hit .329 with 15 doubles, five homers and 26 RBI. Catcher Luke Maile owns a .323 average with 10 doubles, 11 homers and 41 RBI, stealing eight bases. Zac Zellers has hit .317 and owns a team-high .465 on-base percentage, slugging eight doubles, one triple, five homers and 18 RBI. Freshman A.J. Reed has hit .311 with nine doubles, three homers and 39 RBI, while outfielder Cameron Flynn has hit .298 with seven doubles, nine homers and 30 RBI. Catcher Michael Williams owns a .289 average with four doubles, one homer and 25 RBI, while second baseman J.T. Riddle has hit .288 with nine doubles, one triple, four homers and 26 RBI. Shortstop Matt Reida has posted a .262 average with seven doubles, one triple, one homer and 16 RBI to round out UK’s everyday lineup.
In the bullpen, the Wildcats have been paced by Tim Peterson (3-0, 2.53 ERA) and his team-high 20 relief outings, tossing 21.1 innings with 15 hits and four walks allowed, striking out 24. Senior Alex Phillips (5-1, 2.33 ERA) has saved four games in 18 relief outings, tossing 38.2 innings, allowing 25 hits and seven walks, striking out 30. Trevor Gott (1-0, 1.35 ERA) has appeared in 15 games with eight saves in nine chances, tossing 13.1 innings, allowing eight hits and four walks, striking out 21. Reed (4-1, 3.60 ERA), Chandler Shepherd (3-0, 4.17 ERA), Sam Mahar (3-2, 2.86 ERA) and Walter Wijas (2-0, 5.95 ERA) have each appeared in at least 10 games for the UK bullpen.
Vanderbilt (19-22, 7-11 SEC) has been paced by a .270 team batting average with 18 homers in 41 games, stealing 45 bases. On the mound, VU owns a 4.41 ERA, tossing 363.1 innings, with 166 walks and 313 strikeouts. As a team, Vandy is fielding .961 and has turned 27 double plays.
The Dores have been led offensively by shortstop Anthony Gomez, who sports a .376 average, with sevn doubles, two triples, one homer and 38 RBI. Spencer Navin owns a .325 avberage with eight doubles, two homers and 17 RBI, while Conrad Gregor has hit .303 with 12 doubles, one triple and two homers. Reigning SEC Freshman of the Year Tony Kemp has hit .293 with eight doubles, six triples, one homer and 24 RBI, stealing eight bases. Mike Yastrzemski has added a .273 average with five doubles, three homers and 27 RBI, with centerfielder Connor Harrell hitting .213 with three homers and 15 RBI.
In the bullpen, Vanderbilt has been paced by Brian Miller (0-2, 3.27 ERA), who has four saves in a team-best 23 relief outings, tossing 41.1 innings with 35 strikeouts. Will Clinard (4-2, 4.66 ERA) has appeared in 18 games with two starts, tossing 38.2 innings with 21 walks and 35 strikeouts, while Jared Miller (1-0, 3.80 ERA) has appeared in 17 games, tossing 21 innings with 11 walks and 16 strikeouts.
UK’s series history advantage over Vanderbilt is the only team in the league the Wildcats own a series advantage with, posting a 140-131-5 all-time record against the Dores. In games played in Nashville, VU owns a 71-60-4 advantage. Over the last three series meetings in Nashville, the Wildcats have won two, with VU sweeping UK in the last series at Hawkins Field in 2010.
In the last meeting between the two teams, VU won the series, despite UK’s 2-0 series-opening win behind starting pitcher Alex Meyer. With VU ranked No. 1 entering the weekend, Meyer tossed a complete-game shutout in the 2-0 win, with McCarthy’s solo homer being all the offense he would need in his 110-pitch effort. Meyer outdueled fellow future first round pick Sonny Gray in the game, with Gray working the complete eight innings with four hits, two runs and nine strikeouts. VU responded to even the series with a 10-3 win in the finale, as Littrell worked five innings, allowing nine hits and seven runs, walking three and striking out three. VU jumped on Littrell with six runs in the top of the first inning, getting a four-hit game from Kemp and four RBI from Gregor. SEC Pitcher of the Year Grayson Garvin worked eight innings for VU, allowing only six hits and one run. In the series finale, UK used Jordan Cooper for the start, with Cooper working six innings, allowing five hits and three runs, walking six and striking out five. VU got two runs in the top of the first inning, with UK rallying to take a lead with two runs in the fourth. VU took control of the game with a run in the seventh and three in the ninth for the win, as Phillips took the loss with 2.2 innings in relief out Cooper, allowing two hits and two runs.
UK leads the SEC in nearly every offensive category, ranking first in slugging (.481), first in on-base percentage (.400), first in runs (303), first in hits (448), first in RBI (279), first in doubles (92) and first in total bases (689), UK ranks second in batting average (.313), second in homers (47) and third in double plays turned (37).
In the NCAA stats, UK owns a No. 4 RPI in the latest projections on Thursday by BoydsWorld.com. UK’s offense ranks fourth in the nation in slugging (.481), sixth in OPS (.881), fifth in homers (47), eighth in RBI (279), second in total bases (689) and second in wins (35; Baylor leads with 36).
Individually, Cousino ranks 12th in average (.343), eighth in slugging (.575), second in runs (44), fifth in hits (60), 10th in RBI (35), first in doubles (17), eighth in homers (seven), second in total bases (100) and seventh in steals (nine). Maile ranks sixth in slugging (.600), fourth in runs (37), fourth in RBI (41), second in homers (11), sixth in total bases (93) and 11th in steals (eight). Flynn checks in ninth in slugging (.573) and fifth in homers (nine), while Zellers ranks fifth in on-base percentage (.465) and first in hit by pitches (17). McCarthy ranks fourth in doubles (15) and 11th in total bases (82), with Riddle ranking fourth in runs (37) and Reed ranking sixth in RBI (39). Littrell ranks sixth in ERA (2.51), eighth in innings (61), third in wins (six) and first in pickoffs (five). Rogers ranks seventh in strikeouts (58) and second in strikeouts looking (25), while Gott ranks third in saves (eight), third in games finished (15) and Peterson ranks 10th in appearances (20).
Kentucky – 35-7, 13-5 SEC
Vanderbilt – 19-22, 7-11 SEC
Kentucky: No. 1 (Collegiate Baseball), No. 3 (USA Today/ESPN coaches), No. 3 (NCBWA), No. 2 (Baseball America)
Vanderbilt: not ranked
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) -- Nashville, Tenn.
Friday, April 27 * at Vanderbilt * 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 28 * at Vanderbilt * 3:00 p.m.
Sunday, April 29 * at Vanderbilt * 2:00 p.m.
Radio (UK IMG Radio Network with Neil Price)
Friday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Saturday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Sunday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Live audio and stats on UKathletics.com
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday at Vanderbilt
Jr., LHP Taylor Rogers (4-2, 5.01 ERA) vs. So., RHP TJ Pecoraro (0-1, 3.71 ERA)
Saturday at Vanderbilt
Jr., LHP Jerad Grundy (4-1, 4.24 ERA) vs. Fr., RHP Tyler Beede (1-4, 4.78 ERA)
Sunday at Vanderbilt
So., LHP Corey Littrell (6-0, 2.51 ERA) vs. So., LHP Kevin Ziomek (3-6, 5.44 ERA)