Baseball Welcomes Tennessee For Three-Game Set

April 30, 2009

UK Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader | UT Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader | SEC Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Winners of four straight meetings in the series, the Kentucky Wildcats resume its chase for the Southeastern Conference Tournament, welcoming the Tennessee Volunteers for a three-game series, beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

The game Saturday will start at 4 p.m. ET and will be televised live on Fox Sports Net as the SEC Game of the Week, with Sunday's finale slated for a 1 p.m. ET first pitch. All games 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. For Saturday's televised tilt, Dave Baker (play-by-play) and Larry Conley (color) will handle broadcasting duties.

Kentucky (22-22, 7-14 SEC) enters the series in 10th place overall in the SEC standings, one game behind Auburn (8-13) for ninth and two games behind South Carolina (9-12) for eighth place. The SEC takes the top eight teams, bases on winning percentage, to the SEC Tournament, held May 20-24 in Hoover, Ala. South Carolina hosts seventh-place Vanderbilt (10-10) and Auburn welcomes No. 7 Ole Miss (13-8) this weekend. Next weekend in the SEC, UK hosts Auburn, Vanderbilt travels to No. 6 Georgia (14-7) and South Carolina travels to Tennessee.

The Wildcats are coming off a loss to Louisville Tuesday, evening the two-game series with the two schools, as UK won 8-7 in Louisville. UK got a season-best pitching performance from junior Clint Tilford, who hurled 5.1 innings, allowing only one earned run while striking out five. With the Wildcats holding a 2-1 lead entering the top of the sixth, the Cardinals scored 10 unanswered runs - six unearned - to post the series-evening win.

UK will send James Paxton (4-2, 5.53 ERA) to the mound Friday for his 11th start of the year. Paxton, a native of Ladner, British Columbia, left the game after seven complete innings Friday at Alabama with a two-run lead, but a seven-run UA eighth inning led to the series-opening win. Paxton struck out 11 in the start Friday, his fifth 10 or more strikeout game of the year. Saturday, UK will start senior southpaw Chris Rusin (5-3, 3.73 ERA). In his 10th start of the year Saturday at No. 21 Alabama, Rusin turned in one of his best career starts, hurling his third complete-game of the year while handcuffing the hot-hitting Crimson Tide into a season-low one unearned run, striking out nine without issuing a walk. Last Sunday, UK freshman Alex Meyer (1-3, 4.67 ERA) made his seventh consecutive SEC weekend start but took a line drive, off the bat of Alabama shortstop Josh Rutledge, off the calf, making his status for Sunday's game against UT uncertain, with the starter Sunday to be announced. After getting hit with the line-drive single, Meyer finished off the game, hurling the game of his career, striking out 11 in seven innings, allowing only two earned runs and walking one.

Kentucky's weekend rotation has put up eye-popping strikeout numbers throughout the season, with Paxton ranking third in the league with 85 strikeouts in 57 innings. Rusin checks in ninth in ERA, second in innings pitched (70.0), fourth in strikeouts (81), allowing the fewest home runs (2) of any pitcher meeting the minimum of innings pitched (1.0 IP per team game). Meyer, a 6-foot-8 right-hander who was tabbed the second-best freshman in college baseball in the preseason by Baseball America, has held opponents to the third-best batting average (.225) in the SEC, ranking ninth in strikeouts (62), sixth in pickoffs (3), allowing the fewest doubles and triples of any qualifying pitcher (2 2B, 0 3B).

Tennessee (20-25, 6-15 SEC) has won two of its last three conference series, including a win at No. 1 LSU and a win over Mississippi State. Last weekend, UT lost its series against Arkansas losing 9-3 Friday and 15-8 Sunday. UT's 5-4 win Saturday came in walk-off fashion, as a throwing error on a botched pick-off attempt with two out in the bottom of the ninth, scored the winning run from first base, in the form of speedster P.J. Polk.

The Volunteers have been led by a .287 team batting average and a 6.05 team ERA. Polk (.333, 9 2B, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 6-6 SB), Cody Hawn (.361, 13 2B, 17 HR, 67 RBI), Blake Forsythe (.321, 11 2B, 12 HR, 36 RBI), Josh Liles (.313, 6 2B, 8 HR, 25 RBI, 8-10 SB) and preseason All-American outfielder Kentrail Davis (.298, 10 2B, 7 HR, 26 RBI) headline the UT lineup. In the bullpen, Matt Ramsey (0-3, 6.20 ERA) has appeared in a team-high 19 games, with Will Locante (1-1, 5.52 ERA), Danny Wiltz (1-1, 5.95 ERA), Bryan Morgado (2-1, 6.12 ERA) and Steven Gruver (0-1, 6.49 ERA) appearing in 15 or more games.

Tennessee leads the all-time series, 154-133, with UK holding a narrow 69-68 lead in games played in Lexington. UK has won six of the last eight meetings, claiming the series in 2006 and 2008, with UT winning the series in Lexington in 2007, posting wins in game one and two.

UK swept Tennessee last year in a pivotal series in Knoxville, a series sweep that helped vault UK into the SEC and NCAA Tournaments. Behind Rusin in game one, UK got a 5-3 win Friday night, with Rusin going 7.2 innings, allowing only four hits and two earned runs. 2008 first-team All-Americans Colin Cowgill and Sawyer Carroll homered in the game, with Cowgill going 3-for-4 with three RBI. In the game Saturday, UK started Paxton but injuries hampered his start, limiting him to only two scoreless innings, Senior Aaron Lovett came in out of the bullpen and pitched 6.2 innings, allowing his only two runs with two out in the bottom of the ninth, blowing UK's attempt at a 5-0 shutout win. With UK needing a win Sunday to complete the sweep, the Wildcats exploded for a 20-5 win Sunday in Knoxville, with Chris McClendon going 4-for-5 with three doubles and three RBI. Carroll and senior Brian Spear each added three RBI, with senior first-team All-SEC second baseman Ryan Wilkes adding a game-high four RBI on a 3-for-6 performance.

The Wildcats have been led offensively by its sophomore second baseman Chris Bisson, in his first year as an everyday player. Bisson has excelled, leading UK in at bats (181), runs (40), hits (66), doubles (9), triples (2) and RBI (46), while adding steals in 12 of 14 attempts. Veterans Chris Wade (.296, 8 2B, 3B, 5 HR, 35 RBI, 14-16 SB), Marcus Nidiffer (.295, 5 2B, 3B, 5 HR, 25 RBI), Keenan Wiley (.256, 3 2B, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 11-12 SB) and Chris McClendon (.247, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 3-4 SB) anchoring the lineup. UK has relied heavily on freshmen, with outfielder and lead-off man Chad Wright (.338, 5 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 6-8 SB) emerging as a legitimate freshman All-America candidate. Fellow freshmen Braden Kapteyn (.298, 7 2B, 2 HR), Andy Burns (.293, 7 2B, 3B, 5 HR, 25 RBI) and Cory Farris (.258, 9 RBI) have had significant roles in the lineup.

In the UK bullpen, Kapteyn (3-0, 6.33 ERA, 3 saves), Clint Tilford (1-4, 6.04 ERA) and Logan Darnell (4-5, 4.94 ERA) have proved to be work horses, with the freshman righty, Kapteyn, striking out 36 in 27 innings. Darnell, a native of Joelton, Tenn., has appeared in a team-high 22 games out of the bullpen. As a whole, the UK bullpen has posted a 10-12 record and a 6.14 ERA, allowing 43-of-91 inherited runners to score.

Individually in the SEC statistical rankings, Bisson checks in eighth in average, third in hits, 11th in RBI and seventh in at bats. Wade has been hit by the sixth-most pitches (12) in the SEC, laying down a league-leading 13 sacrifice bunts and stealing the seventh-most bases (14) in the league. Wade, who had his 106-game consecutive starting streak snapped Tuesday against UL - each game of his UK career, also checks in third in the SEC in defensive assists (117). In SEC games alone, Bisson checks in fourth in average (.389), first in hits (35), eighth in RBI (21) and second in at bats (90).

Kentucky - 22-22, 7-14 SEC
Tennessee - 20-25, 6-15 SEC

Kentucky - not ranked
Tennessee - not ranked

Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) - Lexington, Ky.
Friday, May 1 * 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 2 * 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 3 * 1:00 p.m.

Live Television (Fox Sports Net with Dave Baker and Larry Conley)
Saturday: Fox Sports Net (Insight-Lexington channel 52)

Radio (BBSN 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

Cliff Hagan Stadium (3,000)

Game Sponsor - Tony Roma's
Youth Teams - Eastern Little League Sidewinders, South Lexington Royals, Idle Hour Royals
Special In-Game Promotion - Kentucky Baseball Horse Race

Game Sponsor - Tony Roma's
Youth Teams - Southwest Pony Red Wings, Southwest Pony Cubs, As 1 Sports Angels
Boy Scout and Girl Scout Day
Special In-Game Promotion - Kentucky Baseball Horse Race

Game Sponsor - Tony Roma's & Kentucky Office of Highway Safety
Ceremonial First Pitch - Former UK shortstop and program coordinator for the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, Jack Hutchinson; Host of WUKY's "Curtains at 8" Nick Lawrence.
Youth Teams - Southwest Pony Lookouts, Scott County Angels, SE Cal Ripken Royals, Cynthiana Lions
Baseball Ice Cream Sundaes in collectable UK mini batting helmet
Special In-Game Promotion - Kentucky Baseball Horse Race
Postgame Autographs

Parking at Cliff Hagan Stadium is free.

UK will utilize two lots: the C8 lot behind Shively Sports Center, and the brand-new Parking Structure 7 on the corner of Complex Drive and Jerry Claiborne Way. Both parking lots are only steps away from Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Fans who park in the PS7 lot will be given a parking value card to exit the structure free of charge. Value cards should be picked up at the baseball ticket booth prior to the fifth inning.

Fans should not use the university "R" lots adjacent to the dorms or on the south side of Nutter Training Facility. These lots are patrolled by the university 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Fans that park in these lots may be ticketed or towed. Plenty of parking will be available in the C8 and PS7 lots.

$5 - General Admission Seating - Adults
$2 - General Admission Seating - Kids/Seniors