Baseball Hosts SEC-Leading No. 4 South Carolina
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Fighting for its postseason life, the Kentucky baseball team will return to action with a pivotal three-game series, hosting No. 4 South Carolina – the current front runner in the Southeastern Conference – with the series slated to begin Friday at 7 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The Saturday game will begin at 7 p.m. ET and the series finale Sunday is slated for a 1 p.m. ET first pitch.
The Friday and Saturday contests will be televised by the Big Blue Sports Network, with Dick Gabriel (play-by-play) and former UK infielder and MLB Gold Glove winner Doug Flynn (color) detailing the action. On Friday, WKYT-TV veteran David Patrick will handle sideline reporting duties and on Saturday, BBSN regular sideline reporter Ryan Lemond will join the telecast. Friday’s game will be on live on Fox Sports South (Insight-Lexington channel 52) and on CWKYT-TV (Insight-Lexington channel 5). The Saturday game will be televised live on Fox Sports South, CWKYT-TV and in Louisville on WMYO-TV.
All three 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 games live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM, in addition to complete coverage on UKathletics.com. UK’s new media coordinator and editor of Cat Scratches, Eric Lindsey, will be on hand for the Friday game for a live interactive blog of the contest.
Before the Friday-night game, UK men’s basketball head coach John Calipari will be on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. In his first season as the head coach, Calipari led UK to 35 wins and the SEC regular season and tournament championships.
Kentucky (24-20, 7-14 SEC) is coming off a tough weekend at Tennessee, as the Wildcats suffered the series defeat thanks to a 3-1 result on Sunday afternoon in Knoxville. UK won game one of the series with six home runs Friday night, 12-8, before UT evened the series with an 8-6 win Saturday.
UK sits in 10th place in the league with nine SEC games remaining, two games out of the eighth spot. The SEC takes the top eight teams in the league – based on winning percentage – to the league tournament, held at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala. UK trails eighth-place Alabama (9-12) and ninth-place Tennessee (8-13), with the Wildcats owning the tiebreaker on Alabama but the Volunteers owning the tiebreakers over UK.
The Wildcats have played a brutal schedule 44 games deep in the 2010 season. UK has faced, or will face, a total of 30 ranked teams in the 56-game regular-season schedule. Before the weekend games in Knoxville last week, UK had a stretch of 15 consecutive ranked opponents and 19 of 21 opponents ranked. Owning a No. 27 NCAA RPI entering the weekend in projections on BoydsWorld.com, UK has posted wins over eight of the 26 teams ranked ahead of the Wildcats in the RPI, with narrow, walk-off series defeats at the hands of No. 7 Arkansas and No. 14 Auburn.
UK will shake up its starting pitching rotation heading into the weekend, as junior left-hander Logan Darnell (4-3, 5.61 ERA), will pitch in relief for the first time this season. UK will send freshman lefty Taylor Rogers (4-6, 5.63) to the mound for his first career Friday night starting assignment. Saturday, UK will turn to fellow freshman, right-hander Jordan Cooper (2-4, 5.70 ERA) for his third career SEC start. On Sunday, UK will turn to 6-foot-9, 220-pound right-handed sophomore Alex Meyer (4-2, 7.30 ERA), who has missed his previous three starts due to mononucleosis.
A 6-foot-3, 170-pounder, Rogers will make his 12th career start on Friday, after pitching as the No. 2 starter throughout the season, typically on Saturday’s. Rogers’ start will mark his first career Friday night action, as the lefty will face off with undefeated South Carolina right-hander Blake Cooper (8-0, 2.92 ERA). Rogers, a native of Littleton, Colo., owns a team-high 70.1 innings pitched in 11 starts, allowing only 11 walks and striking out 33. In his last start, Rogers suffered a loss at UT, hurling seven innings, allowing 11 hits and eight runs – seven earned – walking two and striking out two. Rogers exited the game with the score tied at 6-6, with two runs coming across to score after he exited in the eighth inning. Without three starts that has seen Rogers all eight or more runs, the freshman owns a 4-4 record and a 3.00 ERA in eight starts, going 57 innings, allowing only 52 hits and eight walks, striking out 28. A 5-foot-10 senior right-hander, Cooper has a perfect record through 11 starts, tossing 77 innings and allowing just 58 hits and 23 walks, striking out 69. In his last start against Alabama in Columbia, S.C., Cooper went 6.1 innings, allowing 11 hits and four runs, walking one and striking out three.
Saturday, UK will turn to Cooper for a weekend starting assignment for the third consecutive weekend. The freshman has dazzled in his last two starts, emerging as the future of the UK weekend rotation. In 17 games and five relief outings, Cooper – a 19th round MLB draft pick out of high school in 2009 – has pitched 42.2 innings, allowing 53 hits and 22 walks, striking out 25. In his last start, Cooper pitched well enough for UK to win at Tennessee, going a career-high five innings, allowing four hits and two runs, striking out two in 77 pitches. A 6-foot-3, 205-pounder, Cooper has proven to be especially effective as a starting pitcher, owning a 1-1 record and a 2.89 ERA in his five starts, tossing 18.2 innings. In his relief outings, Cooper owns a 7.88 ERA. South Carolina will counter Cooper with a hard-throwing right-hander of its own, the flame throwing Dyson. A candidate for a top round draft pick in 2010, Dyson has pitched 59 innings in 2010, walking only 10 and striking out 63. In his last start, Dyson took the loss at Alabama, going 7.1 innings, allowing eight hits and five runs, walking one and striking out 10. All of the runs Dyson allowed came in a five-run inning in the second frame, with USC coming two runs shy of erasing the deficit.
Meyer will return to the UK weekend rotation Sunday, making his first appearance in three weeks. The Greensburg, Ind., native had made eight starts prior to his illness, leading the team with 52 strikeouts in 40.2 innings. In his last start, while pitching with illness before it was diagnosed, Meyer went 5.1 innings against No. 19 Alabama, allowing only three hits and three walks, striking out seven. Meyer was dominating through the first five innings as UK built a 9-0 lead entering the top of the sixth. Meyer loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth, before he was pulled after showing signs of fatigue. In his two-year career, Meyer – an Aflac All-American out of high school – has struck out 132 in 100.1 innings. Meyer will face off with Brown, a senior right-hander. A 6-foot-4, 215-pounder, Brown has tossed 34.1 innings in 13 games and five starts, walking 16 and striking out 25. In his last start against Alabama, Brown went 2.1 innings, allowing four hits and four runs, walking two without getting a strikeout, in a slugfest USC eventually won 20-15.
The Wildcats have been led offensively by senior slugger Gunner Glad, who leads the team with a .351 average (59-for-168), also leading the team with 36 runs scored and 40 RBI. Glad has added a triple and 10 homers. Sophomore leftfielder Chad Wright has hit .343 (61-for-178), with a club-high 11 doubles, two triples, two homers and 33 RBI. Junior All-American second baseman Chris Bisson has hit .342 (53-for-155) with eight doubles, one triple, four homers and 24 RBI, leading the SEC with 24 stolen bases. Junior Lance Ray has emerged as one of the top hitters in the SEC over the last two weekends, upping his average to .338 (25-for-74) with nine doubles, six homers and 18 RBI in just 17 starts. Senior centerfielder Keenan Wiley has hit .319 (51-for-160) with four homers and 29 RBI, while Braden Kapteyn has added a .289 average (37-for-128) with five homers and 24 RBI. Shortstop Taylor Black has hit .283 (39-for-138) with seven homers and 28 RBI, while senior catcher Marcus Nidiffer has belted six homers and batted .276 (29-for-105) with 20 RBI. Sophomore third baseman Andy Burns leads the team with 11 homers, adding a .272 average (43-for-158) with 26 RBI. Sophomore outfielder Cory Farris has added seven homers and 23 RBI, complementing a .257 average (27-for-105).
In the bullpen, UK closer Matt Little (2-2, 3.71 ERA) leads the team with 20 appearances and six saves, tossing 34 innings with 42 strikeouts. Mike Kaczmarek (1-0, 3.98 ERA) ranks second on the team with 17 appearances, allowing only 16 hits and five walks in 20.1 innings, striking out 20. Nick Kennedy (3-1, 4.18 ERA) has appeared in 16 games, fanning 35 in 28 innings, posting one save. Kapteyn (1-0, 3.29 ERA) has saved one game in 13 relief outings, tossing 13.2 innings with 13 strikeouts.
South Carolina (35-9, 16-5 SEC) enters the weekend as the top-ranked team in the SEC, owning a one-game lead on Florida (15-6). The Gamecocks have had an excellent season and have won eight of the last 10 games, owning an 11-5 record on the road in 2010. South Carolina has hit for a .305 average as a team, fielded at a .975 clip and posted an impressive 3.69 ERA on the mound.
Individually, South Carolina has been led by centerfielder Whit Merrifield, who leads the team in average (.348) and home runs (28). Merrifield has totaled nine doubles and 28 RBI, stealing a club-best 12 bases. All-American outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr., has hit for a .348 average (48-for-138) with seven homers and 29 RBI. Jeffery Jones has hit .333 (29-for-87) with seven homers and 27 RBI, while Brady Thomas has added a .329 average (27-for-82) with nine doubles, six homers and 23 RBI. Infielder Scott Wingo ranks second on the team with nine homers, batting .310 (39-for-126) with 27 RBI. Christian Walker has batted .304 (39-for-126) with five homers and 28 RBI. Adrian Morales leads the team with 37 RBI, batting .292 (40-for-137) with four homers. All-SEC first baseman Nick Ebert has played in just 32 games this season but owns a .290 average (29-for-11) with seven doubles, four homers and 22 RBI.
In the bullpen, USC has been led by Michael Roth (0-1, 2.08 ERA), who leads the team with 21 relief appearances. Matt Price (3-0, 3.34 ERA) paces the team with four saves in his 18 games, striking out 46 in 29.2 innings. Jose Mata (5-0, 1.98 ERA), Ethan Carter (2-0, 2.70 ERA), John Taylor (2-2, 3.00 ERA) and Parker Bangs (1-0, 5.68 ERA) have each appeared in 13 or more games out of the pen.
The Gamecocks lead the all-time series with UK, 37-27, with UK leading 15-13 in games played in Lexington. USC has won the last three series, with UK last winning in 2006, when UK swept USC en route to the SEC Championship. The Gamecocks have won seven of the last 10 meetings in the series.
Last season, South Carolina won the series with a rubber-match win Sunday in the decisive game. After the Friday game was rained out, the two teams kicked off a doubleheader Saturday with a wild series opener. South Carolina won the back-and-forth affair, 20-19, with both starting pitchers allowed over eight earned runs. USC opened the first two innings off to a 9-0 lead, extending the lead to 13-2 with a four-run top of the fourth inning. UK cut the lead to 13-5 with three runs in the fifth, before USC extended the lead yet again with a five-run sixth inning, making it 18-5. UK continued to claw back into the game, posting two runs in the bottom of the sixth, six runs in the seventh, four runs in the eighth and two runs in the bottom of the ninth, just losing 20-19 in a game that lasted over four hours, saw 17 runners left on base, 39 runs scored and 43 hits combined by the two teams in the game. UK starter James Paxton went just two innings while battling a lingering knee injury, allowing 10 hits and nine runs. With the game seemingly out of hand after two innings, UK used lightly-used relievers Jonathan Huff and Chase Greene in the game for the middle innings, with the duo combining to allow 11 runs in their 6.1 innings. Glad had a breakout game offensively for UK, belting three home runs, scoring five runs and adding five RBI and two walks. Bisson went 4-for-5 with four runs and four RBI at the top of the order, with Spencer Korus adding two hits and four RBI off the bench for UK. South Carolina got four hits from Merrifield, Bradley, Jr., Andrew Crisp and Justin Dalles, with Ebert charting four RBI. Dyson started for the Gamecocks and went 6.2 innings, allowing eight hits and eight runs, walking four and striking out five.
After the whirlwind first game of the series and doubleheader Saturday in 2009, UK snuck out with a series-evening 5-4 win in the second game. UK fell behind 3-1 after the first six innings and mounted a last-ditch comeback. After scoring runs in the seventh and eighth inning to even the game up at 3-3, South Carolina took the lead off starting pitcher Chris Rusin with a run in the top of the ninth. UK wouldn’t go away, as shortstop Chris Wade led off the bottom of the ninth inning off closer Alex Farotto by getting on base and UK turned to Burns to pinch hit off the bench. Burns belted the first pitch he saw for his first career walk-off home run, a shot to the opposite field that just snuck out over the short right-field porch for the homer. Rusin went 8.2 innings for UK, allowing 10 hits and four runs, walking one and striking out nine, before Darnell relieved him for the final out. Glad added the only multi-hit game for UK, with Burns two RBI leading the team.
In the series finale Sunday afternoon in 2009, both teams battled through the first four innings scoreless, before UK struck for a run in the bottom of the sixth inning. South Carolina responded with a run to tie the game up, before scoring three in the top of the seventh to take the lead it would not relinquish. UK plated a run in the bottom of the ninth but couldn’t break the USC lead, falling 4-2. Cooper started for USC and was dominating, allowing eight hits and two runs in a complete-game effort, walking four and striking out five in a 126-pitch outing. Meyer made the start for UK and was also dominating if not for the walks, as he went five innings, allowed only three hits and one run, walking six and striking out four. Bisson led UK with two hits, while Korus added two hits and an RBI.
UK ranks throughout the SEC stats, checking in ninth in average (.298), fifth in slugging percentage (.489) and ninth in on-base percentage (.398). UK leads the SEC in hit by pitches (94) and stolen bases (91). The Wildcats rank second in the league with 65 home runs, despite checking in ninth in at bats (1505). Defensively, UK ranks second in the SEC in chances (1749) and first in assists (532), checking in second in double plays (44). Individually, Burns ranks 11th in the league with 11 home runs, while Glad checks in 12th with 10 round trippers. Bisson leads the SEC with 24 stolen bases, while Neiko Johnson checks in sixth with 20 steals. On the mound, Rogers ranks third in the SEC in innings pitched (70.1), the only freshmen in the SEC in the list of the top 12. Meyer, despite missing the last three weeks, ranks 12th in the SEC with 52 strikeouts, while Little ranks fifth in saves (six) and second in games finished (17). Nidiffer leads the SEC with four pickoffs, one of only two catchers in the top 10 in the league. Defensively, Black ranks second in assists (142) and 11th in fielding double plays (27). In SEC games alone, Burns ranks fourth in home runs (seven) and Black checks in 10th in homers (six).
Kentucky – 24-20, 7-14 SEC
South Carolina – 35-9, 16-5 SEC
• Gary Henderson (San Diego State, 1984)
• 52-46 (.531) – 2nd year
• Ray Tanner (NC State, 1980)
• 1,010-448-3 (.692) – 24th year
• Not ranked
• No. 4 (Collegiate Baseball Newspaper)
• No. 6 (Baseball America)
• No. 7 (USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll)
• No. 9 (National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association)
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) -- Lexington, Ky.
Friday, May 7 * vs. No. 4 South Carolina * 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 8 * vs. No. 4 South Carolina * 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 9 * vs. No. 4 South Carolina * 1 p.m.
Radio (BBSN with Neil Price)
• WLAP 630-AM in Lexington
• WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
• WLAP 630-AM in Lexington
• WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
• WLAP 630-AM in Lexington
• WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Television (BBSN with Dick Gabriel, Doug Flynn and Ryan Lemond or David Patrick)
• FSN South (Insight-Lexington channel 52)
o Live in: Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi.
• CWKYT-TV (Insight-Lexington channel 5)
• FSN South (Insight-Lexington channel 52)
o Live in: South Carolina, Kentucky
o Will join in progress in: Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina
• CWKYT-TV in Lexington (Insight-Lexington channel 5)
• WMYO-TV in Louisville
Live video, audio and stats on UKathletics.com
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday vs. South Carolina
LHP Taylor Rogers (4-6, 5.63 ERA) vs. RHP Blake Cooper (8-0, 2.92 ERA)
Saturday vs. South Carolina
RHP Jordan Cooper (2-4, 5.70 ERA) vs. RHP Sam Dyson (4-3, 4.58 ERA)
Sunday vs. South Carolina
RHP Alex Meyer (4-2, 7.30 ERA) vs. RHP Jay Brown (2-0, 4.72 ERA)
Cliff Hagan Stadium (3,000)
Inflatable Games: Available, weather permitting, down the third-base line.
Concession Stand: Check out the newest menu item at the Cliff Hagan Stadium concession stands - a Ballpark Hot Brown. Made with turkey dog, diced tomatoes, bacon and cheese sauce on a bun, this will be a fan favorite for years to come. Visit the concession stands and be one of the first to enjoy this unique treat.
Friday first-pitch: UK head men’s basketball coach John Calipari
Fireworks: After UK home runs, fans will be treated to fireworks behind the outfield fence
Mother’s Day Sunday: The first 100 moms in attendance will receive a flower courtesy of Kroger in honor of Mother’s Day.
Ice Cream Sunday: Fans can purchase an Ice Cream Sundae on Sunday in a collectable mini UK batting helmet.
Parking at Cliff Hagan Stadium is FREE .
UK will utilize three lots: the C8 lot behind Shively Sports Center, the “R” lot down the first-base line and adjacent to the dorms, 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.