Baseball Travels to No. 11 Florida for Final Series of 2009

May 13, 2009


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Winners of four of the last five games, the Kentucky baseball team travels to face No. 11 Florida in the final Southeastern Conference series of the season, slated for Thursday-Saturday at UF’s McKethan Stadium.

Kentucky (27-24, 11-16 SEC) sits 1.5 games out of the SEC Tournament entering the final weekend, just behind eighth-place Vanderbilt. The Wildcats travel to Florida for its final three-game series of the season, and entering the final weekend UK remains a game and a half back of the Commodores (12-14 SEC). UK has to win at least two games at Florida to get in and even with at least two wins, Vanderbilt would have to drop all three against Tennessee. If Vanderbilt wins one of the games vs. the Volunteers, UK would have to sweep SEC East Division leader Florida in Gainesville, Fla. The SEC takes the top eight teams – based on winning percentage – to the tournament in Hoover, Ala., held May 20-24 at Regions Park.

The games will span Thursday-Saturday, with first pitch Thursday and Friday slated for 6:30 p.m. ET. Saturday’s first pitch has been moved back to 4 p.m. ET, in order to accommodate a 1 p.m. ET NCAA Softball Regional in Gainesville. All three games can be heard 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.

UK will send its regular weekend rotation to the mound for the three-game series. Thursday, junior southpaw James Paxton (5-2, 5.30 ERA) gets the start, facing off with senior Florida lefty Stephen Locke (3-1, 5.08 ERA). Friday, UF freshman right-hander Anthony DeScalfani (5-2, 3.81 ERA) gets the call to face off with UK senior lefty Chris Rusin (6-4, 3.96 ERA). In the series finale Saturday, UK freshman Alex Meyer (1-4, 5.27 ERA) will take the hill, with UF yet to announce a starter.

Kentucky has won four of its last five games and five of the last seven. The Wildcats have totaled a .296 team batting average and a 5.40 team ERA. Individually, sophomore second baseman Chris Bisson leads UK in at bats (212), average (.373), hits (79), triples (3), RBI (51), swiping 13-of-15 stolen bases. Veterans Chris Wade (.314, 10 2B, 3B, 6 HR, 42 RBI, 14-16 SB), Marcus Nidiffer (.304, 6 2B, 3B, 7 HR, 27 RBI) and Keenan Wiley (.257, 3 2B, 4 HR, 22 RBI, 11-12 SB) have been fixtures in a mostly young UK lineup. Freshmen Chad Wright (.324, 6 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 9-11 SB), Braden Kapteyn (.318, 10 2B, 4 HR, 25 RBI), Andy Burns (.285, 8 2B, 3B, 6 HR, 29 RBI, 3-3 SB) and Cory Farris (.293, 2 2B, HR, 14 RBI) have had a major impact on the Wildcats offensive attack. On Monday, Burns was tabbed the SEC Freshman of the Week by the league office, leading UK in walks, RBI and runs scored during a 2-1 week. In the bullpen, Kapteyn (5-0, 5.85 ERA) leads the team with four saves, striking out 42 in 32.1 innings. Sophomore southpaw Logan Darnell (5-5, 4.40 ERA) leads UK with 26 appearances, posting two saves and striking out 43 in 43 innings.

Florida (36-17, 17-10 SEC) is coming off a high-octane tangle with No. 3 LSU in Baton Rouge, La., last weekend. The Gators won two of three games vs. the Tigers and currently sit just a game back of LSU for the overall SEC lead. Paced by second-year head coach Kevin O’Sullivan, UF has won 10 of its last 13 games, including a streak of eight consecutive wins before a midweek loss and one setback at LSU. Florida ran up a six-game winning streak in SEC play two weekends ago, sweeping South Carolina and No. 6 Georgia in Athens, Ga.

As a team, Florida has hit for a .304 team average, totaling a 4.09 ERA on the mound, hitting 54 home runs and scoring 387 runs. Individually, Avery Barnes (.351, 7 2B, 6 3B, 8 HR, 37 RBI, 12-19 SB), Preston Tucker (.350, 9 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 65 RBI), Josh Adams (.332, 8 2B, 7 HR, 39 RBI), Matt den Dekker (.315, 8 2B, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 14-15 SB), Brandon McArthur (.312, 11 2B, HR, 31 RBI) and Buddy Munroe (.293, 6 2B, 5 HR, 23 RBI) have all had at least 130 at bats. On the mound, Billy Bullock (2-2, 1.36 ERA) leads the club with 11 saves, striking out 39 in 39.2 innings. Greg Larson (3-1, 2.00 ERA) and Tony Davis (5-0, 2.64 ERA), lead the team with 24 and 25 appearances respectively.

Last time out, UK notched an 18-10 comeback win over Morehead State Tuesday in the home finale of 2009. Farris and Kapteyn led the way for UK at the plate, with Farris hitting a grand slam – his first career homer –totaling three hits and five RBI. Kapteyn got the win on the mound with two shutout innings of relief, batting 4-for-6 with four RBI, two doubles and a homer. Wade added a career-high four runs scored and four RBI.

Last weekend, UK got a series win over Auburn, sweeping a doubleheader Saturday, before falling in the series finale, 7-5. Two weeks ago, Tennessee came to Lexington and the Wildcats got wins Friday and Sunday to secure the series.

Florida leads the all-time series, 123-53-1. Last year, UK won the series in Lexington, getting an 11-7 win Friday night behind five RBI from All-American outfielder Sawyer Carroll. Rusin started and allowed nine hits and five runs in 4.1 innings. UK chased Bullock from the game after four innings, with UF’s tall righty allowing five hits and six runs, walking five and striking out one. In game two, Florida struck for a 4-1 lead after two innings, chasing Paxton from the game and tallying a 13-7 win. Paxton lasted 1.1 innings, walking two, allowing four hits and four runs. In the rubber match Sunday in Lexington, Locke tossed a gem, going 6.2 innings, allowing five hits and two runs, striking out eight. UK managed to escape with a 3-2 win, getting a walk-off, bases loaded walk from Brian Spear in the bottom of the 10th inning. Wiley charted a 3-for-5 game in the finale, leading a UK lineup that mustered only six hits.

In 2007, Florida claimed the series, winning Saturday and Sunday, after UK tallied a 9-2 win on Friday night. Rusin tossed a gem in Gainesville, going nine complete innings, striking out eight and scattering two runs. Davis started for UF and allowed four runs and three hits in 1.1 innings. Florida went on to score a 10-7 win in game two, setting the stage for a walk-off, series-winning game Sunday. After UK scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning to take a 4-3 lead, UF responded with two runs to post a 5-4 win in the bottom of the ninth.