Kentucky Baseball Heads to Paducah to Square Off with Murray State
May 17, 2010
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After sweeping the 20th-ranked LSU Tigers, the defending national champions, to jump into a four-way tie for seventh in the Southeastern Conference standings, the Kentucky baseball team heads to far-western Kentucky to face off against the Murray State Racers at Paducah’s Brooks Stadium on Tuesday.
The game will be played at Brooks Stadium, the home of the Paducah Tilghman High School baseball team and American Legion Post 31 team. First pitch for the game is schedule for 7 p.m. ET time.
The game 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.
Kentucky is coming off arguably the best weekend of the season, getting three wins against the defending national champions and No. 20 LSU Tigers. The weekend started by Kentucky getting a dramatic walk-off three-run homer from junior Lance Ray on Friday to cap off an 11-9 win. The Wildcats then rode a strong pitching performance from freshman Jordan Cooper on Saturday who lasted a career-high seven innings to give the Wildcats a 9-4 win. In the series finale Sunday, UK got a eighth-inning game-winning grand slam from senior Marcus Nidiffer in his last career home at bat to give UK the 6-4 win and the first series sweep against the Tigers in 19 years. For his efforts, Nidiffer was awarded the SEC Player of the Week award.
Kentucky (29-23) and Murray State (25-22-1) have met once this season in Lexington, with the Breds taking the game 7-5 at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Murray State was led by an outstanding pitching performance by senior Dan Huff, who went a career-high eight innings, allowing 10 hits, four runs, three earned while walking two and striking out a career-high six. Huff recorded the win in the game while Murray State turned to ace Chris Craycraft, a native of Lexington, Ky., to gather the save, throwing one inning and allowing two hits and one earned run while walking two. Offensively, the Breds got a four RBI night from senior first baseman Wes Cunningham who went 3-for-4 with a homer and one run scored.
UK used four pitchers in the game, starting freshman Sam Kidd, who lasted 3.1 innings giving up four hits and seven runs, five earned, while walking one and striking out another. The Wildcats used three relievers out of the bullpen to get 5.2 scoreless innings of work from sophomore Braden Kapteyn and juniors Nick Kennedy and Mike Kaczmarek. Kennedy was the most impressive out of the pen, going 3.2 innings, giving up only two hits and no runs. Kentucky used power to score its five runs in the game, getting homers from sophomores Chad Wright and Kapteyn and senior Gunner Glad. Wright ended the game 3-for-4 while Glad went 3-for-5.
The Wildcats hold the all-time record against Murray State at 10-5, including eight of the last nine games. The Wildcats hold a 1-0 advantage in games played in Paducah, gathering a 4-3 10-inning win over the Breds at Brooks Stadium during the 2008 season. In the game, UK entered the top of the ninth inning trailing by two runs before now-senior Keenan Wiley hit a two-out, two-run double to tie the game at three. The Wildcats then turned to eventual third-round supplemental draft pick Scott Green to close the door on the Breds in the ninth and 10th innings, getting six outs all by way of strikeouts. UK claimed the win when 2009 11th-round selection Chris Wade singled home the game-winning run in the top of the 10th.
The 2008 game was the first ever matchup between the two schools in Paducah. The two teams were scheduled to play at Brooks Stadium in 2007 but the game was cancelled due to inclement weather.
Murray State is coming off a doubleheader with Morehead State on Saturday where the Breds took the first game 7-5 and tied the second game at 4-4. MSU has won or tied seven of their last eight games, with the only loss coming last Wednesday at Memphis, a 10-1 setback. The Breds have been impressive in Ohio Valley Conference play, gaining a 12-5-1 record and leading the OVC by one game over Tennessee Tech heading into the final weekend of the season.
Offensively, MSU has been led by Cunningham who has hit .436 (85-for-195) this season with 17 doubles, six triples, 18 homers and 74 RBI. The native of Louisville, Ky., is slugging .862 this season with an on-base percentage of .506 and a team-high nine stolen bases, with his slugging percentage ranking second in college baseball. Cunningham is splashed all over the OVC rankings, coming in tied for second in hits, tied for first in runs scored, second in average, first in RBI, second in homers and first in total bases. Freshman Brandon Elliot and Senior Bryan Propst have also hit well for the Breds this season with Elliott totaling a .356 (48-for-135) average and Propst a .337 (57-for-169) mark. Propst is second on the team in homers (11) and RBI (42), while Elliott has an on-base percentage of .429. Three other Breds are hitting over .300 on the season with Colton Morre hitting .333 (54-for-162), Jason Laws hitting .312 (49-for-157) and Kyle Tiernan holding a .312 (49-for-157) average.
Murray State mainly uses five arms out of the pen in seniors Matt McGaha, Kevin Love, Huff and Marc Harmon and freshman Ben Lady. McGaha has been impressive, making a team-high 23 appearances with three saves and 44 strikeouts in 54.2 innings pitched. McGaha is 5-1 this season, allowing only three homers all year while holding opponents to a .272 average. Love has also been strong out of the pen for the Breds, appearing in 15 games with a 5.96 ERA in 51.1 innings pitched. Huff, who picked up the win against Kentucky earlier in the season, supports a 1-3 record and a 7.99 ERA this season in 41.2 innings pitched, striking out 28 batters while Harmon has pitched in 15 games, making six starts and gathering a 11.07 ERA in 33.1 innings pitched. Lady has been used 12 times this season, once in a starting role, holding a 7.97 ERA in 20.1 innings pitched this season. Lady has allowed 29 hits, 21 runs, 18 earned in his 20 plus innings while 11 walks and six strikeouts.