Baseball Faces Auburn in SEC Tourney Elimination Game on Tuesday
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. -- After advancing to its school-record tying fourth consecutive Southeastern Conference Tournament berth, eighth-seeded Kentucky will face No. 9 seed Auburn in a single-elimination first-round game, with first pitch on Tuesday slated for 5:30 p.m. ET at the Hoover Met.
The game will be televised live on the SEC Network with Clay Matvick, Gabe Gross and Kayce Smith voicing the action. The game will also be broadcast on the UK Radio Network, with fans in Central Kentucky able to hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
The winner of the elimination game on Tuesday will advanced to the double-elimination format and will face off with the regular-season league champion, top-ranked No. 1 LSU, on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. ET.
Kentucky is making its 15th all-time SEC Tournament berth and its fourth consecutive. UK has earned at least a No. 9 seed in four straight years and is coming off a school-record three wins in the 2014 SEC Tournament, leading to the berth in the semifinal round, tying the best finish in UK history. The Wildcats own a 21-30 all-time record in the SEC Tournament and have a 0-2 record against Auburn in the tournament, with the last meeting coming in 1991.
Kentucky (30-24, 14-15 SEC) finished off its regular season with a series win at Missouri to earn the No. 8 seed. The Wildcats also posted a midweek win over Northern Kentucky on Tuesday, before posting a 1-0 win in the opener at Mizzou behind a complete-game shutout from sophomore Zack Brown. UK then suffered a 6-3 loss in the middle game to even up the series, before the Wildcats rode a dominating starting pitching performance from Kyle Cody and two-run homers from Evan White and JaVon Shelby in the ninth inning to an 8-2 win.
With the series win at Missouri, UK equaled its school record with three road SEC series wins, coming at No. 1 LSU, No. 5 Florida and Missouri. Only LSU and Vanderbilt have more SEC road series wins (four). UK also had a school-record three shutouts in SEC play in 2015, blanking Missouri, 1-0, No. 5 Florida, 3-0 and Arkansas, 5-0. UK's 14 wins marks the eighth time in its SEC history the Wildcats have achieved 14 or more league wins.
The Wildcats have hit .289 as a team in 2015, with a .397 slugging, a .376 on-base percentage and 30 homers in 54 games, scoring 286 runs and stealing 53 bases. On the mound, UK has a 4.33 team ERA with 12 saves in 484 innings, allowing 492 hits, 163 walks and striking out 398. Defensively, UK has fielded .969, turning 52 double plays and catching 14 runners stealing.
At the plate, junior leftfielder Ka'ai Tom leads the club with a .368 average, belting 15 doubles, one triple, four homers and 49 RBI, stealing 15 bases. Junior centerfielder Kyle Barrett has hit .352 with 12 doubles, three triples, one homer and 25 RBI. Freshman first baseman Evan White has hit .319 with 12 doubles, one triple, two homers and 28 RBI. Sophomore second baseman JaVon Shelby has charted a .318 average with 12 doubles, two triples, nine homers and 44 RBI, owning a .449 on-base percentage. Junior rightfielder Dorian Hairston has hit .290 with six doubles, four homers and 21 RBI, with Zach Arnold driving in 10 runs and hitting .283. Third baseman Thomas Bernal has hit .266 with nine doubles, one homer and 24 RBI, with sophomore rightfielder Storm Wilson has hit .242 with six doubles, one homer and 16 RBI, stealing eight bases. Freshman shortstop Riley Mahan has hit .239 with a homer and eight RBI, catcher Greg Fettes has belted five homers and shortstop Connor Heady has two homers and 11 RBI.
In relief, junior righty Zach Strecker (2-2, 4.23 ERA) leads the team with 24 appearances, owning one save. Lefty Logan Salow (1-1, 5.32 ERA) has worked in 23 games, including eight straight scoreless, owning three saves. Senior righty Spencer Jack (1-1, 5.40 ERA) has five saves to lead the club in 19 games. Bo Wilson (0-0, 0.90 ERA), Brad Schaenzer (1-0, 4.50 ERA), Zach Pop (0-0, 5.40 ERA), Andrew Nelson (2-4, 4.88 ERA), Zach Logue (2-2, 5.29 ERA) and Robert Zeigler (1-1, 6.61 ERA) each have appeared in double-digit games.
Auburn (34-22, 13-17 SEC) is coming off a series loss at Florida on the final weekend, winning the opener before falling the final two games, 4-3 and 3-1. The Tigers have hit .276 as a team with 276 runs scored in 56 games, belting 17 homers and reaching base at a .364 clip. Defensively, Auburn has a .973 fielding percentage, turning 42 double plays and throwing out 19 runners stealing. On the mound, the Tigers have a 3.34 team ERA in 394 innings, allowing 466 hits and 201 walks, striking out 419.
Anfernee Grier leads the Tigers at the plate with 78 hits and a .344 average, belting 22 doubles, two triples and one homer. Melvin Gray has hit .309 with 15 steals, with Robert Daniel belting three homers, allowing with Cody Nulph and Jordan Ebert. In relief, Justin Camp (2-1, 2.41 ERA) has eight saves in 25 games, with Trey Wingenter (1-5, 4.03 ERA) owning four saves.