Baseball Travels to Georgia for Final Weekend Series of 2010

May 19, 2010

Live blog 

ATHENS, Ga. -- Riding a four-game winning streak and coming off a series sweep of No. 20 LSU, the Kentucky baseball team will hit the road for the final three games of the 2010 regular season, traveling to Athens, Ga., to face off with the Georgia Bulldogs, with the series opener set for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET at Foley Field.

Kentucky (30-23, 12-15 Southeastern Conference) sits in a four-way tie for the seventh and eighth spots in the 2010 SEC Tournament, held May 26-30 at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala. The SEC takes the top eight teams based on winning percentage and the Wildcats are tied with LSU (12-15), Alabama (12-15) and Tennessee (12-15) for the final two spots in the tournament. Alabama and Tennessee will face off in a three-game set in Knoxville and LSU will travel to 11th place Mississippi State to conclude the regular season. If the season were to end today, UK would earn the seventh seed in the tournament, thanks to the best record against the tied teams (6-3).

The 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 coverage on UKathletiecs.com.

The Wildcats enter the weekend series as one of the hottest teams in college baseball, winning five consecutive games against ranked opponents and owning a current four-game winning streak. UK posted its first series sweep over LSU in 19 years last weekend, handing the defending national champions three losses in a three-game series in Lexington. The weekend prior, UK posted a series win over No. 4 South Carolina, the lone series defeat for the Gamecocks in the last 11 weekends, dating back to the 2009 season.

UK owns a very strong RPI, currently ranked No. 20 in the latest projections on BoydsWorld.com and No. 21 in the NCAA RPI released before UK's win over Murray State Tuesday. The Wildcats own a total of 15 wins over teams ranked in the top 30 in the latest RPI projections and 10 wins over teams ranked in the top 19 in the RPI. All told, UK leads the SEC with 12 wins over top 25 opponents and owns a total of 14 wins over teams currently ranked, including wins at San Diego and against Virginia Tech.

Kentucky's offensive prowess has exploded in the last few games, with UK belting a total of 80 home runs in 53 games this season, ranking second in the SEC. With five players with 10 or more home runs, UK's balanced power attack marks a first time in program history UK has had five players with double-digit homers. Andy Burns (11), Gunner Glad (11), Lance Ray (10), Marcus Nidiffer (10) and Taylor Black (10) have helped jump start UK's power attack.

On Tuesday, UK posted a 6-3 win over Murray State in Paducah, Ky., the final non-conference game of the regular season for the Wildcats. UK rode a strong and much-needed outing from sophomore right-hander Joe Devine, who tossed a career-high 5.1 innings, allowing three hits and one run, walking one and striking out a career-best four. UK plated two runs in the top of the first inning and then stretched its lead with four runs in the top of the ninth inning.

UK will mix up its rotation for the weekend, sending sophomore right-hander Alex Meyer (5-2, 6.47 ERA) to the mound Thursday night to face off with Georgia junior right-handed flamethrower Justin Grimm (2-7, 5.35 ERA). Friday, UK freshman right-hander Jordan Cooper (4-4, 5.11 ERA) will face off with Georgia senior right-hander Jeff Walters (1-6, 8.80 ERA). Saturday, UK freshman southpaw Taylor Rogers (4-7, 6.27 ERA) will face off with talented Georgia sophomore Michael Palazzone (4-6, 8.32 ERA).

Meyer will make his 11th start of the season Thursday, with the 6-foot-9, 220-pounder leading UK with 60 strikeouts in 48.2 innings pitched. A native of Greensburg, Ind., Meyer has allowed 52 hits and 42 runs, walking 32 an allowing opponents to hit for a .267 average. Grimm has started 12 games for Georgia this season, leading the team with 69 innings pitched, allowing 72 hits and 48 runs, walking 31 and striking out 68. In his last outing, Meyer was limited to one inning against No. 20 LSU, allowing two runs and two hits, walking four and striking out two.

Cooper will make his eighth start of the season and his fifth consecutive SEC weekend start Friday. The Shelbyville, Tenn., native has tossed 56.1 innings, allowing 65 hits and 36 runs, walking 25 and striking out 35. Cooper has made 19 appearances with seven starts and has shined as a starter, owning a 3-1 record and a 3.06 ERA as a starting pitcher and a 1-3 record and a 7.88 ERA as a reliever. In his last start, Cooper tossed a career-high seven innings, allowing eight hits and four runs, walking one and striking out a career-high five. Cooper started the eighth inning for UK against LSU last Saturday and allowed the first two hitters to reach without getting an out, ending his game, with the UK bullpen allowing both runners to score. Walter has tossed 61.1 innings for Georgia this season, allowing 92 hits and 67 runs, walking 36 and striking out 51.

On Saturday, UK will start Rogers in his 14th consecutive weekend start to open his college career. Rogers leads UK with 79 innings pitched in 2010, ranking as the only freshman pitcher to rank among the SEC leaders in innings pitched. A native of Littleton, Colo., Rogers has allowed 102 hits and 63 runs, walking only 12 and striking out 38. In his last start, Rogers was roughed up in 3.1 innings Friday night against LSU, allowing 10 hits and nine runs - eight earned - walking one and striking out three. Rogers will face off with Palazzone, a cornerstone in Georgia's highly ranked recruiting class last season. Palazzone has tossed 57.1 innings, allowing 90 hits and 55 runs, walking 24 and striking out 42.

Georgia (14-36, 3-22 SEC) is coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of first-place Florida in Gainesville, Fla., last weekend, losing the Friday and Saturday games in the bottom of the ninth. The Bulldogs have hit for a .294 average and fielded .965, totaling an 8.63 ERA as a team.

At the plate, Georgia has been led by shortstop Levi Hyams, who leads the team with a .349 average (51-for-146) with 12 doubles, four homers and 28 RBI. Outfielder Zach Cone has hit .348 (69-for-198) with 12 double, seven triple, nine homers and 49 RBI, stealing 11-of-11 bases. Christian Glisson has hit .333 (37-for-111) with four doubles, three homers and 14 RBI, while Todd Hnkins has hit .325 (39-for-120) with six doubles, one homer and 13 RBI. Kyle Farmer has batted .317 (44-for-139) with a team-leading 15 doubles, adding two triple and three homers. Outfielder Peter Verdin has batted .315 (64-for-203) with a team-high equaling 15 doubles, adding seven homer and 27 RBI, leading the team with 14 stolen bases. Outfielder Johnathan Taylor has added a .303 average (56-for-185) with five doubles, two triple and 25 RBI. All-SEC third sacker Colby May has been limited to a .176 average (22-for-125) with five homers and 19 RBI.

On the mound, UGA has been led out of the bullpen by Cooper Moseley (0-4, 5.81 ERA), who leads the team with four saves in 24 relief outings. Justin Earls (2-0, 7.68 ERA), Cecil Tanner (1-2, 11.68 ERA) and Blake Dieterich (0-2, 14.23 ERA) have carried the load out of the pen for the Bulldogs.

Georgia leads the all-time series, 122-83-1, including a 63-33 mark in games played in Athens, Ga. UK has lost six consecutive games in the series, owning its last series win in 2007 in Lexington. The Wildcats have not won a series in Athens since the 2000 seasons, posting wins in games two and three of the series. Georgia has won 16 of the last 19 meetings in the all-time series.