Posts from Friday, March 6
Greetings from Gainesville
Posted at 7:22 p.m. ET – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Hi, hello and welcome from Gainesville, Fla. If you didn’t notice on the earlier post, I’m travelling with the team to blog the UK-Florida game tomorrow from the O’Connell Center. We just got settled in at the Hilton in Gainesville after an extremely quick trip.
We left the Joe Craft Center immediately at Billy Gillispie’s news conference at 3:15 p.m., and by the time we passed through security and got settled on the plane at BlueGrass Airport, we were in the air by 4:30 p.m. Believe it or not, the 700-mile trip took all of an hour and 20 minutes, and we were boarding the bus for the hotel by 5:55 p.m. I’ll tell you thing – it sure beats the road trips that I used to take for UK games.
I’ve been on plenty of road trips before for at my previous job, but this is the first time I’ve had the privilege of riding along with the team. From what I’ve been told, things were a little different this time than normal. Typically the team takes a small jet that fits just enough for the players, coaches and managers, but because they brought along a few extra people today – including Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart – we took a larger commercial jet that seats about 70 people.
One thing I’ve quickly learned is that travel for these guys is a time to rest, and given their busy schedules, I don’t blame them. As soon as we hit the air out of BlueGrass Airport, the windows were down, the players iPod’s were on and most of the guys tried to get in an hour of sleep, including UK Coach Billy Gillispie.
Now that we’re here, the team has already settled in and met for dinner at 7:15 p.m. After that, they’ll have most of the evening to themselves before watching film in Gillispie’s room around 10 p.m.
I’m actually headed out with a couple of local Lexington writers to grab something to eat at a place called the Gator Alehouse (I hope I have that right). I’ve been here once before, but I’m going to try to scan out the nightlife here in Gainesville a little bit better and give you all an idea of what it’s like here.
One thing I can tell you: even in March, it’s a beautiful 76-degree day here. Sorry, I just had to throw that in for you Wildcat fans back in Lexington.
Hitting the road
Posted at 2:10 p.m. ET – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
I’m headed south with the team for the trip to Gainesville, Fla., which unfortunately means I won’t be able to post any highlights of Billy Gillispie’s news conference afterward. We’re scheduled to leave from BlueGrass Airport immediately after so I won’t have time to put those on the web for you all.
The good news is that I’ll be blogging the game from the O’Connell Center tomorrow and I’ll be able to provide any news on the road that comes my way. I’m not sure how busy I’ll be down there, but I’ll try to pass along any road reports that I can over the next 24 hours.
If you still want to hear what Gillispie says this afternoon to the media, we’ll have a few excerpts here. The quotes will be up sometime this evening, and I’ll try to update and add anything interesting to the blog once we get settled in down south.
UK bats are still swinging
Posted at 12:37 p.m. ET – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
We were told at the beginning of the year that we would see a different Kentucky baseball team, one that was more “small ball” oriented than those of years past.
UK Coach Gary Henderson said it was inevitable because you have to adjust to the personnel that you have. Very true.
But through the first 10 games of the season, this new-look personnel is giving a few indications that it might still like the long ball just as much as previous Wildcat teams.
Through eight games this year, UK has knocked 10 home runs out of the park, just two shy of the pace the Wildcats were on last year. They have also scored less than five runs just once this season and have belted out 12 or more runs in three of their eight games.
Some of the offensive numbers are definitely down a little bit. UK’s batting average (.369 to .315), doubles (30 to 10) and RBI (100 to 69) are all down, so there is definitely some truth behind UK’s switch to a more “small ball” team. As Henderson has said several times, you don’t lose All-Americans like Sawyer Carroll and Collin Cowgill and expect to maintain some of the firepower.
UK has tried to counter that with more hit-and-runs, sacrifice hits and stolen bases, and to an extent, it has worked so far. UK has three sacrifice flies, nine sacrifice hits and 19 stolen bases, just slightly above last year’s numbers.
But there have also been some signs that there could be more pop to the UK bats than many of us initially thought. Sophomore infielder Chris Bisson is hitting a sultry .407 at the dish to go along with nine RBI, two doubles and a home run. Junior catcher Marcus Nidiffer, senior third baseman Chris McClendon and junior center fielder Keenan Wiley are all hitting as expected, batting well over .300.
UK is still waiting on sophomore shortstop Chris Wade and junior outfielder Troy Frazier to pick up their averages, but to Frazier’s credit, he already has two home runs against much tougher competition than the Wildcats faced early on last year. Once those guys fully get going, UK could have a lethal combination of power and small ball.
And even if they don’t or some of UK’s other bats slide off – nobody expects this team to hit 83 home runs like it did last year – this team has proven already that it can win with a little bit of everything. Scoring 9.25 runs per game to go along with the Southeastern Conference’s leading strikeout pitchers in Chris Rusin and James Paxton will generally get you wins.
SEC Indoor Track Awards
Posted at 11:26 a.m. ET – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
Following the Kentucky track and field team’s performance in the 2009 Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships last weekend, three Wildcats have earned SEC honors.
Senior Ashley Trimble and junior Kristin Smith were named first-team All-SEC for the women, and senior Mikel Thomas was named first-team All-SEC for the men.
Trimble finished first in the women’s pentathlon, Smith placed second in the women’s weight throw and Thomas came in second in the men’s 60-meter hurdles.
The road to Tampa
Posted at 11:03 a.m. ET – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
There is still one more game left for each of the Southeastern Conference teams, but the tournament picture is starting to become a little bit clearer. If the tournament started today, here is how things would shake out:
1. Tennessee (10-5)
2. South Carolina (9-6)
3. Kentucky (8-7) #
4. Florida (8-7) #
5. Vanderbilt (7-8)
6. Georgia (3-12)
Note: #--Kentucky won only head-to-head meeting prior to Sunday’s game.
1. LSU (13-2)
2. Auburn (9-6)
3. Mississippi State (8-7)
4. Ole Miss (7-8)
5. Alabama (6-9)
6. Arkansas (2-13)
First Round Matchups (if the season ended TODAY!!!)
[E4] Florida vs. [W5] Alabama 1 p.m. ET
[W3] Mississippi State vs. [E6] Georgia 3:15 p.m. ET
[W4] Ole Miss vs. [E5] Vanderbilt 7:30 p.m. ET
[E3] Kentucky vs. [W6] Arkansas 9:45 p.m. ET
Byes: [W1] LSU, [E1] Tennessee, [W2] Auburn, [E2] South Carolina
Saturday’s UK-Florida game comes down to this. If the Cats win, UK is the No. 3 seed. If Florida wins, it’s the No. 3 seed. It’s as simple as that.
Whoever gets the third seed in the East will play sixth-seeded Arkansas. The fourth seed in the East will play the fifth seed in the West, which will be either Alabama or Ole Miss, which is yet to be determined with a game to go. UK beat Arkansas and Alabama in the regular season but dropped its game at Ole Miss.