Bat Cats Open 2002 Season at Birmingham Challenge Tournament

Junior RHP Joseph Blanton has been named the starter in the Cats' season-opener at Samford on Friday.

Junior RHP Joseph Blanton has been named the starter in the Cats' season-opener at Samford on Friday.

Week One Diamond Notes

Feb. 14, 2002

The University of Kentucky baseball team will throw its first pitch of the 2002 season on Friday, Feb. 15 when it battles Samford at 4 p.m. ET in the Birmingham Challenge Tournament in Birmingham, Ala. The season-opener at SU's Joe Lee Griffin Field is the first of three games on the weekend for UK, beginning its 106th year of baseball in the Bluegrass.

"After all these years of coaching, it's still rewarding to see the enthusiasm that our players have shown to get this season started," Coach Keith Madison said. "I feel that this team is physically and mentally prepared - we're a much stronger and experienced team than we were a season ago."

The Wildcats, 14-9 in season-openers under Madison's tutelage, will face a Samford squad that recorded its first season-opening sweep under Coach Tim Parrenton last weekend, claiming all three games over VMI. On Tuesday, the Bulldogs (4-0, 0-0 Atlantic Sun) invaded Auburn's Plainsman Park and left the Plains with a 5-2 victory over the No. 25 Tigers.

"Samford is solid team and they're off to a great start at 4-0," Madison said. "The teams we are playing from the South are ahead of us in number of games and practices, but we hope our hard work and enthusiasm will carry us to us a successful weekend."

Parrenton's club has crossed the plate 29 times in four games while holding the opposition to 10 runs in that span. The Dogs' offensive bite is led by senior left fielder Cory Sumner, who has posted a stellar .500 batting average by connecting on 7-of-14 plate appearances. Transferring to Samford from Mississippi State, Sumner leads the SU hitters in runs scored (6), hits (7), doubles (3) and has recorded the Dogs' only triple in 2002.

On the mound for SU, the Wildcats will attempt to hit Frank Allen Yeilding, something the Keydets could not do last weekend, as he chalked up a no-hitter in seven complete innings of work. Yeilding walked only two batters and fanned 10 in his first appearance as a Bulldog.

In the UK dugout, Madison begins his 24th season at the helm of the Cats and will try to improve on last season's 22-34 record after going 38-20-1 and being ranked in the top 25 in 2000. Posting winning seasons in 15 of his 23 years, Madison needs only four wins to reach the remarkable 700-win milestone.

Pitching coach Greg Goff announced this week that Joseph Blanton will take the mound for the Cats to contest Yeilding. Baseball America recently rated Blanton, a junior right-hander from Brownsville, Ky., the No. 2 prospect in the SEC for the 2002 Major League Baseball Draft.

"He must have his fastball command down in the zone to be effective," Goff said. "He's been solid in practice and has shown he can throw his breaking ball for strikes."

UK will continue its road swing at defending NAIA National Champion Birmingham-Southern on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 3 p.m. ET and will complete the weekend at UAB on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. ET.

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