LEXINGTON, Ky. -- In the midst of an 11-game homestand, the 22nd-ranked Kentucky baseball team will return to action, hosting IPFW in a three-game series at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The series will begin Friday with a game at 4 p.m. ET, with first pitch Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
All three 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 WGVN 1580-AM or WLAP 630-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky (10-2) suffered its first home loss of the season Wednesday night, dropping the second game of a two-game midweek series with Evansville, 8-4. In the win Tuesday, UK got a four-inning start from freshman right-hander Jordan Cooper, who allowed one run and struck out four for the win. Andy Burns hit his fourth homer of the year as part of a four-run eighth inning that broke open a two-run game. On Wednesday, UK freshman starter Sam Kidd (1-0, 6.23 ERA) went four innings in his first-career start, striking out three and allowing only two earned runs.
UK will start the reigning Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week, junior southpaw Logan Darnell (2-0, 2.57 ERA) Friday against IPFW junior right-hander Samuel Walker (0-2, 9.58 ERA). Darnell is coming off a complete-game shutout at San Diego in his third career start, handcuffing the Toreros into eight hits in a 90-pitch effort, clamping up a team that ranked No. 19 in the Baseball America preseason top 25. A native of Joelton, Tenn., Darnell outdueled USD potential first-round pick Sammy Solis, throwing 70 strikes, including first-pitch strikes to 22-of-32 hitters. Walker, a 6-foot-1, 190-pounder, will be making his fourth start of the season, tossing 10.1 innings with 14 runs, seven walks and nine strikeouts.
Saturday, UK freshman lefty Taylor Rogers (2-0, 6.19 ERA) will matchup with IPFW junior right-hander Ryan August (0-2, 3.52 ERA). Rogers had a sparkling debut to his career, jumping out to a 2-0 record and a 0.66 ERA after his first two collegiate starts. Last Saturday, against Monmouth in San Diego, Rogers allowed 10 hits and 10 runs in 2.1 innings of action. In his first career start, Rogers tossed a gem, going 7.2 shutout innings to win SEC Freshman of the Week accolades. August, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound native of Mokena, Ill., will be making his fourth start on 2010, owning eight strikeouts and six walks in 15.1 innings.
On Sunday, UK will turn to junior right-hander Alex Meyer (2-2, 9.00 ERA) to face off with IPFW junior right-hander Lucas Kesterson (0-1, 5.68 ERA). A 6-foot-9, 220-pounder, Meyer is coming off his first relief appearance since early in 2009, suffering a loss to Evansville after allowing five decisive runs in the sixth inning of his second frame of relief Wednesday. Meyer, who was going to have a 10-day layoff between starts, was in the game to get some work on the day of his scheduled bullpen session. After tossing a perfect fifth inning with only seven pitches used, Meyer walked two and hit one to load the bases for UE in the sixth inning, with the Aces then following with a bases-clearing triple poked down the right-field line and a two-run homer to take the 8-4 lead. Kesterson, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound native of Taylorville, Ill., has also made three previous starts this season, hurling 12.2 innings, allowing 15 hits and 11 runs, walking 10 and striking out seven.
Offensively, UK has been led by senior centerfielder Keenan Wiley who leads the team with a .386 (17-for-44) average, owning a five-game hitting streak and adding two doubles, one homer and eight RBI, walking twice and striking out just twice. Junior preseason All-American Chris Bisson has added a .378 (14-for-37) average, with two doubles, one triple, two homers and 10 RBI. Senior Gunner Glad has added a .333 (14-for-42) average with four doubles and 10 RBI, with sophomore third baseman Andy Burns leading the team with four homers, adding a .298 (14-for-47) average with four doubles, one triple, six RBI and a team-high eight walks. Sophomore Braden Kapteyn has added a .270 (10-for-37) average, with four doubles and five RBI. Senior catcher Marcus Nidiffer has played in 10 of UK’s 12 games and totaled a .259 (7-for-27) average, with two doubles and four RBI. Sophomore Chad Wright leads the team with 11 RBI – including seven two-out RBI – batting .250 (12-for-48) with a double, triple and a homer, stealing three bases. Neiko Johnson paces the club on the base paths, swiping 9-of-9 bases, including three Wednesday against Evansville.
Out of the bullpen, junior right-hander Matt Little has emerged as one of the top relievers in the conference, owning a 1-0 record, a 0.69 ERA and three saves in six appearances. Little, a native of Virginia Beach, Va., has allowed only four hits in 13 innings, walking four and striking out 17, with opponents hitting .103 at the plate. Kapteyn (1-0, 0.00), a 6-foot-4, 220-pound two-way standout, has appeared in three games out of the bullpen, striking out five in 5.1 innings, picking up a save at No. 12 Coastal Carolina on the opening weekend. UK got a big lift Tuesday, when junior right-handed submarine reliever Nick Kennedy (0-0, 0.00 ERA) returned from a near year-long absence to toss three shutout innings for the save.
IPFW (1-9) is coming off its first win of the season at Arkansas State Tuesday, a 2-1 result behind a strong pitching performance from Nick Optiz (1-0, 0.63 ERA), who went 8.1 innings with one run allowed for the win, with Ryan Jacobson (0-1, 9.00 ERA), picking up the save with the final two outs. IPFW has suffered losses in a three-game series at UT-Martin, at Southeast Missouri State and at Arkansas-Little Rock to open the season, before picking up the midweek win at Arkansas State.
The Mastodons have been led offensively by Cory Miller, who has a .346 (9-for-26) average in 10 games, leading the team with five RBI. Brett Clark has added five RBI, charting three double, one triple and one homer. Will Faulkner is the only IPFW player to start every game this season, batting .162 (6-for-37) with a double. A.J. Christensen has played in all 10 games and hit .211 (8-for-38) with a homer and four RBI. Out of the bullpen, Andrew Emge (0-1, 6.75) has appeared in a staff-best four games, with Jacobson, Optiz, Matt Antos (0-2, 4.09 ERA), Ryan Jenson (0-0, 0.00 ERA) and Brandon Kowling (0-0, 1.35 ERA) each appearing in three games.
UK has never faced IPFW in school history, marking the fourth first-time opponent for the Wildcats this season.