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No. 20 Baseball Hosts Wright State Wednesday

Senior backstop Marcus Nidiffer leads the SEC in pickoffs.

Senior backstop Marcus Nidiffer leads the SEC in pickoffs.

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LEXINGTON, Ky. --
In the final non-conference tune-up before Southeastern Conference play begins Friday, the 20th-ranked Kentucky baseball team will host defending Horizon League champion Wright State, with first-pitch Wednesday slated for 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Kentucky (13-3) will face the Raiders Wednesday in the final non-conference matchup before the grueling conference schedule begins. The Wildcats will host No. 19 Ole Miss, Friday-Sunday on SEC-opening weekend.

The Wednesday game 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 game live on WLAP 630-AM and online at UKathletics.com.

The Wildcats are coming off a Monday setback, suffering a 7-5 loss at the hands of Murray State. UK committed a season and SEC-high six errors in the game, including five in the first four innings to fall behind by six runs. UK mounted a valiant comeback to bring the go-ahead run to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth but a double play and subsequent game-ending pop up ending UK’s chances of the dramatic comeback.

Last weekend, UK posted a sweep of IPFW, outscoring the Mastodons, 30-6. The Wildcats got a 10-1 win Friday night after an over three-hour rain delay and notched an 11-2 win Saturday. Sunday, UK posted a 9-3 win to notch its second series sweep of the season.

The Wildcats will turn to junior right-hander Kyle Jackson (0-0, 5.40 ERA) for his first career starting assignment Wednesday. Jackson, a native of Kearney, Mo., has pitched 8.1 innings this season in four games out of the bullpen, allowing seven hits and five runs, walking four and striking out three. Most recently, Jackson came out of the pen against IPFW, going two innings, allowing four this and two runs in the Friday-night win. His best appearance of the season came against Evansville, tossing two shutout innings and allowing only one hit. Wright State, which plays a game Tuesday night, has yet to announce a starting pitcher for Wednesday.

Kentucky has been led offensively by junior preseason All-American Chris Bisson, who leads the team with a .395 (15-for-38) average, adding two doubles, one triple, two homers and 11 RBI. Bisson, a native of Orleans, Ontario, has been sidelined for five games this season due to injury and returned in a pinch-hit role Monday against Murray State, lining an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth to keep the bases loaded and the game-winning run at the plate. Senior centerfielder Keenan Wiley has hit .375 (21-for-54) with three doubles, two homers and 11 RBI, drawing five walks and striking out just twice. Sophomore rightfielder Cory Farris has hit .370  (10-for-27) with three doubles and three homers, adding nine RBI. Senior utility man Gunner Glad has hit .364 (20-for-55) with four doubles, two homers and 13 RBI and sophomore leftfielder Chad Wright has batted .348 (23-for-66) with two doubles, one triple, two homers and a team-high 16 RBI. Sophomore third baseman Andy Burns leads the team with four homers, adding a .273 (18-for-66) average with four doubles and a club-high nine walks. Braden Kapteyn has added a .306 (15-for-49) average, while senior Marcus Nidiffer has charted a .256 (10-for-39) mark through 14 games, belting two homers and adding nine RBI.

Out of the bullpen, UK junior right-hander Matt Little leads the team with four saves and a 0.59 ERA, adding a 1-0 record in 15.1 innings, striking out 21 and holding opponents to a .109 average. Junior submarine reliever Nick Kennedy has notched a save in his two appearances, going 6.2 innings with a 0.00 ERA, striking out seven, while Kapteyn owns a save, a 1-0 record and a 0.00 ERA in his four appearances, hurling 6.2 innings and striking out six.

UK has four players with long hit streaks going, with Burns riding a career-high 12 game hitting streak and Bisson riding a 11-game streak, dating back to last season. Wiley owns a 10-game streak and Kapteyn has charted a hit in nine consecutive games. Wright, a native of Paducah, Ky., has hit safely in five straight games, with Farris, Taylor Black and Brian Adams each adding three-game streaks.

Wright State (5-7) is annually one of the top programs in the Horizon League and claimed the league crown in 2009, advancing to the NCAA Tournament. The Raiders had a big win early in the season, posting a 2-1 win at No. 1 Virginia, but have played a challenging scheduled that included a three-game sweep at the hands of No. 7 Clemson on the road.  

The Raiders have been led offensively by Jake Hibberd, who leads the club with a .410 (16-for-39) average, ripping three doubles, one triple and adding a club-best 13 RBI. Casey Mcgrew (.318 avg., 2 2B, 7 RBI), Tristan Moore (.289 avg., 2 2B, 2 3B, HR, 7 RBI), Ryan Ashe (.258 avg., 2B, 7 RBI) and Quentin Cate (.256 avg., 3 2B, 7 RBI) have each played in all 11 games for WSU. As a team, WSU has hit for a .283 average and totaled a 5.06 ERA on the mound. In the bullpen, Michael Schum (0-3, 4.70 ERA) leads the team with seven relief appearances, with Greg Robinson (0-0, 1.59 ERA) tallying the lone save on the team, striking out eight in 5.2 innings.

UK ranks throughout the SEC stats, with Kapteyn ranking third in the league in doubles (six) and Neiko Johnson leading the league in steals (15), swiping 1.16 bases per game. Junior southpaw Logan Darnell ranks first in the SEC in innings pitched with freshman southpaw Taylor Rogers checking in eighth (23.0) in innings pitched. Little ranks second in the league in saves (four), with Alex Meyer ranking sixth in the league in strikeouts (26), fanning 11.14 hitters per nine innings pitched.

The Wildcats own a narrow 9-7 lead all-time in the series, posting wins in three consecutive meetings. The two teams have played each of the last two years in Lexington, with UK winning 21-3 in 2008 and riding two homers from Glad in a 6-3 win in 2009. The Wildcats have won six of the last seven, with the last loss coming in 2004, a 7-4 loss in a weekend series win for UK. In Lexington, UK owns an 8-5 lead in the series.

In the win over Wright State last season, UK started Clint Tilford, who went four innings and allowed one run, before turning it over to senior Jonathan Huff, who went four innings and allowed just one run. Glad’s two homers and four RBI led the Wildcats, who also got a 2-for-3 outing from Bisson and an RBI double from Burns. Gerald Ogrinic led WSU with a 3-for-3, two RBI game, with Jeff Mercer hitting a homer.

In the 2008 meeting between the two programs, Tilford also started, going five innings and allowing three runs. UK used Darnell, Scott Green and Mike Kaczmarek in relief, with the bullpen tossing the final four shutout innings. In the game, UK got a record performance from eventual first-team All-SEC second baseman Ryan Wilkes, who had a career-best 5-for-6 game with four runs scored and an eye-popping eight RBI. Wilkes, a native of Harrison, Tenn., showed off his switch-hitting prowess, belting homers from both sides of the plate in the game. UK also used two hits from Wiley and All-Americans Sawyer Carroll and Collin Cowgill, with Brian Spear going 2-for-4 with a homer and Spencer Korus charting a career-best 3-for-4 game.

Wiley is UK’s most experienced player against WSU, owning a .286 (4-for-14) average in three years against WSU, adding two RBI. Bisson has hit .250 (2-for-8) in his three years, while Glad’s 2-for-3, two homer outing in 2009 ranking tops in terms of power production amongst the UK returnees experienced with Wright State.

Records
Kentucky – 13-3, 0-0 SEC
•    Last time out: defeated by Murray State on Monday, 7-5
Wright State – 5-7, 0-0 Horizon League
•    Last time out: defeated Wilmington on Tuesday, 10-2

Head Coaches
Kentucky
•    Gary Henderson (San Diego State, 1984)
•    41-29 (.586) – second year
Wright State
•    Rob Cooper (University of Miami, 1994)
•    161-142 (.531) – sixth year

Rankings
Kentucky
•    No. 22 (Baseball America)
•    No. 24 (Collegiate Baseball)
•    No. 20 (NCBWA)
•    No. 19 (Rivals.com/Yahoo! Sports)
•    No. 22 (USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll)
•    No. 21 (Ping! Baseball)
Wright State
•    Not ranked

Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) -- Lexington, Ky.
Wednesday, March 17 * vs. Wright State * 6:30 p.m.

Radio (BBSN with Neil Price)
Wednesday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington

Internet Coverage
Live video, audio and stats on UKathletics.com.

Tentative Pitching Matchups
Wednesday vs. Wright State
RHP Kyle Jackson (0-0, 5.40 ERA) vs. TBA

Stadium
Cliff Hagan Stadium (3,000)

Parking
Parking at Cliff Hagan Stadium is FREE.

UK will utilize three lots during UK’s spring break: the C8 lot behind Shively Sports Center, the “R” lot, adjacent to the dorms or on the south side of the Nutter Training Facility, and the brand-new Parking Structure 7 on the corner of Complex Drive and Jerry Claiborne Way. All three parking lots are only steps away from Cliff Hagan Stadium.

Fans who park in the PS7 lot will be given a parking value card to exit the structure free of charge. Value cards should be picked up at the baseball ticket booth prior to the fifth inning.


 

 

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