April 7, 2014
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Fresh off a series win over No. 12 Florida, No. 19 Kentucky will return to action with a four-game week, starting with a Tuesday match with Morehead State, with first pitch slated for 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The game will also be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the game. Fans can hear the game live in Central Kentucky on WWTF 1580-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
The Wildcats will turn to sophomore southpaw Ryne Combs (1-1, 3.54 ERA) to make the start against Morehead State junior lefty Luke Schneider (1-2, 6.60). Combs, a native of Lexington, Ky., has appeared in nine games with two midweek starts, working 20.1 innings, allowing 18 hits and nine walks, striking out five and holding opponents to a .237 average. Schneider, a 6-foot-7 native of Monument, Colo., has made eight starts, owning a 1-2 record and a 6.60 ERA, working 30 innings, allowing 35 hits and 16 walks, striking out 21.
Kentucky (22-10, 6-6 Southeastern Conference) improved to 7-4 against top-15 teams in 2014, during the week, starting with an 8-3 midweek win over No. 8 Louisville, in front of the fourth-largest crowd in program history. After routing SEC-leading Florida 17-1 in the series opener and then falling 11-10 in the middle game of the series, the Wildcats posted a thrilling 9-8 comeback win over the Gators in the rubber match on Sunday, as A.J. Reed – the midseason national player of the year – cranked homers in all three games of the series.
The Wildcats moved up in the polls following the weekend, checking in No. 12 in the Baseball America top 25, No. 14 by Perfect Game and No. 18 by Collegiate Baseball.
UK totaled 36 runs in the three-game weekend, marking their most runs scored in a series against the Gators in program history, shattering the previous mark of 32 runs scored in a 1999 series with Florida. It marked the most runs for UK in a three-game SEC series since the Wildcats scored 37 runs against South Carolina in 2006 and in 1995, with UK’s program record coming in 39 runs scored in 1993 vs. Vanderbilt.
Ranked as high as No. 12 as a consensus top-25 team, Florida entered the weekend with the Wildcats sporting a 2.94 ERA, holding opponents to a .244 average, and coming off a week that saw the Gators edge No. 1 Florida State and sweep No. 4 LSU. UK pounded out 50 hits in the three-game series, belted 15 extra-base hits – including seven homers – and owned a .471 on-base percentage, batting .410 and slugging .656.
The series win for the Wildcats was their second consecutive over the Gators, as UK won the rubber match in 2013 in Gainesville. UK’s series win over Florida in Lexington was its first since 2008.
Kentucky now has wins over top-ranked Virginia, No. 1 South Carolina, No. 5 Vanderbilt, No. 8 Louisville and No. 12 Florida. In UK head coach Gary Henderson’s career, the Wildcats have 43 wins over top-20 foes. UK wrapped up a stretch of facing 10 of 11 ranked opponents, including seven straight. UK’s three straight SEC weekends facing top-15 teams marked just the third time in program history (with records dating back to 2003) the Wildcats faced such a challenge and the first time since 2006. In addition, UK’s SEC-opening weekend at Alabama came against a Crimson Tide club that was ranked in the top-15 in the preseason by Baseball America and are currently leading the conference.
On Friday in a 17-1 win over Florida, UK equaled its largest margin of victory in SEC play in program history, last done in 16-run wins over Vanderbilt in 1993 and Tennessee in 1990. Reed, who was named SEC and national player of the week, worked seven shutout innings on the mound, while also belting two doubles and a homer at the plate in the rout of the Gators. On Saturday, Florida jumped out to a 9-0 lead entering the eighth inning before the Wildcats rallied with eight two-out runs to cut it to one run entering the ninth inning. UF added two runs in the ninth to stretch its lead, with UK plating two runs but stranding the tying and winning runs on base to end the game and even the series. UK bounced back on Sunday with a comeback win. Trailing 3-2 entering the sixth, the Wildcats plated seven two-out runs to take a 9-3 lead, fighting off a five-run frame for the Gators in the eighth to secure the win, with Spencer Jack and Kyle Cody locking it down in relief, with Cody picking up his second save.
The Wildcats have hit an SEC-leading .318 in 2014, pacing the conference in slugging (.467), on-base percentage (.418), runs (284), homers (30), RBI (247) and total bases (525). UK has added 64 doubles and stolen 49 bases, while fielded .967 with 27 double plays turned. On the mound, UK has a 3.20 ERA in 32 games, saving five in 284 innings, walking 86 and striking out 198.
UK has been led at the plate and on the mound by Reed, a first-team preseason All-American . Reed has hit .377 with eight doubles, one triple, 12 homers and 39 RBI, owning a .781 slugging and a .507 on-base percentage. Reed leads the SEC with 12 homers, ranking tied for second in the NCAA, and is the only player in the nation from a BCS conference with eight or more homers. On the mound, Reed has a 6-1 record and a 1.93 ERA, owning Friday-night wins over No. 1 Virginia, No. 1 South Carolina, No. 5 Vanderbilt and No. 12 Florida.
Centerfielder Austin Cousino has hit .355 with 10 doubles, two triples, three homers and 25 RBI, stealing 12 bases. Catcher Micheal Thomas has a .349 average with seven doubles, one triple, six homers and 33 RBI. Third baseman Max Kuhn, who hit a go-ahead, three-run homer on Sunday vs. UF, has hit .333 with nine doubles, four homers and 30 RBI. First baseman Thomas Bernal has a .333 average with three doubles, one homer and 15 RBI, with leftfielder Ka’ai Tom hitting .317 with four doubles, 12 RBI and eight steals. Rightfielder Kyle Barrett has hit .293 with five doubles, one homer and 18 RBI, swiping 10 bases. Second baseman JaVon Shelby – who hit .500 with seven RBI last week – has batted .293 with six doubles, one triple, three homers and 15 RBI. Senior shortstop Matt Reida has hit .227 with freshman shortstop Connor Heady hitting .10 with a .296 on-base percentage, laying down five sac bunts.
Reed (6-1, 1.93 ERA), Chandler Shepherd (5-2, 3.61 ERA) and Andrew Nelson (1-2, 2.79 ERA) have formed UK’s weekend rotation through the last five weeks. Jack (1-0, 1.29 ERA) and Cody (3-0, 1.62 ERA) each have two saves, with freshman Logan Salow (1-1, 0.90 ERA) appearing in 10 games in relief with one save. Zach Strecker (0-1, 4.05 ERA), Zack Brown (0-0, 4.50 ERA), Ryne Combs (1-1, 3.54 ERA), Matt Snyder (0-0, 6.00 ERA) and Sam Mahar (1-0, 6.75 ERA) have each appeared in at least seven games in relief.
Morehead State (15-16) is coming off a series win at Eastern Kentucky, with the Eagles winning three of their last four games. MSU has hit .299 as a team in 2014, with 64 doubles, nine triples, 18 homers and 170 RBI, stealing 22 bases. Defensively, Morehead has fielded .956 with 19 double plays turned, with the Eagles owning a 6.37 ERA on the mound, saving nine games in 277 innings, walking 135 and striking out 246.
Individually, Brandon Rawe leads the team with a .443 average, belting 15 doubles, five homers and 28 RBI. Chris Robinson has hit .353 with four doubles, two triples, one homer and 23 RBI. Jeff Birkofer has hit .341 with five doubles and eight RBI, with Bobby Burns batting .338 with 10 RBI. Kane Sweeney has four homers, nine doubles and 23 RBI, with Robby Spencer owning a .308 average.
In relief, Craig Pearcy (3-2, 2.38 ERA) has five saves in 12 games, making one start, a complete-game. Noah Smallwood (2-2, 4.05 ERA), Cable Wright (0-0, 6.10 ERA) and Dan Hyatt (2-0, 6.91 ERA) have each appeared in 15 games in relief.
UK leads the all-time series with Morehead State, 44-25, including a 30-13 mark in games played in Lexington. UK has won five consecutive meetings, with its last loss coming in 2007 in Lexington.
Kentucky - 22-10
Morehead State - 15-16
Rankings (as of 4/1/14)
Kentucky - No. 17 (Perfect Game USA), No. 19 (USA Today/ESPN), No. 21 (Collegiate Baseball), No. 22 (Baseball America, NCBWA)
Morehead State - not ranked
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change)
vs. Morehead State * April 8 * 6:30 p.m.
Radio (UK IMG Network with Neil Price)
• WWTF 1580-AM in Lexington
• WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Tuesday vs. Morehead State
So., LHP Ryne Combs (1-1, 3.54 ERA) vs. Jr., LHP Luke Schneider (1-2, 6.60)
Live audio and stats on UKathletics.com
Cliff Hagan Stadium (3,000)
Parking at Cliff Hagan Stadium is FREE.
UK will utilize two lots: the C8 lot behind Shively Sports Center, and the Parking Structure 7 on the corner of Complex Drive and Jerry Claiborne Way. Both 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.
Fans should not use the university "R" lots adjacent to the dorms or on the south side of Nutter Training Facility. These lots are patrolled by the university 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Fans that park in these lots may be ticketed or towed. Plenty of parking is available in the C8 and PS7 lots.
SINGLE GAME TICKET PRICES
$5 - General Admission Seating - Adults
$2 - General Admission Seating - Kids/Seniors
SEASON TICKET PRICES
$35 General Admission
$55 Reserved Seating