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Baseball Hosts No. 24 Alabama in Weekend Series

Leftfielder Chad Wright leads the team in at bats (124) and doubles (eight), batting .355 in 30 games.

Leftfielder Chad Wright leads the team in at bats (124) and doubles (eight), batting .355 in 30 games.

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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Coming off a shutout win over No. 7 Louisville on Tuesday, the Kentucky baseball team will return to its grueling Southeastern Conference play, hosting No. 24 Alabama in a three-game series, beginning Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The two teams will play at 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday and 1 p.m. ET Sunday.

Kentucky (19-11, 2-7 SEC) posted a dominating 5-0 win over the Cardinals Tuesday night, getting outstanding pitching performances from freshman Jordan Cooper and juniors Mike Kaczmarek and Nick Kennedy. The Wildcats rode a two-hit outing from senior catcher Marcus Nidiffer and a two-run home run from senior Gunner Glad offensively, with Glad belting his fifth homer in the last six games.

The series with Alabama 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 WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM, in addition to complete coverage on UKathletics.com.

The Wildcats are in the midst of facing ranked opponents in 16 of 18 games, including the current stretch of 12 consecutive games against a ranked foe. All told, UK will play, or has played, 26 games against ranked opponents. The remainder of the season, according to the current batch of rankings, UK will only play six opponents not ranked in the top 25, which includes SEC road series at Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia.

UK will send its weekend rotation of Logan Darnell (3-2, 4.50 ERA), Taylor Rogers (3-3, 5.31 ERA) and Alex Meyer (4-2, 7.64 ERA) to the mound for the series with the Crimson Tide. Alabama will answer with Adam Morgan (4-0, 3.60 ERA) on Friday and Jimmy Nelson (4-0, 2.52 ERA) to the mound on Saturday, with Sunday’s Crimson Tide pitcher to be announced.

Friday, Darnell, a junior southpaw, will make his eighth career start and his fourth in the SEC. Darnell has tossed 44 innings for UK this season, ranking fourth in the SEC, striking out 32 and issuing 15 walks. In his last outing, Darnell pitched in a UK win at No. 10 Arkansas Friday night. He lasted 3.2 innings, allowing nine hits and five runs, walking two and striking zero out. Darnell’s best outing came in a matchup at San Diego during the third weekend of the season, when he needed just 90 pitches and 70 strikes to toss a complete-game shutout of the Torreros, earning SEC Pitcher of the Week accolades. Morgan, a dynamic Alabama sophomore right-hander, will make his eighth start of the year for the Crimson Tide Friday. Morgan has tossed 40 innings, allowing 41 hits and 16 earned runs, walking 16 and striking out 38. In his last start, Morgan hurled seven innings against Auburn, picking up his fourth win of the season. Morgan hurled seven innings, allowing six hits and three runs, walking two and striking out eight.

On Saturday, Rogers, a freshman lefty, will make his eighth career start. In 42.1 innings, Rogers has tossed 42.1 innings, walking just eight and striking out 17. In his last start, Rogers tossed four innings, allowing 11 hits and eight runs, striking out two without issuing a free pass. A native of Littleton, Colo., Rogers had the best outing of his career March 27, tossing a complete-game in a 2-1 loss at No. 20 Vanderbilt. Rogers, a 6-foot-3, 170-pounder, allowed two runs in the first inning at Vanderbilt, then tossed eight consecutive shutout innings to keep UK in the ballgame in a losing effort.

In Sunday’s contest, Meyer, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound right-hander, will make his ninth appearance and eighth start of the campaign. In 35.1 innings, Meyer has struck out 45 and walked 22, allowing 43 hits and 30 earned runs. In his last start, Meyer was spotted a five-run lead in the second inning, but lasted just 1.2 innings, allowing six hits and eight runs – seven earned – walking two and striking out three. Meyer, a native of Greensburg, Ind., had the best start of the season against No. 18 Ole Miss in a must-win situation Sunday. In the win over the Rebels, Meyer tossed 6.2 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs, walking four and striking out a season-best 10. Alabama has yet to announce a starting pitcher for Sunday, with Taylor Wolfe getting the start, going 4.2 innings, allowing seven hits and five runs, striking out six.

The Wildcats have been led by a .291 team batting average, a 4.48 ERA on the mound and a .964 team fielding percentage. Individually, Glad has led the UK offense, batting .364 (40-for-110) with 25 runs scored, seven doubles, seven homers and 30 RBI, stealing two bases. Sophomore leftfielder Chad Wright has batted .355 (44-for-124) with eight doubles, two triples, two homers and 23 RBI, stealing seven bases. Preseason All-American second baseman Chris Bisson has added a .340 (33-for-97) with 23 runs, four doubles, one triple, two homers and 18 RBI, stealing 13-of-17 bases. Senior centerfielder Keenan Wiley has hit .327 (35-for-107) with 23 runs, five doubles, four homers and 25 RBI, swiping 9-of-11 bases. Sophomore Braden Kapteyn has added a .287 (27-for-94), with 23 runs scored, six doubles, four homers and 18 RBI, drawing 14 walks. Rightfielder Cory Farris has added a .273 (21-for-77) average, with seven homers and 19 RBI, while shortstop Taylor Black has hit .270 (24-for-89) with four doubles, two homers and 17 RBI, stealing 7-of-7 bases. Sophomore Andy Burns has added seven homers and 16 RBI, drawing 14 walks and stealing six bases. Nidiffer has hit .243 (18-for-74) with three homers and 14 RBI. Neiko Johnson leads the team and the conference in stolen bases, stealing 17-of-18 bases.

In the bullpen for UK, junior right-hander Matt Little (1-1, 2.96 ERA), leads the team with 13 appearances and four saves, striking out 35 in 24.1 innings, allowing just 11 hits and eight runs, with opponents hitting .141. Kennedy (2-1, 1.96 ERA) has appeared in nine games in relief since returning from injury during the fourth week of the season. Kennedy has tossed 18.1 innings, allowing 12 hits and striking out 27. Kaczmarek (1-0, 1.59 ERA) owns 11.1 innings, striking out nine, while Cooper (1-1, 4.94 ERA) has pitched in 11 games with two starts, hurling 27.1 innings. Kapteyn (1-0, 0.00 ERA), a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder, has pitched in six games and 7.2 innings, striking out seven.

In the all-time series, Alabama holds a 52-31 lead in the series, dating back to 1925. In games played in Lexington, Alabama owns a 22-13 record. While Alabama dominated the series from 1996-2005, winning all eight regular-season series, UK busted out in 2008, besting the Crimson Tide in four of five meetings on the season, including a 9-3 SEC Tournament win that began well after 11 p.m. ET and ended at 2 a.m. ET the next day. Alabama busted out with a 13-4 win in the elimination game with UK in the third round two days following the late-night game. In the last series played in Lexington, UK swept the series in 2008.

Last season, Alabama won two of three in the series, winning its fourth straight series in Tuscaloosa, Ala. In game one, UK fell 11-6 after Smith hit a grand slam off Clint Tilford to erase a 6-4 UK lead and put the Tide up 11-6. In game two, UK rode a dominating performance from senior Chris Rusin in an 11-1 win. Rusin allowed one unearned run and seven hits in the complete game win, striking out nine without issuing a walk. UK plated five runs in the fourth frame, building a 7-0 lead, with Bisson going 2-for-4 with a bases-clearing triple in the fourth inning. In Sunday’s game, Meyer and Adam Scott turned in a pitching duel, with Meyer going seven innings, allowing four this and two earned runs, walking one and striking out 11. Alabama owned a 1-0 lead until upping its lead to 3-0 in the eighth inning, before Kapteyn hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the ninth off Scott, with Smith getting the save.

Alabama (20-9, 4-5 SEC) has hit for a .309 team average with a 4.14 ERA and a .976 fielding percentage. The Crimson Tide has been led offensively by sophomore outfielder Taylor Dugas, who owns eye-popping numbers with a .443 (43-for-97) average, adding eight doubles, three triples, 15 RBI and 13 stolen bases. Most remarkably, Dugas has walked an SEC-leading 32 times and struck out just four times. The Crimson Tide sports an All-American middle infield, with shortstop Josh Rutledge batting .384 (48-for-125) and second baseman Ross Wilson hitting .245 (27-for-110) in their third year playing together. Rutledge has added nine doubles and three homers, driving in 24 RBI and stealing nine bags. Wilson leads the team with six homers and 29 RBI. First baseman Clay Jones has hit .364 (40-for-110) with five homers and 29 RBI, while Jon Kelton has batted .371 (23-for-62) with 16 RBI and 22 walks to just nine strikeouts. Catcher Brock Bennett has hit .313 (20-for-64) with one homer and eight RBI. All-American third baseman Jake Smith has added a .227 (22-for-97) average with one homer and 12 RBI, a year after belting 18 home runs for the Tide.

In the bullpen for the Crimson Tide, Nathan Kilcrease (2-0, 1.73 ERA) leads the team with 17 appearances, tossing 26 innings and striking out 29. Davis Head (1-0, 1.80 ERA) has hurled 15 innings, striking out 12, while Tyler White (2-2. 3.32 ERA) with 24 strikeouts in 21.2 innings. Brett Whitaker (1-1, 4.15 ERA) leads the team with two saves in 13 innings, striking out 11.

The Wildcats rank throughout the SEC stats, with UK leading the league in stolen bases (68) and hit batters (71). UK ranks third in the SEC in home runs (42), despite ranking seventh in at bats (1013). While UK has hit 42 homers, the Wildcats rank second in the league in terms of fewest home runs allowed (14). Defensively, UK ranks first in the SEC in chances (1209) and assists (369), ranking second in double plays turned (31). Individually, Burns, Glad and Farris rank seventh in the SEC in home runs. Meyer checks in sixth in the league in strikeouts (45), while Darnell ranks fourth in innings pitched (44.0) and Rogers ranks eighth (42.1) in innings tossed. Little ranks fourth in the SEC in saves (four) and second in games finished (12). Nidiffer leads the SEC with four pickoffs, while Black ranks first in assists (103). Glad checks in third in chances (267) and putouts (240), ranking first in double plays turned (28).

Records
Kentucky – 19-11, 2-7 SEC
Alabama – 20-9, 4-5 SEC

Head Coaches
Kentucky
•    Gary Henderson (San Diego State, 1984)
•    47-37 (.560) – 2nd year
Alabama
•    Mitch Gaspard (UL Lafayette, 1988)
•    231-137 (.628) – 11th year (first at Alabama)

Rankings
Kentucky
•    Receiving Votes (National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association)
Alabama
•    No. 24 (Baseball America)
•    No. 25 (USA Today/ESPN)
•    No. 25 (NCBWA)

Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) -- Lexington, Ky.
Friday, April 9 * vs. No. 24 Alabama * 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 10 * vs. No. 24 Alabama * 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 11 * vs. No. 24 Alabama * 1 p.m.

Radio (BBSN with Neil Price)
Friday
•    WLAP 630-AM in Lexington
•    WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Saturday
•    WLAP 630-AM in Lexington
•    WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Sunday
•    WLAP 630-AM in Lexington
•    WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville

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

Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday vs. Alabama
LHP Logan Darnell (3-2, 4.50 ERA) vs. LHP Adam Morgan (4-0, 3.60 ERA)
Saturday vs. Alabama
LHP Taylor Rogers (3-3, 5.31 ERA) vs. RHP Jimmy Nelson (4-0, 2.52 ERA)
Sunday vs. Alabama
RHP Alex Meyer (4-2, 7.64 ERA) vs. TBA

Stadium
Cliff Hagan Stadium (3,000)

Promotions
Friday’s Ceremonial First-Pitch: UK softball All-American shortstop Molly Johnson, a finalist of the LOWES Senior Class Award, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Friday’s game with No. 24 Alabama.
Cliff Dwellers: Be sure to register at the gazebo to earn your way towards an official Cliff Dweller T-Shirt. Attend any four SEC home games and get a white version, eight games for the blue version and 12 games for the black version.
Inflatable Games: Available, weather permitting, down the third-base line.
Concession Stand: Check out the newest menu item at the Cliff Hagan Stadium concession stands - a Ballpark Hot Brown. Made with turkey dog, diced tomatoes, bacon and cheese sauce on a bun, this will be a fan favorite for years to come. Visit the concession stands and be one of the first to enjoy this unique treat.

Parking
Parking at Cliff Hagan Stadium is FREE.

UK will utilize two lots: the C8 lot behind Shively Sports Center and the brand-new 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 will be available in the C8 and PS7 lots.


 

 

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