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Baseball Travels to No. 29 Auburn for Three-Game Set

Andy Burns leads the team with 11 home runs.

Andy Burns leads the team with 11 home runs.

AUBURN, Ala. -- Sitting in the eighth and final spot for the Southeastern Conference Tournament at the halfway point of the season, the Kentucky baseball team travels to No. 29 Auburn for a crucial three-game SEC series, beginning Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET at Plainsman Park. The series with resume at 4 p.m. ET Saturday and at 2 p.m. ET Sunday.

The series pits the two top home run hitting teams in the conference, with UK belting 53 longballs and Auburn leading the league and ranking sixth in the NCAA with 66 home runs in 38 games.

Kentucky (22-15, 5-10 SEC) is coming off a midweek loss at No. 26 Western Kentucky Tuesday in Bowling Green, Ky. Last weekend, UK dropped the first two games in the series with No. 7 Florida, before rebounding with a 6-5 win Sunday to remain in contention for the SEC Tournament. At the midway point of the conference season, UK sits in a three-way tie with Alabama (5-10) and Mississippi State (5-10) for the final spot in the tournament, with UK holding the tie-breaker on both teams. The SEC takes the winners of the Eastern and Western Division and the remaining six teams based on winning percentage to the annual tournament held at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala. The three teams hold a one-game lead on Tennessee (4-11). The remaining SEC schedule will remain rugged, as UK travels to Georgia (3-12) and Tennessee, hosting No. 6 LSU (11-4) and No. 5 South Carolina (11-4).

UK is in the midst of a brutal stretch in the schedule, facing a ranked opponent in 19 of 21 games, including a stretch of 15 straight ranked foes. UK has posted eight wins over ranked opponents this season and enters the weekend owning a No. 23 in the NCAA RPI.

The 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 action live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM.

UK will send junior southpaw Logan Darnell (3-2, 4.77 ERA) to the mound Friday night, to face off with Auburn sophomore lefty Cory Luckie (4-2, 6.68 ERA). A 6-foot-2 native of Joelton, Tenn., Darnell has tossed 54.2 innings, in nine starts, walking 19 and striking out 41. In his last start Friday against Florida, Darnell went six innings, allowing seven hits and six runs – four earned – walking two and striking out three. Luckie, a 5-foot-10, 189-pound redshirt sophomore, has tossed 33.2 innings in 11 games and eight starts, allowing 40 hits and 11 walks, striking out 30. In his last start against No. 18 Vanderbilt Friday night, Luckie went a complete game, tossing nine innings, allowing five hits and two runs, walking two and striking out three.

Saturday, UK will start freshman southpaw Taylor Rogers (4-4, 4.92 ERA) in his 10th career start. From opening weekend, Rogers has emerged as one of the top freshmen arms in the conference, tossing a staff-best 56.2 innings, allowing 65 hits and only eight walks, striking out 26. In his last start, Rogers kept UK in the game Saturday against Florida, going 6.2 innings, allowing eight hits and four runs, not issuing a walk and striking out four. Rogers currently owns a streak of 33.1 consecutive innings without issuing a walk. The Tigers have not announced a starting pitcher for Saturday.

Sunday, Auburn will send junior lefty Grant Dayton (4-2, 4.89 ERA) to the mound. Dayton is coming off a complete-game outing at Vanderbilt, where he tossed eight innings, allowing six hits and three runs in a losing effort, walking two and striking out five. With UK’s regular Sunday starter, 6-foot-9, 220-pound Alex Meyer out with mononucleosis, UK has yet to determine a starting pitcher for Sunday. Last week, UK used freshman right-hander Walter Wijas in his first career start, with Wijas going 3.1 innings with one run allowed, carrying a perfect game into the fourth inning.

The Wildcats have been led offensively by sophomore leftfielder Chad Wright, who leads the club with a .367 average (55-for-150) with 10 doubles, two triples, two homers and 31 RBI. Senior centerfielder Keenan Wiley has hit .338 (45-for-133) with five doubles, one triple, four homers and 27 RBI, stealing 11 bases. Senior Gunner Glad has added a .338 average (47-for-139) with seven homers and a team-best 35 RBI. All-America second baseman Chris Bisson has hit .323 (41-for-127) with six doubles, two homers and 20 RBI, while shortstop Taylor Black has batted .304 (34-for-112) with five homers and 23 RBI. Andy Burns leads the team with 11 homers, batting .276 (37-for-134), while Neiko Johnson leads the team with 17 steals in 18 attempts.

Auburn (25-13, 8-7 SEC) is undoubtedly the top offensive team in the conference. Auburn leads the SEC with a .349 batting average, a .568 slugging percentage, 347 runs scored, 485 hits, 322 RBI and 66 home runs. On the mound, Auburn ranks seventh in the SEC with a 4.77 ERA, ranking last in the league with a .957 fielding percentage.

The Tigers have been led by All-American slugging first baseman Hunter Morris, who has batted .409 (67-for-164) in his junior campaign, belting 14 doubles, three triples, 13 homers and 49 RBI. Outfielder Brian Fletcher has added a .377 average (55-for-146) with eight doubles, one triple, 13 homers and 48 RBI. Infielder Dan Gamache has hit .375 (42-for-112) with 10 doubles, a homer and 19 RBI, while Justin Hargett has hit .371 (52-for-140) with 12 doubles, two homers and 24 RBI. Slugger Kevin Patterson has hit .343 (23-for-67) with 14 of his 23 hits going as extra-base knocks, including nine homers. Justin Fradejas has batted .341 (30-for-88) with a homer, 14 RBI and a team-best seven steals. Creede Simpson has batted .321 (44-for-137), while catcher Tony Caldwell has hit .321 (42-for-131) with seven homers and 27 RBI. Shortstop Casey McElroy has hit .318 (35-for-110) with three homers and 21 RBI. Outfielder Trent Mummey has recently returned from injury and is hitting .375 (15-for-40) in 10 games, belting five homers and 16 RBI.

GAME CENTER


 

 

Records
Kentucky – 22-15, 5-10 SEC
Auburn – 25-13, 8-7 SEC

Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) – Auburn, Ala.

Friday, April 23 * at No. 29 Auburn * 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 24 * at No. 29 Auburn *4 p.m.
Sunday, April 25 * at No. 29 Auburn * 2 p.m.

Radio (BBSN with Neil Price)
Friday
•    WLAP 630-AM in Lexington
•    WGVN 1580-AM in Louisville
•    UKathletics.com
Saturday
•    WLAP 630-AM in Lexington
•    WGVN 1580-AM in Louisville
•    UKathletics.com
Sunday
•    WLAP 630-AM in Lexington
•    WGVN 1580-AM in Louisville
•    UKathletics.com

Internet Coverage
Live audio and stats on UKathletics.com

Tentative Pitching Matchups

Friday at Auburn
LHP Logan Darnell (3-2, 4.77 ERA) vs. LHP Cory Luckie (4-2, 6.68 ERA)
Saturday at Auburn
LHP Taylor Rogers (4-4, 4.92 ERA) vs. TBA
Sunday at Auburn
TBA vs. LHP Grant Dayton (4-2, 4.89 ERA)

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