Baseball Returns Home to Host State Rival UL
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Kentucky baseball team, winners of 36 of its last 38 regular season non conference games, takes a break from its Southeastern Conference schedule, as it plays host to state rival Louisville on Wednesday. First pitch at Cliff Hagan Stadium is set for 6:30 p.m. EDT.
Kentucky (27-12-1, 7-10-1 SEC) is coming off a series setback against Florida in Gainesville, Fla., over the weekend. UK secured the Friday night contest 9-2, before dropping the Saturday and Sunday meetings. The Sunday game had an unconventional feel, as no inning could start after 2:15 p.m. EDT due to SEC travel regulations. Mike Brown stepped in to the batters box with UK down two runs, leading off the ninth inning at 2:14 p.m. EDT. Kentucky rallied to tie the game with two runs in the top of the ninth, before allowing UF to claim the series with a walk-off single from Gator pinch hitter, Chris Petrie.
UK has gotten solid performances from its offense throughout the season, as the Wildcats lead the SEC in several offensive categories, including runs scored (369), triples (18), RBI (335), and on-base percentage (.452). Individually for Kentucky, seniors Sean Coughlin and Mike Brown have set the tone for a potent UK lineup. Coughlin leads the league with 54 RBI and Brown paces the SEC in runs scored with 54. Brown’s .406 batting average ranks fourth in the league and his .528 on-base percentage is a club-best.
The Wildcats and the Cardinals will be meeting for the 92nd time, with UK controlling the series advantage, 60-30-1. In game one of the series earlier this season, Kentucky took a loss, as UL held onto an 8-1 win. The loss ended UK’s 36-game consecutive regular season non-conference winning streak and marked the first win over Kentucky by UL since 2004. The UL win also marked the first non-conference loss for Kentucky on the season.
In the April 11 game at Louisville, Kentucky entered with a plan to pitch several pitchers and the Wildcats ran a total of nine out to the UL mound. UK starter Duran Ferguson worked three innings, allowing one run, before handing the ball over to Colby Brown, the first Wildcat out of the bullpen. UK managed only six hits and totaled three errors in the first meeting, striking out 10 times.
Louisville (28-11) enters as one of the hottest teams in the BIG EAST, having won its last four contests, posting an 11-4 conference record. The Cardinals, in their first year under new head coach Dan McDonnell, formerly an assistant at Ole Miss, have been paced an excellent pitching staff and a bevy of senior position players. Entering Wednesday’s game, UL ranks fourth in the NCAA with a stellar 2.66 team ERA. At the plate for the Cardinals, seniors Logan Johnson and Boomer Whiting set the pace. Johnson leads the club with a .418 batting average, while Whiting leads the nation in stolen bases, swiping a staggering 48. Johnson joins Isaiah Howes as one of two Cardinals to have blasted 10 home runs on the season.
The same UL hurler who got the starting nod in the team’s first meeting will get the call for game two, James Belanger. Belanger, a junior right-hander, has accumulated a 1-2 record and a 2.91 ERA in 34 innings of work. Kentucky will counter with freshman right-hander Duran Ferguson. Ferugson has racked up a 2-1 record and a 2.06 ERA, while striking out 42 in 35 innings of work.
Fans in Lexington will be able to catch the action live via the Big Blue Sports Network, WLAP 630-AM, with the voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price. The game will be televised regionally by Fox Sports South and CWKYT (Insight-Lexington Channel 5). Veteran play-by-play man Dick Gabriel will be joined in the TV booth by former UK standout and Major League Gold Glover, Doug Flynn.
Radio (Big Blue Sports Network with Neil Price)
Television (Big Blue Sports Network with Dick Gabriel and Doug Flynn)
First Pitch: New UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell will be on hand to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.