Live blog from Louisville | Cat Scratches: Game of confidence: Single at-bat changes Ray's season
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After a shutout win in the first meeting of the series on April 6 in Lexington, the Kentucky baseball team will go for the two-game sweep of Louisville, traveling to the Derby City for a 6 p.m. ET matchup with the 12th-ranked Cardinals, Wednesday at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Kentucky (23-17) posted a 5-0 shutout win over Louisville in the first of the home-and-home series on April 6, played in front of a UK season high crowd of 3,819 fans at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The Wildcats rode the arms of freshman right-hander Jordan Cooper and junior lefty Mike Kaczmarek to the shutout win in the first meeting, with Cooper making his first career start against the Cardinals. Cooper tossed 3.2 shutout innings in the start, allowing three hits and no walks, striking out two. Kaczmarek earned the win with four sterling innings in relief of Cooper, allowing just one hit and striking out two. Nick Kennedy completed the shutout with 1.1 perfect innings with two strikeouts. At the plate, seniors Gunner Glad and Marcus Nidiffer led the charge, with Glad belting homer and Nidiffer charting two hits.
The 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 in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM, in addition to complete coverage on UKathletics.com. Also, UKathletics.com and the Official Blog of UK Athletics, Cat Scratches, will offer a comprehensive live blog of the contest, with UK New Media Coordinator, Eric Lindsey, detailing the action.
UK will start Cooper (2-3, 6.49 ERA) in his second career start against the Cardinals. Cooper has appeared in 15 games with three starts, tossing 34.2 innings with 19 walks and 22 strikeouts. Cooper is coming off his first career start in Southeastern Conference play Sunday against No. 29 Auburn. Cooper hurled three innings, allowed five hits and three runs, walking a career-high four and striking out one, putting UK in position to win a key contest. Louisville has not announced a starting pitcher.
Kentucky leads the series with UL, 64-32-1, including a 22-15-1 mark in games played in Louisville. UK will be looking for its first sweep in the series since the 2006 SEC Championship campaign. The two clubs have battled in highly-competitive games with school-record crowds in each meeting since the 2006 season, splitting each series. UK has won 21 of the last 29 meetings in the series.
The game will wrap up a brutal stretch in the schedule, where the Wildcats have faced a ranked opponent in 19 of their current 21 games. UK, ranked No. 23 in the latest NCAA RPI – according to BoydsWorld.com – has notched wins over eight opponents in the polls, including wins over seven teams ranked in the top 22 in the current RPI. In the current stretch, UK has played 15 ranked opponents, with the streak ending with the weekend journey to Tennessee. All told, UK will play a total of 28 ranked opponents (according to rankings from 4/26/10) in the regular season. UK’s current opponent, Louisville, has faced five total ranked opponents in 2010, including winning a road series at then-ranked No. 17 Ole Miss and a pair of victories over Western Kentucky.
Just over the halfway point of the SEC season, UK sits in ninth place, two games out of the 2010 SEC Tournament, held at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala. The Wildcats are tied with Tennessee (21-20, 6-12 SEC) for ninth place in the league, two games behind Alabama (25-15, 8-10, SEC). UK travels to UT for a three-game series beginning Friday and owns a series win over Alabama for the tie breaker with the Crimson Tide. Alabama travels to No. 2 South Carolina (32-8, 14-4 SEC), with the Gamecocks leading the league with 14 wins in conference play and owning a 20-3 mark in home games.
The Wildcats have been led offensively by senior centerfielder Keenan Wiley, who paces the Wildcats with a .354 average (51-for-144) with six doubles, one triple, four homers and 29 RBI, stealing 11 bases. Sophomore leftfielder Chad Wright is tied with Wiley for the club-high in average, batting .354 (57-for-161) with a club-best 10 doubles, adding two triples, two homers and 31 RBI, stealing nine bags. Glad has batted .344 (52-for-151) with nine doubles, eight homers and a team-best 37 RBI. Preseason All-American second baseman Chris Bisson has totaled a .326 (45-for-138) average with seven doubles, two homers and 21 RBI, drawing a team-best 22 bases and swiping a conference-leading 21 bases. Shortstop Taylor Black has charted a .293 average (36-for-123) with a team-high 31 runs scored, adding five doubles, five homers and 23 RBI, stealing 8-of-8 bases. Braden Kapteyn has hit .281 (34-for-121) with six doubles, five homers and 23 RBI, while Nidiffer has hit .271 (26-for-96) with five doubles, five homers and 17 RBI. Sophomore third baseman Andy Burns leads the team with 11 homers, batting .262 (38-for-145) with eight doubles and two triples, adding 25 RBI. Sophomore leftfielder Cory Farris has hit .260 (25-for-96) with five doubles, seven homers and 22 RBI. Neiko Johnson has stolen 19 bases in 20 attempts, with a .143 (9-for-63) mark. Lately, Lance Ray has emerged as one of the top hitters in the conference, after overcoming minor injury and a slow start. Ray has hit .362 (21-for-58) with seven doubles, four homers and 14 RBI in 13 starts.
In the bullpen for UK junior Matt Little (2-1, 2.76 ERA) leads the team with 18 appearances and six saves in 32.2 innings, allowing 23 hits and 13 runs, walking 13 and striking out 42. Kaczmarek (1-0, 3.24 ERA) ranks second on the team with 14 appearances, tossing 16.2 innings with 11 hits allowed, walking five and striking out 16. Kennedy (3-1, 4.09 ERA) has saved one game and tossed 22 frames, with 20 hits allowed, walking 10 and striking out 29. Kapteyn (1-0, 3.29 ERA) has saved one game and pitched 13.2 innings, striking out 13 in 12 games.
UK ranks throughout the SEC stats ranking sixth in the league in average (.300), fourth in slugging percentage (.485), sixth in on-base percentage (.401), third in home runs (56), first in hit by pitch (87) and first in stolen bases (86). On the mound, UK ranks ninth in ERA (5.44) and in the field, UK ranks 10th in fielding percentage (.963), leading the league in assists (479), ranking second in chances (1591) and double plays (40). Individually, Wright and Wiley rank 12th in the league in average (.354), with Wright checking in ninth in hits (57). Burns ranks seventh in the league in homers (11), with Black ranking third in the league in hit by pitch. Bisson leads the SEC in stolen bases (21), with Johnson ranking fifth in the league. Freshman left-handed pitcher Taylor Rogers ranks fourth in the SEC in innings pitched (63.1), with Alex Meyer, despite missing his last two starts due to mononucleosis, ranking 10th in strikeouts. Nidiffer leads the SEC with four pickoffs from behind the plate, with Little ranking fourth in saves (six) and second in games finished (16). Defensively, Glad ranks third in chances (356), sixth in putouts (31) and second in double plays (33). Black ranks second in the SEC in assists (130).
Last weekend UK came within two outs of claiming a road series at No. 29 Auburn, but the Tigers posted a walk-off win to secure the rubber match in the series. The walk-off road series loss is the second such result this season, as UK was within one strike of finishing the series victory over No. 7 Arkansas, but the Razorbacks connected on a two-out, two-strike walk-off grand slam to win the series in front of a rowdy crowd.
Louisville (32-7, 11-4 Big East) is coming off a series win over Seton Hall, claiming two wins in the series. A Sunday loss to the Pirates snapped a seven-game winning streak, dating back to a three-game losing streak, kicked off by the loss to UK on April 6. The Cardinals have hit for a .321 average, posted a 3.71 team ERA and fielded at a .968 clip.
The Cardinals have been led offensively by Adam Duvall, who leads the team with a .377 average (61-for-162) with 19 doubles, 10 homers and 30 RBI. Shortstop Ryan Wright has charted a .363 average (57-for-157) with 11 homers and a team-best 47 RBI. Third baseman Phil Wunderlich hit .355 (55-for-155) with 14 doubles, 13 homer and 13 RBI. Stewart Ijames has hit .338 (49-for-145) with seven homers and 34 RBI, while centerfielder Drew Haynes has hit .302 (38-for-126) with 11 RBI and 10 steals. Catcher Jeff Arnold leads the team with 11 steals, batting .278 (37-for-133) with 10 doubles, two homers and 15 RBI, drawing a team-high 24 walks. Slugger Andrew Clark has hit .374 (34-for-91) in 25 games, with eight homers and 34 RBI.
In the bullpen for UL closer Neil Holland (6-0, 1.40 ERA) leads the team with 19 appearances and 10 saves, striking out 41 in 38.2 innings, allowing only 17 hits. Tony Zych (1-2, 6.25 ERA) ranks fourth on the team with 11 appearances, tossing 36 innings with 36 strikeouts. Paducah, Ky., native Gabriel Shaw (4-1, 3.18 ERA) ranks second on the team with 17 appearances and two saves, striking out 29 in 34 innings. In the last UK-UL game, Tyler Mathis (0-0, 2.16 ERA) got the start, going three shutout innings in his first start of the year, Mathis has now appeared in five games with two starts, hurling 8.1 innings with nine strikeouts and seven walks. Justin Amlung (1-1, 6.23 ERA) and Bob Revesz (1-0, 1.12 ERA) round out the UL bullpen with 10 or more appearances.
Kentucky – 23-17
Louisville – 32-7
• Gary Henderson (San Diego State, 1984)
• 51-43 (.543) – 2nd year
• Dan McDonnell (The Citadel, 1992)
• 204-70 (.745) – 4th year
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) -- Louisville, Ky.
Wednesday, April 28 * at No. 12 Louisville * 6 p.m.
Radio (BBSN with Neil Price)
• WLAP 630-AM in Lexington
• WKJK 1080-AM
Live audio, blog and stats on UKathletics.com
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Wednesday at Louisville
RHP Jordan Cooper (2-3, 6.49 ERA) vs. TBA
Jim Patterson Stadium (2,500)