No. 3 Baseball Hosts No. 5 Florida Starting Thursday
May 2, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The third-ranked Kentucky Wildcats will return to action in a crucial three-game series with conference-title implications, hosting No. 5 Florida, with the opener set for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium as the ESPNU SEC Game of the Week. The series will resume at 7 p.m. ET on Friday and conclude on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
All three games will be televised, with the Thursday opener the weekly ESPNU SEC Game of the Week, with ESPN's standout team of Dave Neal (play-by-play), former Stanford star pitcher Kyle Peterson (color) and former Florida softball star Jenn Brown (sideline). The Saturday game will be televised on CSS, with Matt Stewart and Joe Beckwith calling the game. On Sunday, Florida's team of Mick Hubert and former Gary Henderson pitcher while at Florida Jeff Cardozo, will call the game for Fox Sports Florida and Sun Sports.
All three games will be broadcast on the UK IMG Radio Network, with fans in Central Kentucky able to hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky (36-9, 14-7 Southeastern Conference) enters the series leading the SEC for the seventh consecutive week to enter conference play. The Wildcats are off to the best start to a season and in league play in program history, with its 14-7 mark tied with South Carolina and LSU for the league lead.
The Wildcats are coming off its first poor week of the year, suffering their first SEC series loss of 2012 at defending SEC Champion Vanderbilt. UK owns series wins over No. 2 South Carolina, No. 10 Ole Miss, No. 1 LSU and at Tennessee, No. 18 Georgia and No. 9 Arkansas. UK boasts an 11-6 record against top-25 opponents in 2012 and a 13-4 record in one or two-run games.
UK enters the series ranked No. 3 by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball, No. 6 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll, No. 7 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association top-30. Florida was the preseason consensus No. 1 team in the nation, the two-time defending SEC Champions and College World Series participants, and the first team in Baseball America history to place seven members on the MLB Scouting Directors preseason All-America team. Florida is currently ranked No. 5 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll, No. 8 (Collegiate Baseball), No. 7 (NCBWA) and No. 7 (Baseball America).
UK has paced by an offensive unit that leads the league in nearly every category, batting .308, with 94 doubles, 48 homers and 39 steals. UK owns a 3.65 team ERA with 14 saves, tossing 397 innings, walking 116 and striking out 355. UK has posted a .974 fielding percentage, turning 38 double plays.
The Wildcats have several star players on award watch lists, including junior catcher Luke Maile and sophomore right-hander Trevor Gott on the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Watch List. Senior third baseman Thomas McCarthy is one of 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, sophomore southpaw Corey Littrell is on the College Baseball Hall of Fame NCAA Pitcher of the Year Award Watch List and Gott is a member of the NCBWA Stopper of the Year watch list. In addition, freshman centerfielder Austin Cousino has been named to the 22-man Team USA Collegiate National Team.
Individually, UK has been led by Cousino, who owns a .348 average with 18 doubles, one triple, eight homers and 37 RBI, stealing 10-of-10 bases and totaling eight outfield assists. Maile has hit .329 with 10 doubles, 11 homers and 43 RBI, stealing nine bases, with McCarthy batting .323 with 15 doubles, five homers and 26 RBI. Outfielder Zac Zellers has hit .310 with eight doubles, five homers and 18 RBI, while A.J. Reed owns a .302 average with nine doubles, three homers and 39 RBI. Cameron Flynn has hit .286 with seven doubles, nine homers and 30 RBI, while second baseman J.T. Riddle has hit .284 with nine doubles, four homers and 30 RBI. Catcher Michael Williams has hit .271 with four doubles, one homer and 25 RBI, while shortstop Matt Reida has a .258 average with eight doubles, one homer and 16 RBI.
In the bullpen, Gott (1-0, 3.07 ERA) paces the team with eight saves in nine chances, tossing 14.2 innings with only nine hits and five walks surrendered, striking out 22. Alex Phillips (5-2, 2.57 ERA) has appeared in 20 games with five saves, tossing 42 innings, allowing 27 hits and walking nine, striking out 33. Tim Peterson (3-0, 2.35 ERA) has appeared in 21 games with one saves in 23 innings, walking four and allowing only 15 hits with 27 strikeouts. Walter Wijas (2-0, 5.75 ERA), Reed (4-1, 3.60 ERA), Chandler Shepherd (3-0, 4.17 ERA) and Sam Mahar (3-3, 3.03 ERA) have all each appeared in at least 10 games.
UK will send its regular weekend pitching rotation of junior southpaw Taylor Rogers (5-2, 4.84 ERA) on Thursday, junior lefty Jerad Grundy (4-1, 4.29 ERA) on Friday and sophomore lefthander Corey Littrell (6-0, 2.44 ERA) on Saturday. Florida will counter with junior All-American right-hander Hudson Randall (4-1, 3.46 ERA) on Thursday, former first-round draft pick sophomore righty Karsten Whitson (3-0, 3.86 ERA) on Friday and Team USA star junior southpaw Brian Johnson (5-3, 4.50 ERA) on Saturday.
A native of Littleton, Colo., Rogers has made 11 series-opening starts for the Wildcats in 2012. The 2011 Cape Cod League All-Star Game winning pitcher has tossed 61. Innings, allowing 13 walks and 62 strikeouts. Rogers tossed a strong outing in his last Friday-night start at Vanderbilt, hurling 5.2 innings, allowing seven hits and two runs, not allowing and walk and striking out four. Rogers' two runs allowed came in VU's bottom of the third inning, with Rogers settling in to toss shutout frames, exiting one out shy of a quality start. In Rogers last start at Florida in 2011, he worked seven innings, allowing 10 hits and nine runs - five earned - walking three and striking out two. Rogers also turned in a strong start vs. Florida in 2010 at Cliff Hagan, tossing 6.2 innings, allowing eight hits and four runs, striking out four in 90 pitches, suffering the loss in a 6-3 game. Randall has been one of the winningest pitchers in college baseball the last three years. He will be making his 10th start of the year on Thursday, owning 52 innings pitched, allowing 53 hits, walking five and striking out 42. In his last start vs. Arkansas in Gainesville, Randall worked six innings, allowing six hits and two runs, walking one and striking out three.
Grundy, a transfer from Heartland CC and Miami (Fla.), has made 11 starts in the middle game of the weekend for the Wildcats in 2012. Grundy has tossed 56.2 innings, allowing 52 hits, 24 walks and 39 strikeouts. In his last start at Vanderbilt on Saturday, Grundy turned in his second consecutive strong outing, allowing three runs in 5.2 innings, with VU notching five hits and one walk. Grundy allowed two VU runs in the second and a single run in the fourth, finishing an out shy of a quality start. Whitson, a former first-round draft pick will be returning to the weekend rotation after battling injuries. He has appeared in eight games with six starts this year, tossing 16.1 innings, allowing 21 hits and four walks, striking out eight. In his last appearance, Whitson returned to the starting mound on April 25 vs. Bethune-Cookman, tossing four shutout innings, allowing only four hits and no walks, striking out one.
The 2010 Louisville Slugger Kentucky High School Player of the Year out of Louisville's Trinity High School, Littrell will be making his 12th series-finale start of the year on Saturday. On the year, Littrell has made 11 starts in series finales, tossing 66.1 innings, allowing only 69 hits and 18 walks, striking out 56. Littrell has started six consecutive rubber match games in series finales, with UK winning five of his rubber-match starts. In his last start, Littrell put UK in position to win the finale at Vanderbilt, tossing 5.1 innings, allowing six hits and one run, walking two and striking out four. In his last start at Florida in the season finale in 2011, Littrell was forced into the start as UK's scheduled starter, Jordan Cooper, had to stay at the hotel due to illness as the team battled food poisoning. Littrell worked 3.1 innings, allowing 10 hits and eight runs - seven earned - walking two and striking out two in the start at UF, suffering the loss. Johnson has made 12 starts for UF this year in the rotation, tossing a team-high 60 innings, allowing 65 hits and 12 walks, striking out 50. In his last start vs. No. 17 Arkansas on Saturday, Johnson worked 4.1 innings, allowing eight hits and five runs, walking one and striking out six.
Florida (33-12, 12-9 SEC) entered the season in the debate as the most talented team in the history of college baseball, the preseason consensus No. 1 team and setting a Baseball America record with seven members on the MLB Scouting Director's preseason All-America team. The two-time defending SEC Champion Gators have lost three of their last five SEC series, entering the weekend just two games behind UK and South Carolina atop the SEC Eastern Division.
UF leads the nation with 56 homers, batting .284 as a team, with 78 doubles, 39 steals and a league-best .980 fielding mark. On the mound, UF owns a sparkling 3.00 team ERA with 13 saves, walking a staggeringly small 83 in 405 innings, striking out 359.
The Gators have been led by reigning SEC Player of the Year, junior catcher Mike Zunino. Zunino owns a .335 average with 18 doubles, an SEC-high 12 homers and 43 RBI. Outfielder Daniel Pigott has hit .335 with 11 doubles, two triples, five homers and 28 RBI. Two-way start Brian Johnson has hit .320 with eight doubles, five homers and 30 RBI, while senior slugger Preston Tucker has hit .309 with 11 doubles, 11 homers and 34 RBI. Shortstop Nolan Fontana returns as arguably the top shortstop in college baseball, batting .300 with six doubles, eight homers and 26 RBI, stealing nine bags. Casey Turgeon owns a .269 average with seven doubles, three homers, 18 RBI and seven steals. Freshman sensation Taylor Gushue has cooled off after a stellar start as an early graduate to enter UF, batting .215 with seven doubles, five homers and 20 RBI.
In the bullpen for UF, two-way slugger Austin Maddox (2-2, 1.58 ERA) has saved a league-best 12 games in 25 outings, tossing 45.2 innings, allowing 30 hits and eight walks, striking out 51. Righty Greg Larson (5-0, 1.62 ERA) has been a workhorse for UF, appearing in 23 games, tossing 39 innings with 31 strikeouts.
Florida leads the all-time series with Kentucky, 129-56-1, including a 53-28-1 mark in games played in Lexington. Florida has won four of the last five series, with UK's last series wins coming in Lexington in 2006 and 2008. UK last won a series vs. UF in 2008, with UK riding Collin Cowgill's bat in the series, with Cowgill batting .625 on the weekend and Sawyer Carroll batting .545 (6-for-11) with six RBI during the series.
In the last meeting, Florida claimed the series in Gainesville with a decisive rubber-match win. UK was led during the three-game series by the blistering bat of McCarthy, who hit .533 (8-for-15) during the week with five RBI. In the opener, Florida posted a 9-6 win over UK, getting three runs in the bottom of the second to opener the scoring. UK rallied with four runs in the next half inning to take a lead, before UF evened it in the bottom of the third, plating three runs in the sixth and two in the eighth for the win, with UK getting single runs in the sixth and seventh. UK starter Taylor Rogers, who put worked seven innings, allowing 10 hits and nine runs - five earned - walking three and striking out two in 113 pitches. Rogers exited with two runners on base in the eighth inning, with UK's bullpen allowing the runners to score. Brian Johnson started against UK, working six innings, allowing seven hits and five runs - four earned - walking one and striking out six. UK got three hits from McCarthy and a three-RBI game from Chad Wright. Florida got a two-homer game from Zunino, who went 3-for-5 with five RBI. UK evened the series with a win at Florida in the second game, using a strong start from Alex Meyer, who went seven innings, allowing only five hits and one run, striking out nine in UK's 14-1 win. UK collected 18 hits on Florida, roughing up starter Hudson Randall. Randall worked four innings, allowing seven hits and five runs - four earned - walking one and striking out three. UK used Alex Phillips out of the pen, with two shutout innings to close out the win. UK got four hits from McCarthy and three-hit games from Wright, Taylor Black and Neiko Johnson, with Johnson charting a career-high four RBI. Florida rebounded to post a 19-3 win over UK in the finale to win the series and conclude the regular season. Corey Littrell started for UK, as scheduled starter Jordan Cooper had to stay at the hotel due to illness. Littrell went 3.1 innings, allowing 10 hits and eight runs, walking two and striking out two. UF plated one in the second, two in the third, seven in the fourth, four in the fifth, two in the sixth and three in the eighth for the resounding win. Karsten Whitson worked five innings in a start, allowing seven hits and one run, striking out four. UK got three hits from Black and Wright.
UK ranks throughout the SEC stats (as of April 30), checking in second in average (.308), first in slugging (.469), second in on-base percentage (.398), first in runs (312), second in hits (470), first in RBI (287), first in doubles (94), second in homers (48), first in total bases (716) and third in hit batters (70). Individually, Cousino ranks 11th in average (.348), seventh in slugging (.583), second in runs (46), third in hits (65), 10th in RBI (37), first in doubles (18), seventh in homers (eight), second in total bases (109) and seventh in steals (10). Maile ranks fifth in slugging (.587), third in runs (40), third in RBI (43), second in homers (11) and sixth in total bases (98). Zellers ranks fourth in on-base percentage (.464) and first in hit by pitches (18). Flynn ranks sixth in homers (nine), while Reed ranks seventh in RBI (39), with McCarthy checking in fifth in doubles (15). On the mound, Littrell ranks sixth in ERA (2.44), sixth in innings pitched (66.1), third in wins (six) and first in pickoffs (five). Rogers ranks seventh in strikeouts (62) and second in looking strikeouts (27). Gott ranks third in saves (eight) and games finished (17).
UK will utilize three lots: the C8 lot behind Shively Sports Center, the R lot on the first base side and brand-new Parking Structure 7 on the corner of Complex Drive and Jerry Claiborne Way. All three 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.
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