No. 19 Kentucky Travels to SEC Tourney
HOOVER, Ala. -- After claiming series wins in four of its past five series, the No. 19 Kentucky Wildcats travel to Hoover, Ala., for its 14th all-time appearance in the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament, beginning with a first round matchup with fifth-seeded Alabama, on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET at Regions Park.
Kentucky (41-15, 16-14 SEC) is the only team in the SEC to total 40-plus wins, as well as posting the fewest losses in the conference. Riding wins in seven of its last eight games, UK will face the Crimson Tide for the fourth times and the first since 1998. Alabama and Kentucky also met in the 1955 SEC Playoffs, with Alabama winning the best-of-five series, 3-1.
UK and Alabama opened up the SEC season with a three-game set, with the Wildcats sweeping the series, 7-5, 15-2, 6-1. UK trails the all-time series with Alabama, 47-29, including a 3-1 mark at neutral site locations.
The Wildcats have been led by the best offense in the league, ranking as the SEC leader in 13 offensive categories, including average (.322), slugging (.525), on-base percentage (.418), runs scored (466), hits (622), RBI (421), doubles (136), total bases (1013), total plate appearances (2365), walks (256), hit by pitches (83), sac bunts (66) and sac flies (30). UK also leads the SEC in ERA (3.41), ranking second in fielding percentage (.974).
Individually, UK has been paced at the plate by its two National Player of the Year candidates, Sawyer Carroll and Collin Cowgill. Carroll leads the league in average (.416) and RBI (77), ranking amongst the conference leaders in nearly every offensive stat, including slugging (.756, 3rd), on-base percentage (.510), runs scored (58, 6th), hits (87, 2nd), doubles (19, 4th), home runs (16, 6th), total bases (158, 3rd) and walks (38, 8th). Cowgill also ranks among the SEC leaders in nearly every category, including average (10th), slugging (.703, 5th), on-base percentage (.487, 6th), runs scored (70, 2nd), RBI (56, 6th), home runs (18, 4th), total bases (147, 4th), walks (44, 3rd), steals (20, 4th).
Senior Ryan Wilkes checks in second on the club in average (.378), ripping 11 doubles, nine home runs, 36 RBI, while playing flawless second base. Wilkes is the only everyday second baseman to field at a perfect 1.000 clip, ranking seventh in the league in assists.
Last weekend, UK secured its second consecutive series win, taking two of three from Ole Miss. UK got a 12-4 win in the Thursday night game, behind six RBI from Carroll. In Friday’s win, James Paxton twirled his first career complete-game shutout, going nine complete innings, striking out six and scattering seven hits. Sunday, UK dropped an 11-inning thriller 7-5, getting the game-winning run caught in a rundown in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game.
Alabama (32-24, 16-14 SEC) enters the series having posted five consecutive series wins, including a series win last weekend at SEC Champion Georgia. Bama owns series wins over Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Auburn, Arkansas, Florida and Georgia. UA has been led at the dish by arguably the top freshman shortstop in college baseball, Josh Rutledge (.379, 7 2B, 27 RBI), who leads the SEC in hits. Rutledge is joined by Brandon May (.365, 9 HR, 45 RBI), Alex Avila (.336, 16 HR, 57 RBI), Kent Matthes (.300, 10 HR, 45 RBI), Ross Wilson (.279, 12 HR, 41 RBI) and Matt Bentley (.265, 10 HR, 41 RBI) on a Crimson Tide offense that hits for a .310 average. On the mound, Will Stroup (5-3, 3.93 ERA), Austin Graham (6-1, 4.37 ERA), Austin Hyatt (3-4, 4.95 ERA) and Miers Quigley (5-4, 5.35 ERA) have led the way.
The complete 2008 SEC Tournament Bracket is listed below:
2008 SEC BASEBALL TOURNAMENT Wednesday, May 21 Game 1 10 a.m. #7 South Carolina vs. #2 LSU [CSS HD] (XM 199) Game 2 1 p.m. #6 Vanderbilt vs. #3 Florida [CSS HD] (XM 199) Game 3 5 p.m. #8 Ole Miss vs. #1 Georgia [CSS HD] Game 4 8 p.m. #5 Alabama vs. #4 Kentucky [CSS HD] Thursday, May 22 Game 5 10 a.m. Loser G1 vs. Loser G2 [CSS HD] (XM 199) Game 6 1 p.m. Loser G3 vs. Loser G4 [CSS HD] (XM 199) Game 7 5 p.m. Winner G1 vs. Winner G2 [CSS HD] (XM 199) Game 8 8 p.m. Winner G3 vs. Winner G4 [CSS HD] (XM 199) Friday, May 23 Game 9 3 p.m. Winner G5 vs. Loser G7 [FSN HD] (XM 199) Game 10 6:30 p.m. Winner G6 vs. Loser G8 [FSN] Saturday, May 24 Game 11 10 a.m. Winner G8 vs. Winner G9 [FSN HD] (XM 199) Game 12 1:30 p.m. Winner G7 vs. Winner G10 [FSN HD] (XM 199) Game 13* 5 p.m. Winner G11 vs. Loser G11 [CSS HD] (XM 199) Game 14* 8 p.m. Winner G12 vs. Loser G12 [CSS HD] (XM 199) Sunday, May 25 Game 15* 3 p.m. Winner G13 vs. Winner G14 [FSN HD] (XM 199) * - If both bracket winners are undefeated, there will be no 5 p.m. or 8 p.m. games on Saturday and the championship game Sunday would be Game 13. All Times are Central [FSN/FSN HD] - FSN South, FSN Southwest, Sun Sports [CSS/CSS HD] - Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast