LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 12 University of Kentucky baseball team will start a five-game home stretch tonight when it welcomes Southeastern Conference foe Arkansas to Cliff Hagan Stadium for a three-game series. The set begins Thursday at 7 p.m. ET, before a 7:30 p.m. ET first pitch on Friday and a 1 p.m. ET series finale on Saturday.
Single-game tickets for all three games are available through Ticketmaster.com or by calling the UK Ticket Office at (800) 928-2287. General admission adult tickets are $5, while general admission youth (18 and under) and senior (65 and older) are $2. Children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge in general admission areas, based on availability. A complete list of promotions for the series are listed below, including $2 Thursdays and Friday Night Fireworks.
Fans will have a chance to watch the Wildcats on national television this weekend as Thursday’s game will be televised live on SEC Network with Steve Lenox and Jay Walker on the call, while the same broadcast duo will announce Friday’s contest on ESPNU. Saturday’s series finale will be live on SEC Network+ with Dick Gabriel and Doug Flynn calling the action. Fans can also hear the games live on the UK Sports Radio Network, available in Central Kentucky on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky is coming off a tough one-run loss at No. 3 Louisville on Tuesday, falling 7-6 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Evan White had two hits in the game with two runs scored and an RBI, while Storm Wilson went 2-for-4 with an RBI and Zach Reks had a hit and RBI. Zach Logue started the game on the mound and went five innings with one earned run allowed.
The Wildcats will turn to the weekend rotation of junior righty Zack Brown (2-6, 6.08) on Thursday, senior right-hander Dustin Beggs (7-0, 2.27 ERA) on Friday and senior righty Kyle Cody (4-2, 4.20 ERA) on Saturday. Arkansas will counter with junior right-hander Dominic Taccolini (3-2, 5.57 ERA) on Thursday, junior right-hander Zach Jackson (2-4, 5.01 ERA) on Friday and a to-be-determined starter in Saturday’s finale.
Last weekend, Kentucky (23-13, 9-6 SEC) dropped two of three games at No. 4 Vanderbilt in a closely contested series. The Commodores grabbed the first two games of the series, 3-0 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday, before the Wildcats earned a 3-0 win on Sunday behind a strong outing by Cody, who went seven scoreless innings with four hits allowed and eight strikeouts. At the plate, sophomore Troy Squires had three hits on the weekend, including three RBI, while Reks had four hits and White belted two doubles. The UK pitching staff allowed just six earned runs in 25 innings of work, striking out 22 with eight walks.
On the season, Kentucky is hitting .285 as a team with 31 homers and 219 runs scored. Reks leads Kentucky with a .364 (32-for-88) average, adding four doubles, one homer, nine RBI and a .451 on-base percentage. White is hitting .353 (55-for-156) with a team-best 31 runs scored, adding 11 doubles, two triples, two homers, 29 RBI and a .401 on-base percentage with nine stolen bases. Junior Gunnar McNeill is hitting .322 (47-for-146) with 23 runs scored, seven doubles and five homers, while junior third baseman JaVon Shelby leads the team in homers with six.
Brown will start the series on the mound for the Wildcats with a 2-6 record and 6.08 ERA in 50.1 innings pitched with 40 strikeouts. The junior has had much better outings his last two times out, tossing seven innings with two runs allowed against Alabama before 6.2 innings with only three runs allowed and six strikeouts at Vandy last weekend. Beggs will get the ball in game two, sitting 7-0 with a 2.27 ERA in a team-best 63.1 innings pitched. The senior has a team-high 58 strikeouts on the season and has started nine games, throwing seven or more innings in all but two starts. In his last two starts, Beggs has tossed 14 innings with eight hits allowed and only one earned run with 15 strikeouts. Cody has been impressive in the circle as well as of late, allowing two earned runs or less and throwing seven or more innings in each of his last three starts. On the season, Cody is 4-2 with a 4.20 ERA in 49.1 innings pitched with 45 strikeouts.
The Wildcats have some key arms down in the bullpen with freshman Sean Hjelle tossing 13 innings this season with a team-best six saves, an 0.69 ERA and 21 strikeouts. Senior Zach Strecker has a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings pitched with 15 strikeouts, while freshman Justin Lewis has a 1.38 ERA in 26 innings pitched with 22 strikeouts.
Arkansas (22-15, 4-11 SEC) is coming off an impressive midweek victory over Creighton, 6-2, on Tuesday at Baum Stadium. Arkansas started the season with eight straight wins to sit inside the top 15 of the national rankings but have since fallen out of the rankings.
Sophomore outfielder Luke Bonfield leads the team offensively this season with a .345 (38-for-110) average, adding eight doubles, six homers and 26 RBI. Bonfield also has a .430 on-base percentage and is slugging at a .582 clip. Sophomore utility player Carson Shaddy is hitting .333 (45-for-135) with nine doubles, five homers, 26 RBI and a .411 on-base percentage, while senior infielder Cullen Gassaway and junior infielder/outfielder Clark Eagan are each hitting .311 with 20+ RBI. As a team, the Razorbacks are hitting .286 with 27 homers and 250 runs scored.
The Razorback pitching staff has a 4.76 overall earned run average with teams hitting .269 at the plate. Taccolini, who will get the start Thursday night, has a 3-2 record with a 5.57 ERA in 42 innings pitched. The junior has struck out 37 batters this season and has only 15 walks, with opponents hitting .259 against him. Friday night’s starter has a 2-4 mark with a 5.01 ERA in 32.1 innings pitched. Jackson has pitched in 13 games this season with two starts, striking out 40 with 23 walks and opponents hitting .233 against him.
Arkansas leads the all-time series against Kentucky, 37-24. The two teams met last year in Fayetteville, with the Razorbacks winning the series 2-1. Arkansas’ last trip to Lexington was in 2013 when the Razorbacks took two of three from the Wildcats at Cliff Hagan Stadium.