LEXINGTON, Ky. –The 13th ranked Kentucky baseball team will break from Southeastern Conference play to host No. 4 Louisville in a midweek tilt, with first pitch tonight slated for 7:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The game will be televised live on ESPNU, also available on the ESPN app. It will also be broadcast 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.
Last weekend, Kentucky (20-8, 6-3 SEC) won its third consecutive series to open league play with the final two games at Tennessee. It marks the first time UK has won its first three SEC weekends since 2013 and has been a display of UK’s resilience, bouncing back from series-opening losses to claim the final two games of the set.
UK opened the week with a 5-4 loss to Northern Kentucky, before rebounding with a 6-2 win over Xavier on Wednesday to conclude midweek action. UK then ventured to Tennessee, suffering a 14-5 loss to the Vols. The Wildcats bounced back behind senior Dustin Beggs on Saturday, who won his school-record seventh straight game to open the season, taking sole possession of the NCAA lead, with Sean Hjelle earning his fourth save in pitching the ninth. Kyle Cody then pitched UK to a 10-2 win on Sunday in the rubber match at UT, with UK getting three hits from Zach Reks in a 13-hit attack.
UK has hit .298/.385/.460 as a team, with 192 runs scored through 28 games, stealing 29 bases, belting 55 doubles, seven triples and 29 homers. Defensively, UK has fielded .969, turning 19 double plays and nabbing seven of 19 runners stealing. On the mound, UK has a 4.10 team ERA in 250 innings, allowing 231 hits and 96 walks, striking out 225 with foes hitting .241.
At the plate, junior outfielder Zach Reks leads the team with a .393 average., adding three doubles, one homer and eight RBI. Junior DH Gunnar McNeill has a school-record 23 game hitting streak and has batted .384 with six doubles, five homers and 33 RBI on the year. Sophomore 1B Evan White has hit .369 with eight doubles, two triples, two homers and 27 RBI, stealing 9-of-10 bases. Sophomore SS Riley Mahan hits .323 with six doubles, two triples, thre homers and 18 RBI, swiping five bases. Sophomore 2B Luke Becker has hit .298 with six doubles, one homer and 11 RBI, stealing three bases. Junior 3B JaVon Shelby leads the team with six homers, adding a .270 average with seven doubles, two triples and 17 RBI. Freshman OF Tristan Pompey has hit .256 with five doubles, one triple, four homers and 22 RBI. Freshman C Kole Cottam has hit .240 with three doubles, one homer and 11 RBI. Junior CF Storm Wilson has been an on-base force at the top of the lineup with a .373 on-base percentage, adding eight doubles, one homer and four steals. Junior OF Marcus Carson has two homers and seven RBI.
UK has used the weekend rotation of junior righty Zack Brown (1-5, 7.12 ERA), senior right-hander Dustin Beggs (7-0, 2.74 ERA) and senior righty Kyle Cody (3-1, 5.66 ERA). In relief for the Wildcats, senior righty Zach Strecker (2-0, 0.47 ERA) has appeared in a team-high 11 games, with Sean Hjelle (1-0, 0.00 ERA) and Justin Lewis (2-0, 0.45 ERA) each owning four saves in nine outings. Lefties Logan Salow (1-0, 1.98 ERA), Zach Logue (1-0, 4.02 ERA), Dylan Dwyer (2-0, 4.61 ERA), Daniel Tillo (0-0, 6.00 ERA), Brad Schaenzer (0-1, 7.50 ERA) and Josh Smith (0-0, 7.71 ERA) have each appeared in at least four games in relief.
Following the weekend at Tennessee, Kentucky moved up to No. 19, from 24, in the latest Baseball America top 25, dropping from No. 12 to 13 in the latest Collegiate Baseball top-30 poll. UK stayed at No. 28 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association top-30 poll and is receiving votes in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll. UK is also ranked No. 21 in the latest D1baseball top 25.
Louisville (23-5, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) enters the matchup coming off a series sweep over Virginia Tech, from Saturday-Monday, stretching its winning streak to six games. Over the six-game winning streak, Louisville has outscored its foes 73-11.
The Cardinals have hit .331/.420/.505 through 28 games in 2016, scoring 240 runs, ripping 70 doubles, 11 triples and 26 homers, stealing 53 bases. Defensively, Louisville has fielded .978, throwing out 14 would-be basestealers. On the mound, UL has a 2.23 ERA as a team in 250.1 innings, allowing only 171 hits and 91 walks, striking out 256 and holding opponents to just a .194 average.
A trio of Louisville stars joined Kentucky Coach Gary Henderson on the USA Collegiate National Team in 2015, including All-America outfielder Corey Ray, righty Zack Burdi and the nation’s top two-way talent, Brendan McKay. Seven Louisville players sport an average above .300, with second baseman Nick Solak owning a .455 average with eight doubles, one homer and 15 RBI, stealing seven bases. Colby Fith has hit .451 with four homers and 16 RBI. Catcher Will Smith has hit .406 with five doubles, two homers and 17 RBI, with shortstop Devin Hairston – the brother of UK senior Dorian Hairston – hitting .377 with nine doubles and 22 RBI. Blake Tiberi has a .369 average with nine doubles, four homers and 27 RBI and Devin Mann has hit .361 with five doubles and nine RBI. Ray owns a .342 average with nine doubles, nine homers and 36 RBI, leading the nation with 26 steals as he makes his case for the top position player available for the 2016 MLB Draft. McKay has hit .292 with eight doubles, two homers and 16 RBI.
In relief, Burdi (1-1, 3.09 ERA) has three saves and 20 strikeouts in 11.2 innings, allowing only five hits and six walks. Lincoln Henzman (0-0, 3.38 ERA) has appeared in 10 games with a save in 13.1 innings and Jake Sparger (0-0, 1.80 ERA) has appeared in nine games in relief.
Kentucky leads the all-time series with Louisville, 69-39-1, including a 33-15 record in games played in Lexington. Louisville swept the meetings last season and have won three consecutive in the series, after eliminating UK in the 2014 NCAA Louisville Regional Championship game. Since UK won the 2006 SEC Championship, the two teams have squared off in an epic rivalry each season, with UK winning 11 games and Louisville claiming 10 meetings.
In the two midweek meetings in 2015, Louisville swept the Wildcats. In the first meeting in the River City, Louisville claimed a 2-1 win in 10 innings, the fourth extra-inning meeting in the series since 2005. Louisville then swept the two-game series with a 5-2 win over the Wildcats in Lexington.
Kentucky: 20-8, 6-3 SEC
Louisville: 23-5, 9-3 ACC
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) — Lexington, Ky.
Wednesday, April 6 * vs. No. 4 Louisville * 7:30 p.m. [ESPNU]
Radio (UK Radio Network)
WLAP 630-AM in Central Kentucky
Live audio and stats on UKathletics.com