LEX 18 True Blue Coverage

May 2, 2013 4:16 PM

Bat Cats to Face Preseason No. 1 Razorbacks

Coming off just the third series win at Ole Miss in program history, No. 23 Kentucky will return home for an eight-game homestand, starting with preseason top-ranked Arkansas, with the series with the 14th-ranked Razorbacks set to begin on Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The series will resume on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET and conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

All three games will be televised live, with the UK IMG Network broadcasting the first two games for Fox Sports South and CWKYT-TV. Dick Gabriel (play-by-play), former World Series Champion Doug Flynn (color) and Brian Milam (sideline) will call the action. The Saturday game will also be televised live on WYMO-TV in Louisville. The Sunday game can be found on Cox Sports Television. All three games will also be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans can hear the games live on WLAP 630-AM in Central Kentucky, WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville and online at UKathletics.com.

The Wildcats will change their rotation for the first time in 2013, as sophomore southpaw A.J. Reed (2-5, 2.88 ERA) will make his 12th series-opening start of the year on Friday. UK will then send freshman right-hander Kyle Cody (3-2, 5.49 ERA) to the mound on Saturday for his first career Southeastern Conference start. Junior lefty Corey Littrell (5-3, 3.22 ERA) will start on Sunday. Arkansas will counter with junior right-hander Barrett Astin (3-2, 2.02 ERA) on Friday, star junior right-hander Ryne Stanek (5-1, 1.60 ERA) on Saturday and senior lefty Randall Fant (4-1, 2.34 ERA) on Sunday.

A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed will be making his 12th weekend-opening start of the year on Friday. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound southpaw has worked 65.2 innings, allowing just 13 walks and striking out 46. In the Thursday Night ESPNU SEC Game of the Week last week at No. 16 Ole Miss, Reed outdueled Rebels ace Bobby Wahl in UK's 3-2 win. Reed worked 6.2 innings without allowing an earned run, walking one, allowing four hits and striking out three. Astin, the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week, has made 13 appearances and nine starts in 2013. Astin has worked 58 innings, allowing 52 hits and 15 walks, striking out 44. On Friday at Georgia, Astin worked eight shutout innings, allowing just four hits and two walks, striking out eight on 100 pitches as the Razorbacks posted a 2-0 series-opening win. Last year vs. UK, Astin worked four innings, allowing seven hits and five runs - two earned - walking two and striking out eight.

A 6-7, 230-pound righty, Cody will be making his eighth start of the year in 12 appearances. He has worked 39.1 innings, allowing 39 hits and 11 walks, striking out 36. In his last start on April 23 at Western Kentucky, Cody turned in his second quality start of 2013. Cody worked six innings at WKU, allowing four hits and one run, walking one and striking out seven on 97 pitches. Stanek, a star for the USA Collegiate National Team during the summer along with UK centerfielder Austin Cousino, has made 11 starts in 2013, working 62 innings, allowing 46 hits and 24 walks, striking out 55. On Saturday at Georgia, Stanek worked 6.2 innings in a 2-1 Arkansas win, allowing seven hits and one run, walking three and striking out three on 112 pitches. Last year vs. UK, Stanek worked 3.1 innings, allowing eight hits and six runs - five earned - walking two and striking out six.

Littrell, a native of Louisville, Ky., has made 11 weekend-ending starts in 2013, posting team-highs in innings pitched (72.2) and strikeouts (60) while allowing just 66 hits and 27 walks. In his last start on Saturday at No. 16 Ole Miss, Littrell worked a gem in a rubber-match win, allowing seven hits and three runs in eight innings, walking one and striking out six. Last year, Littrell worked a quality start in a rubber-match win at No. 9 Arkansas, allowing just one run in 6.1 innings, allowing a walk and striking out three. In his two-start career vs. Arkansas, Littrell has a 2-0 record and a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings. Fant, a 6-4, 185-pound senior southpaw, has made nine starts in 2013, working 42.1 innings, allowing 34 hits and seven walks, striking out 36. After his scheduled start on Sunday at Georgia was rained out, Fant worked two innings on Tuesday vs. Missouri State at Baum Stadium, allowing two hits and one run on 18 pitches. As a freshman in Lexington in 2011, Fant worked seven innings and allowed just one run in a start, not walking a hitter and striking out five, as UK's Alex Meyer worked a complete-game gem in a 3-2 win.

Kentucky (26-17, 9-12 SEC) has hit .259 as a team with a .369 slugging and a .366 on-base percentage, stealing 51 bases and belting 27 homers. On the mound, UK has a 3.41 ERA in 390.1 innings, walking 114 and striking out 313, holding opponents to a .270 average. Defensively, UK has a .970 fielding percentage, turning 48 double plays, allowing only 21-of-34 steal attempts and picking off 11 runners.

At the plate, UK has been led by freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett, who has hit .347 with four doubles, one triple, 11 RBI and four steals. Slugging first baseman A.J. Reed has hit .310 with eight doubles, two triples, 10 homers and 46 RBI, while second baseman J.T. Riddle has batted .276 with seven doubles, one triple, one homer and 19 RBI. All-America centerfielder Austin Cousino has hit .256 with 10 doubles, one triple, six homers and 25 RBI, stealing 12 bases. Third baseman Max Kuhn has added a .253 average with eight doubles, one triple, three homers and 26 RBI, stealing six bags. Senior outfielder Zac Zellers owns a .247 average with three doubles, two homers and 18 RBI, with catcher Micheal Thomas adding a .245 average with two homers and 18 RBI. Infielders Matt Reida and Paul McConkey have each hit .218, with outfielder Lucas Witt adding a .200 mark in 29 games, swiping five bases.

In the bullpen, UK has been led by junior righty Trevor Gott (4-1, 1.33 ERA), who has a program-record 10 saves in 20 relief outings, striking out 32 in 27 innings. Senior righty Walter Wijas (2-0, 0.78 ERA) has worked 21 games in relief, allowing just 19 hits - 18 singles - in 23 innings. Freshmen Ryne Combs (0-0, 1.40 ERA), Zach Strecker (1-1, 2.40 ERA), Dylan Dwyer (1-0, 4.38 ERA) and Kyle Cody (3-2, 5.49 ERA) have each appeared in at least 10 games. Sophomore righty Chandler Shepherd has appeared in 18 games and tossed 42 innings, walking just 14 and striking out 29.

Arkansas (30-15, 13-7 SEC) is coming off two wins in a rain-shortened series at Georgia last weekend, also picking up a Tuesday night win over Missouri State in midweek action. The Razorbacks have been paced by one of the NCAA's top pitching staffs, owning a 1.78 ERA as a team, allowing opponents to hit .199, walking 138 in 404.2 innings. At the plate, Arkansas has hit .264 with 20 homers and 208 RBI, owning a .351 slugging and a .351 on-base percentage, stealing 40-of-49 bases. Defensively, Arkansas has fielded .959 with 37 double plays turned, 10 pickoffs and allowing only 24-of-49 stolen bases attempts.

At the plate, Arkansas has been led by sophomore outfielder Brian Anderson, who has hit .316 with nine doubles, two triples, two homers and 26 RBI, stealing five bases. Jacob Mahan has batted .295 with seven doubles, two homers and 18 RBI. Joe Serrano has a .293 average with four doubles, one homer and 15 RBI, while Tyler Spoon owns a .292 mark with six doubles, three homers and 39 RBI, stealing seven bags. Matt Vinson has hit .287 with eight doubles, three triples, one homer and 19 RBI, with Jake Wise hitting .190 with two homers and 21 RBI.

In the bullpen, flame-throwing right-hander Colby Suggs (0-0, 1.98 ERA) has eight saves in 16 outings, striking out 17, walking 16 and allowing nine singles in 13.2 innings. Jalen Beeks (5-1, 2.05 ERA) has appeared in a team-high 21 games, with two saves in 30.2 innings, walking six and striking out 23. Brandon Moore (1-2, 1.41 ERA) has worked 38.1 innings, allowing 26 hits - 22 singles - walking 14 and striking out 25.

Arkansas leads the all-time series with UK, 33-22, including a 13-11 mark in games played in Lexington. UK has won two consecutive series meetings, winning in 2011 in Lexington and 2012 in Fayetteville.

Last year, UK posted a thrilling series win in Fayetteville on the strength of a doubleheader sweep on Saturday, the first doubleheader sweep allowed by Arkansas in the storied history of Baum Stadium. UK suffered an 8-7 loss in the opener as the Razorbacks erased UK's 7-5 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, as Austin Cousino tried to dive for a ball in shallow centerfield, with the ball skidding under his glove and allowing the three decisive runs to score. Taylor Rogers worked four innings in a start, allowing five runs, with Walter Wijas turning in two shutout innings in relief. Ryne Stanek started for Arkansas, allowing eight hits and six runs in 3.1 innings. Tim Carver led the Backs with a 4-for-4 game, with UK getting three-hit game from Thomas McCarthy and two hits each from Luke Maile, Matt Reida and Cousino. In the second game, UK jumped out to a three-run lead in the top of the first inning before the Razorbacks regained the lead with two runs in the first and second innings. A two-run rally in the fourth inning gave UK reliever Chandler Shepherd all he needed, with the then-freshman working 3.2 shutout innings, allowing just a hit. Tim Peterson worked two perfect innings for his first save of the year. Barrett Astin worked for Arkansas, allowing five runs in fourth inning. In the finale, UK got a quality start from Corey Littrell, who worked 6.1 innings and allowed one run, with Peterson, Alex Phillips and Trevor Gott locking it down in relief, with Gott picking up the four-out save. DJ Baxendale started for Arkansas, allowing two runs in eight innings, with the UK two runs coming on a Cameron Flynn homer into the teeth of the win in rightfield in the fourth inning.

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