LEX 18 True Blue Coverage

Mar 14, 2013 7:46 PM

No. 9 Bat Cats Travel to Florida for SEC Opener

A year removed from 20 wins against league foes, No. 9 Kentucky will open Southeastern Conference play at Florida, with the three-game series slated to begin on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET at McKethan Stadium. The series will resume on Saturday at 12 p.m. ET and conclude on Sunday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Friday game will be televised live on CSS and the Saturday tilt will be televised on Fox SportsSouth, with both contests available on ESPN3.com. All three games will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the games live on WWTF 1580-AM and online at UKathletics.com.

The series finale on Sunday was moved up from the originally scheduled 1 p.m. ET first pitch to a 12 p.m. ET start due to Kentucky's travel schedule on get-away-day.

Kentucky (14-2) is coming off a weekend series win over Michigan State and a midweek win over Ohio on Tuesday. UK had its game with Cincinnati cancelled due to inclement weather on Wednesday. UK's series win over the Spartans - a 37-win and NCAA Tournament team in 2012 - came with a 2-1 win on Friday and a 3-1 win on Sunday in the rubber match. On Tuesday, UK got a 6-3 win and a record-breaking save from Trevor Gott, who saved the 16th game of his career to break the all-time UK mark.

The Wildcats will send their weekend rotation of sophomore southpaw A.J. Reed (2-1, 3.22 ERA) on Friday, senior lefty Jerad Grundy (3-1, 1.35 ERA) on Saturday and junior left-hander Corey Littrell (2-0, 3.42 ERA) on Sunday. Florida will counter with freshman right-hander Jay Carmichael (2-1, 2.00 ERA) on Friday, junior right-hander Jonathon Crawford (0-2, 4.22 ERA) on Saturday and freshman righty Eric Hanhold (0-1, 6.39 ERA).

A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed will be making his fifth Friday-night start of the year. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound southpaw has worked 22.2 innings, allowing 24 hits and four walks, striking out 16. In his career, Reed has appeared in 20 games with nine starts, posting a 7-4 record and a 2.72 ERA, tossing 76 innings, walking 13 and striking out 67. In his last start, Reed worked seven shutout innings in a 2-1 Friday-night win over Michigan State. He allowed only five hits and two walks, striking out five. Carmichael will be making his first career start as the Friday night SEC opener. The 6-foot-2, 160-pounder has appeared in nine games in relief, working 18 innings, allowing 10 hits and four walks, striking out 13. In his last outing, Carmichael worked 5.2 innings in relief during the second game of the series with Indiana, allowing three hits and one run, walking one and striking out four.

Grundy, a native of Johnsburg, Ill., has made four middle-of-the-weekend starts, posting a 3-1 record and a 1.35 ERA. Grundy has worked 26.2 innings, allowing only 15 hits and four walks, striking out 28, with opponents hitting .161. In his two-year career, Grundy has made 20 weekend starts, posting a 9-4 record and a 3.20 ERA, striking out 91 in 112.1 innings, allowing opponents to hit .227. Grundy is coming off his first loss of the season on Saturday vs. Michigan State. He worked 5.2 innings vs. the Spartans, allowing six hits and three runs, walking one and striking out four. In his start last year vs. the Gators, Grundy took a hard-luck loss, tossing 7.1 innings, allowing just six hits and two runs, walking one and striking out two, as UF broke a 1-1 tie with the decisive run in the eighth. Grundy will face off with Florida's ace Crawford, who starred for the USA National Team during the summer. Crawford has made four Friday night starts for the Gators, tossing 21.1 innings, allowing 20 hits and seven walks, striking out 17. In his last start, Crawford worked 6.1 innings in a loss vs. Indiana, allowing nine hits and four runs, walking one and striking out six in 103 pitches.

Littrell, a native of Louisville, Ky., has made four series-finale starts in 2013, posting a 2-0 record and a 3.24 ERA. The Trinity High School product has tossed 23.2 innings, allowing 22 hits and eight walks, striking out 24. In his career, Littrell has a 17-8 record and a 4.24 ERA in 36 games and 33 starts, working 191 innings, allowing 62 walks and striking out 162. Littrell is coming off one of his best career outings in a rubber-match win over Michigan State. He worked seven innings, allowing four hits and one run, walking one and striking out a career-high nine. Littrell dominated through the first six innings, carrying a one-hit shutout into the seventh before getting touched for a run on three hits. In his start last year vs. UF, Littrell took a shutout into the ninth inning as UK tried to avoid the sweep in Lexington. He worked eight innings vs. UF in 2012, allowing nine hits and one run, walking none and striking out five. Hanhold has appeared in five games with three starts, working 12.2 innings, allowing 17 hits and five walks, striking out eight. Hanhold started the series finale vs. Indiana on Sunday, working four innings, allowing seven hits and four runs, walking one and striking out two.

The Wildcats have been led by a .307 team batting average, slugging .438 and reaching base at a .411 clip. UK has belted 26 doubles and 12 homers, stealing 26 bases and fielding .977. On the mound, UK has a 2.45 team ERA in 143 innings, allowing 136 hits and 34 walks, striking out 124.

Individually UK has been paced by, junior second baseman J.T. Riddle, who has a .400 average with four doubles, one triple, one homer and 14 RBI, owning a 7-2 walk-strikeout ratio and stealing three bases. Catcher Micheal Thomas has hit .361 with eight RBI and three steals, while Reed has a .361 average with two doubles, one triple, five homers and 23 RBI. Sophomore Max Kuhn has hit .328 with five doubles, one triple, one homer and 16 RBI, stealing five bases. Third baseman Paul McConkey owns a .314 average with three doubles, one triple, one homer and 11 RBI. All-American centerfielder Austin Cousino has a .281 average with three doubles, three homers and 11 RBI, stealing five bases. Senior Zac Zellers has hit .255 with a double, homer and eight RBI, while shortstop Matt Reida owns a .250 mark with two doubles and seven RBI, stealing three bases.

In the bullpen, Gott (2-0, 0.00 ERA) leads the team with eight relief appearances, notching five saves in nine innings, allowing four singles and two walks, striking out 11. Senior righty Walter Wijas (1-0, 1.12 ERA) has appeared in seven games and worked eight innings, allowing two walks and striking out seven. Freshman right-hander Zach Strecker (1-0, 1.42 ERA) has appeared in seven games and worked 6.1 innings, while freshman southpaw Dylan Dwyer (1-0, 0.00 ERA) has appeared in five games and tossed 6.1 shutout innings. Freshman Ryne Combs (0-0, 1.50 ERA) has appeared in five games with two starts, tossing 12 innings. Sophomore right-hander Chandler Shepherd (1-0, 2.92 ERA) has appeared in five games, tossing 12.1 innings and striking out 11.

Florida (8-10) has wins over Duke, Central Florida, Miami, Jacksonville and Indiana, suffering losses to the Blue Devils, Georgia Southern, Florida Gulf Coast, North Florida, the Hoosiers and Florida State. The Gators have hit .264 as a team with a .348 slugging and a .342 on-base percentage, stealing 15 bases and owning a .967 fielding percentage. On the mound, the Gators have a 4.50 ERA, working 168 innings, walking 56 and striking out 129.

The Gators have been led by Justin Shafer at the plate, who owns a .358 average with nine doubles, one homer and eight RBI. Infielder Richie Martin has hit .327 with a double and an RBI, while senior infielder Vickash Ramjit has a .308 average with two homers and 12 RBI. Dynamic infielder Casey Turgeon has hit .296 with two doubles and three homers, driving in 14 runs. Harrison Bader has a .275 average with two doubles and two RBI, while Zack Powers has a .271 average with three homers and 12 RBI. Taylor Gushue has hit .241 with two doubles and 10 RBI.

In the bullpen, Ryan Harris (2-1, 4.12 ERA) has appeared in a staff-best 11 games, working 19.2 innings, allowing four walks and striking out 10. Johnny Magliozzi (2-0, 2.60 ERA) has three saves in 10 relief outings, tossing 17.1 innings, allowing only 14 hits and no walks, striking out 15. Daniel Gibson (0-0, 5.19 ERA) has appeared in 10 games and worked 8.2 innings with eight strikeouts. Jay Carmichael (2-1, 2.00 ERA) has appeared in nine games in relief, with 18 innings and 13 strikeouts, while Parker Danciu (2-0, 5.79 ERA) and Mike Vinson (0-0, 6.30 ERA) have each appeared in seven games in relief.

Florida leads the all-time series 131-57-1, including a 71-23 mark in Gainesville. The Wildcats have not won a series in Gainesville since the 1999 season and have only won three all-time three-game sets at the Gators (1973, 1975).

Last year vs. the Gators, UK hosted UF in a Thursday-Friday-Saturday series. In the series opener, Florida posted a 5-3 win, getting a run in the first, three in the third and one in the ninth. The Wildcats plated three runs, with a tally in the fifth and a two-run homer from Michael Williams in the eighth. Taylor Rogers suffered the loss in a quality start, tossing six innings, allowing three runs, walking two and striking out five. Sam Mahar and Tim Peterson worked in relief for the Wildcats, with Hudson Randall picking up his fifth win with 6.2 innings for the Gators. The Gators claimed the series in the second game, 5-1, with four runs over the eighth and ninth to break open the 1-1 game. Jerad Grundy worked 7.1 strong innings in a hard-luck loss, allowing six hits and two runs, walking one and striking out two. UK got two-hit games from McConkey and Luke Maile, with Turgeon totaling a 3-for-4 game for UF. In the series finale, UK got a dynamic start from Littrell, who carried a shutout into the ninth inning, before Turgeon touched him for a solo homer in a 2-1 UK win. Gott picked up the save, as UK saddled Brian Johnson with the loss, with Crawford working three innings in relief. Cousino went 2-for-4 for the Wildcats, with Williams adding a 2-for-3 game and Reida and Maile driving in the two runs.

In UK's SEC opener last year, the Wildcats burst onto the national scene with a three-game sweep over the then two-time defending NCAA Champion South Carolina Gamecocks. UK got a walk-off homer from Maile in the bottom of the ninth inning in the series opener, posted a 4-2 win on Saturday to clinch the series and sweep the Cocks with a 6-2 win on Sunday.

UK is ranked in each of the four major polls, checking in No. 9 in the Collegiate Baseball and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association polls. UK ranks No. 10 in Baseball America and the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll. Florida entered the year ranked as high as No. 13 in the preseason and last weekend fell out of the rankings for the first time since April, 2009.

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