LEXINGTON, Ky. – Coming off its first series win over LSU in program history, the No. 8 Kentucky baseball team heads to the Magnolia State to face Mississippi State in a three-game Southeastern Conference series beginning at 7:30 p.m. EDT Friday at Dudy Noble Field.
The Wildcats (23-2-1, 3-2-1 SEC), who are in the midst of a six-game road swing, are off to the best 26-game start in the 103-year history of the Kentucky baseball program. UK opened its season running off 19 consecutive wins, before dropping the SEC opener to now No. 7 Arkansas. Kentucky currently stands half a game back from a three-way tie for first place in the SEC East.
UK has been paced by a potent lineup, led by seniors Mike Brown and Sean Coughlin. Brown leads the team and the SEC in batting average (.482) while scoring a league high 38 times. Brown also paces the nation in on-base percentage, reaching at a .596 clip.
Brown is not the only Wildcat to lead the NCAA, as Coughlin leads the nation in RBI with 47 through just 26 games. Last season, SEC Player of the Year Ryan Strieby set the school record with 77 RBI. Through 26 games a year ago, Strieby had driven in 38 runs. On his current pace Coughlin, a catcher from Morrison, Colo., would drive in an astonishing 101 RBI.
The Bulldogs (16-6, 3-3 SEC) are currently in the midst of a 10-game homestand and Kentucky marks the second consecutive top 10 SEC Eastern Division foe for Mississippi State. Mississippi State took a pair of mid-week games from Memphis after going 1-2 against South Carolina last weekend. UK head coach John Cohen is a 1990 graduate of Mississippi State, where he played for current coach Ron Polk.
Kentucky will send sophomore left-hander Chris Rusin to the mound on Friday. Rusin (3-1) leads the team with 35 strikeouts in a squad-best 33.2 innings of work. Rusin will square off with sophomore Mississippi State righty Aaron Weatherford, who enters with a 3-1 record and a 4.83 ERA. Junior left-hander Andrew Albers (4-0) will take the hill on Saturday against the Bulldogs’ Justin Pigott (2-2), also a lefty. UK will throw pre-season All-American Greg Dombrowski (3-1) on Sunday against Mississippi State right-hander Josh Johnson (2-1).
The Bulldogs lead the all-time series between the two schools 41-27, but Kentucky swept the series with Mississippi State in Lexington last season and has won four of the last five meetings.
Each of the games will air live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) and WLAP 630 AM locally with Neil Price. Live audio and statistics also will be available at ukathletics.com.
No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats (23-2-1, 3-2-1 SEC) at Mississippi State Bulldogs (16-6, 3-3 SEC)
Friday, March 30 – 7:30 p.m. EDT, Saturday, March 31 – 3 p.m. EDT, Sunday, April 1 – 2:30 p.m. EDT
Dudy Noble Field at Polk-Dement Stadium (15,000)
KENTUCKY IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS
No. 8 by Collegiate Baseball
No. 13 by National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association
No. 16 by USA Today/ESPN
No. 22 by Baseball America
RADIO (Big Blue Sports Network with Neil Price)
Friday: WLAP 630-AM
Saturday: WLAP 630-AM
Sunday: WLAP 630-AM
Mississippi State leads 41-27
UK– So. LHP Chris Rusin (3-1, 4.31 ERA, 33.2 IP, 14 BB, 35 SO)
MSU – So. RHP Aaron Weatherford (3-1, 4.83 ERA, 31.2 IP, 12 BB, 36 SO)
UK – Jr. LHP Andrew Albers (4-0, 3.00 ERA, 33.0 IP, 7 BB, 24 SO)
MSU – Jr. LHP Justin Pigott (2-2, 5.70 ERA, 36.1 IP, 6 BB, 27 SO)
UK – Jr. RHP Greg Dombrowski (3-1, 4.31 ERA, 31.1 IP, 3 BB, 24 SO)
MSU – Sr. RHP Josh Johnson (2-1, 7.20 ERA, 25.0 IP, 7 BB, 30 SO)