LEXINGTON, Ky. - The 24th ranked Kentucky Wildcats will complete a season-long, seven-game road trip with a three-game series at No. 16 Ole Miss, starting on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET at Swayze Field. The series will resume on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET and conclude on Saturday at 3:15 p.m. ET.
Kentucky (24-16, 7-11 Southeastern Conference) is in the midst of a grueling stretch with 14 of 16 games against ranked opponents, with UK wrapping up a seven-game road trip with the series at Ole Miss. UK is coming off a marathon 18-inning, 3-2 loss at Western Kentucky – the longest game played in college baseball in 2013 – on Tuesday night, with the nearly six-hour game ending just before 1 a.m. ET on a leadoff walk-off homer in the bottom of the 18th inning.
The series lidlifter will be televised live as the ESPNU SEC Thursday Night game of the Week, with Dave Neal and Kyle Peterson on the call. The Sunday game will also be televised live on Fox Sports South with Neal and Nick Belmonte voicing the action. All three games will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the games live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
The Wildcats will send their regular weekend rotation of sophomore lefty A.J. Reed (2-5, 3.20 ERA) to the mound on Thursday, senior southpaw Jerad Grundy (5-4, 4.43 ERA) on Friday and junior left-hander Corey Littrell (4-3, 3.20 ERA) on Saturday. Ole Miss will counter with ace junior right-hander Bobby Wahl (8-0, 1.22 ERA) – a star for the USA Collegiate National Team over the summer – on Thursday, junior righty Mike Mayers (2-4, 2.98 ERA) on Friday and sophomore right-hander Sam Smith (2-0, 3.49 ERA) on Saturday.
A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed will be making his 11th start of the year to open a weekend series. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound southpaw has tossed 59 innings, allowing 68 hits and just 12 walks, striking out 43. On Saturday vs. No. 14 South Carolina in the series-opening doubleheader, Reed worked 5.1 innings on 86 pitches, allowing nine hits and four runs – three earned – not surrendering a walk and striking out four as the Gamecocks broke up UK’s 2-0 lead with four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. In 2012 vs. Ole Miss, Reed made a start in the SEC Tournament and worked in relief on Saturday. In his relief outing, Reed worked 2.1 innings, allowing three hits and one run, striking out two. In his two-year career on the mound, Reed has a 7-8 record and a 2.88 ERA in 26 games and 15 starts, tossing 112.2 innings, allowing just 21 walks and striking out 94.
Wahl, who joined UK centerfielder Austin Cousino on the USA Collegiate National Team during the summer, is unbeaten in his first 10 starts. The hard-throwing right-hander has worked 66.2 innings, allowing just 43 hits – 33 singles – walking 32 and striking out 56. In his last start vs. Tennessee on Friday, Wahl tossed a complete-game shutout to earn SEC Pitcher of the Week accolades, striking out eight, walking two and scattering three hits on 109 pitches. In 2012 vs. UK, Wahl made two starts, including the opening round of the SEC Tournament. Wahl, a 6-3, 210-pounder, worked four innings in a no decision to open the series at UK in 2012, allowing two hits and one run, walking four and striking out two. In the SEC Tournament, Wahl was outdueled by Reed despite a quality start, tossing six innings, allowing six hits and two runs, walking two and striking out six, allowing the decisive blow by Reed, a solo homer in the fourth.
In 2013, Grundy has made 10 middle-of-the-weekend starts for the Wildcats, hurling 61 frames and striking out 51, with just 16 walks allowed. On Saturday at No. 14 South Carolina, Grundy worked five innings, allowing nine hits and five runs – four earned – walking none and striking out two on 70 pitches. The southpaw allowed USC to score two in the second and three in the third, before settling in to work scoreless frames in the fourth and fifth. Last year vs. Ole Miss, Grundy worked 4.2 innings, allowing five hits and six runs, walking three and striking out three on 81 pitches. In his two-year UK career, Grundy has made 26 weekend starts, posting an 11-7 record and a 4.05 ERA, working 146.2 innings, allowing 144 hits and 52 walks, striking out 114.
The 6-3, 205-pound Mayers has made 10 weekend starts for the Rebels, working 57.1 innings, allowing just 50 hits and 22 walks, striking out 43. On Saturday at Tennessee, Mayers worked six innings, allowing four hits and three runs – two earned – walking one and striking out five in a no decision. Last year vs. UK in Lexington, Mayers worked on Saturday, posting a win with 7.1 innings, allowing eight hits and three runs, walking one and striking out one.
A 6-3, 195-pounder, Littrell will be making his 11th series-concluding start of 2013, working 64.2 innings, allowing 59 hits and 26 walks, striking out 54. On Sunday at No. 14 South Carolina, Littrell worked his 21st career quality start and seventh of the year in a hard-luck loss. He allowed five hits and three runs in 7.2 innings, walking five and striking out three. In a 2012 rubber match vs. Ole Miss, Littrell worked six strong innings of an 8-3 win, allowing nine hits and two runs, walking two and striking out four on 104 pitches. Littrell allowed a run in the first for the Rebels and a run in the sixth before his club responded with a five spot in the bottom of the sixth to seal the win. In his career, Littrell ranks ninth in UK history in wins, posting a 19-11 mark and a 4.11 ERA in 42 games and 39 starts. He has pitched 232 innings in his three years, striking out 192.
A 6-4, 225-pound native of Lake Charles, La., Smith has made nine starts for the Rebs in 2013, tossing 38.2 innings, allowing 43 hits and 11 walks, striking out 18. On Sunday at Tennessee, Smith worked 5.1 innings, allowing four hits and one run, walking one and striking out three as the Rebels plated three runs in the ninth to erase a UT lead and win, 4-3.
The Wildcats have hit .264 as a team in 2013, with a .374 slugging and a .371 on-base percentage, stealing 49 bases. Defensively, UK has fielded .969, turning 44 double plays, picking off nine runners and allowing only 19-of-31 stolen base attempts. On the mound, UK has a 3.29 ERA, walking 105 and striking out 299.
Individually, freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett leads UK with a .352 average, owning four doubles, one triple and 10 RBI. Reed has hit .319 with seven doubles, two triples, 10 homers and 45 RBI, while second baseman J.T. Riddle has a .294 average with seven doubles, one triple, one homer and 19 RBI, stealing six bases. Austin Cousino has hit .269 with 10 doubles, one triple, five homers and 23 RBI, stealing 12 bases, while senior outfielder Zac Zellers has batted .246 with two doubles, two homers and 20 RBI. Catcher Micheal Thomas has a .245 average with two doubles, two homers and 19 RBI, with third baseman Max Kuhn batting .245 with seven doubles, one triple, three homers and 24 RBI, stealing six bases and leading the team with 30 walks. Paul McConkey has added a .236 average with four doubles, one triple, one homer and 11 RBI.
In the bullpen for the Wildcats, senior righty Walter Wijas (2-0, 0.78 ERA) has been a force, appearing in a staff-high 21 games, allowing just 19 hits – 18 singles – in 23 innings, walking six and striking out 20. Junior record setting closer Trevor Gott (4-1, 1.04 ERA) has appeared in 19 games with nine saves, striking out 31 and walking five in 26 innings, scattering 23 of his 25 hits allowed for singles. Freshmen Zach Strecker (1-1, 1.23 ERA), Ryne Combs (0-0, 1.47 ERA), Dylan Dwyer (1-0, 4.76 ERA) and Kyle Cody (3-2, 5.49 ERA) have each been vital members of the UK relief unit.
Ole Miss (30-12, 10-8 SEC) is coming off an 11-1 midweek win at Arkansas State on Tuesday and a series sweep at Tennessee last weekend. The Rebels have hit .273 as a team with 65 doubles, eight triples, 14 homers and 204 RBI, stealing 35-of-64 bases, with a .361 slugging and a .359 on-base percentage. On the mound, Ole Miss has a sparkling 2.53 ERA as a team in 380 innings, walking 150 and striking out 304. Defensively, the Rebels have fielded .970, turned 37 double plays and allowed 23-of-45 runners to steal, picking off seven.
The Rebels have been led individually by Stuart Turner, who has hit .381 with 13 doubles, one triple, four homers and 40 RBI. Austin Anderson has hit .296 with five doubles, one triple, one homer and 27 RBI, stealing 3-of-10 bases. Auston Bousfield has hit .293 with seven doubles, two triples, two homers and 16 RBI. Preston Overbey has added a .285 mark with two homers and 22 RBI, with Andrew Mistone batting .274 with 25 RBI. Veteran outfielder Tanner Mathis has batted .235 with a team-high 24 walks and seven steals, with Will Allen hitting .247 with five doubles, two homers and 16 RBI.
In relief, Ole Miss is paced by program record-setting closer Brett Huber (3-1, 1.62 ERA), who has 10 saves in 15 outings, striking out 19, walking 11 and allowing 10 hits in 16.2 innings. Tanner Bailey (3-1, 1.27 ERA) has appeared in a team-high 20 games with two saves, while Aaron Greenwood (3-1, 1.59 ERA) has appeared in 18 games with two saves in 34 innings, striking out 29.
The Rebels lead the all-time series with UK, 42-28, including a 25-8 all-time record in Oxford. The Rebels have won six straight games vs. UK at Swayze Field, with UK’s last series win coming in 2007 behind the starring roles of former UK greats Brian Spear, Andrew Albers, Chris Rusin, Aaron Lovett and Sawyer Carroll.
The Wildcats went 3-1 against Ole Miss in 2012, claiming the series meeting in Lexington with wins on Friday and Sunday and posting an opening-round, 2-0 win over the Rebels in the SEC Tournament. In the series opener in Lexington, UK plated a run in the sixth inning to tied the game at 2-2, before getting the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning, with centerfielder Austin Cousino starring with three outfield assists – two at the plate – in the tilt. Taylor Rogers worked five innings for UK, allowing two runs, with Alex Phillips picking up the win with 3.1 shutout innings in relief and Trevor Gott earning the save with the final two outs. Bobby Wahl worked four innings, allowing two hits and one run, walking four and striking out two. Aaron Greenwood and Dylan Chavez worked in relief for the Rebels. In the Saturday Ole Miss win, the Rebels plated eight runs in the fifth inning for a 9-3 win, with Mike Mayers working 7.1 innings with three runs allowed. Jerad Grundy took the loss with 4.2 innings, allowing five hits and six runs. In the series-deciding rubber match, Corey Littrell worked six innings to improve to 6-0, with Phillips getting the three-inning save in a win over Ole Miss starter R.J. Hively. UK broke open a 2-1 OM lead with five runs in the sixth, with a big swing coming from Cameron Flynn’s grand slam. In the SEC Tournament, A.J. Reed outdueled Wahl with 5.2 shutout innings in his first start against an SEC foe, allowing just five singles and one walk on 68 pitches and going 4-for-4 at the plate with the game-winning solo homer in the fourth inning. Wahl worked six innings, allowing six hits and two runs, walking two and striking out six on 99 pitches. Tanner Bailey worked two shutout innings in relief.