LEXINGTON, Ky. - The No. 22 Kentucky baseball team will open up its eighth all-time NCAA Tournament, in the NCAA Louisville Regional, facing off with Kansas in the first round on Friday at 2 p.m. ET at Jim Patterson Stadium.
Kentucky (35-23) joins No. 5 Louisville (45-15), Kansas (34-24) and Kent State in the four-team field. UK will face Kansas in the opener on Friday, with Louisville slated to face Kent State later in the evening. The winners will advance to face each other in the second game of the day on Saturday, with the losers facing off in an elimination game on Saturday at Jim Paterson Stadium.
The entire regional will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com, with Clay Matvick and Gabe Gross calling the action. All of UK’s 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 game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
The Wildcats are turning to sophomore righty Kyle Cody (4-0, 2.65 ERA) for his sixth start of the year in the NCAA Tournament opener. Kansas will call on senior right-hander Jordan Piche’ (6-5, 4.25 ERA).
This will mark Kentucky’s eighth all-time NCAA Tournament berth and its first since a runner-up finish in the 2012 NCAA Gary Regional, hosted by Purdue. UK has a 12-14 all-time record in the NCAA Tournament, also owning runner-up finishes in 1988, 2006 and 2008.
The Wildcats swept the two-game midweek series with Louisville in 2014, posting an 8-3 win in the first game in Lexington and a 4-2 win at Louisville in the finale of the two-game series. UK has never faced Kansas in program history and last faced Kent State in the 2012 NCAA Gary Regional, with KSU edging UK in the 21-inning NCAA Tournament opener and in the NCAA Tournament Regional Final.
UK equaled its best-ever finish in the Southeastern Conference Tournament last week, posting a 3-1 record to advance to the semifinals for the second time in the last three years. UK edged No. 24 Alabama in the opener, 7-1, top-seed No. 7 Florida on Wednesday, 4-2, before an epic tilt with No. 17 Mississippi State in 12 innings, a 7-6 result. UK suffered a 6-5 setback in the semifinals vs. the Gators, who scored the go-ahead run in the eighth to eliminate the Wildcats.
The Wildcats finished the SEC Tournament owning a No. 19 RPI and a total of 15 wins over top-50 RPI teams, tied for the third-best total in college baseball. Sporting a No. 4 strength of schedule, UK boasts an 11-9 record vs. the top-25 and a 7-4 mark vs. top-10 foes, with wins over No. 1 Virginia, No. 1 South Carolina, No. 5 Vanderbilt, No. 8/9 Louisville, No. 12/7 Florida, No. 24 Alabama and No. 17 Mississippi State.
UK opened the SEC Tournament in a single-elimination win over homestanding, No. 24 Alabama on Tuesday, riding a five-inning start from A.J. Reed, who picked up his SEC-leading 11th win of the year. UK then advanced to the double-elimination format, sending top-seed, No. 7 Florida, to the loser’s bracket with a 4-2 win, with Kyle Cody and Andrew Nelson combing to handcuff the regular-season champion Gators. The Wildcats then squared off with No. 17 Mississippi State in an instant classic that saw the lead change hands or the game tied eight times. The 12-inning tilt was an instant classic, as the two teams combined for 32 hits in a four hour and 36 minute tilt, with the game marking the longest, in terms of time, in SEC Tournament history. UK ended the thriller in the bottom of the 12th inning behind a pinch-hit, walk-off single from sophomore catcher Zach Arnold. UK then faced off with the Gators in a single-elimination tilt on Saturday, with UK bidding for its first-ever championship berth. In another tight battle, with UK turning to freshman Logan Salow in his first career start, UK saw the Gators rally from behind with two outs in the eighth to post a 6-5 win.
The Wildcats have hit .302 as a team in 2014, with a .453 slugging and a .401 on-base percentage, belting 116 doubles, 10 triples, 59 homers and 453 runs, stealing 63 bases. On the mound, UK has a 3.98 team ERA in 520.2 innings, walking 180 and striking out 353.
A.J. Reed, the NCAA leader in homers (23), slugging (.768) and OPS (1.259), also paces the SEC in on-base percentage (.491), RBI (70), walks (47) and wins (11), sporting a .351 average, 17 doubles, and a 2.10 ERA on the mound in 103 innings. Sophomore Ka’ai Tom has hit .333 with 13 doubles, two homers and 37 RBI, stealing 15 bags. Third baseman Max Kuhn owns a .322 average with 18 doubles, eight homers and 55 RBI. Freshman outfielder Storm Wilson has hit .313 with six doubles, four homers and 20 RBI. First baseman Thomas Bernal has hit .313 with eight doubles, one homer and 28 RBI. Senior catcher Micheal Thomas has hit .310 with 10 doubles, one triple, eight homers and 44 RBI. Centerfielder Austin Cousino has hit .298 with 14 doubles, four triples, four homers, 38 RBI and 17 steals. Second baseman JaVon Shelby has hit .260 with six doubles, two triples, four homers and 21 RBI. Outfielder Kyle Barrett has a .258 average with six doubles, one homer and 10 steals. Shortstop Matt Reida owns a .244 average with nine doubles, four homers and 34 RBI.
On the mound, Reed (11-2, 2.10 ERA), Chandler Shepherd (5-4, 3.36 ERA) and Andrew Nelson (2-5, 3.80 ERA) have carried the majority of the innings, with Shepherd appearing in 15 games with nine starts, and Nelson owning 18 games and 10 starts. Junior Spencer Jack (4-1, 1.19 ERA) has a team-high 25 relief outings, with a three saves in 37.2 innings. Logan Salow (2-3, 5.40 ERA) has 22 appearances and one start, with Kyle Cody (4-0, 2.65 ERA), Zach Strecker (0-1, 4.34 ERA), Zack Brown (0-1, 5.32 ERA), Dylan Dwyer (5-3, 5.46 ERA), Taylor Martin (0-0, 6.28 ERA), Ryne Combs (1-2, 6.55 ERA) and Sam Mahar (1-0, 8.22 ERA) each appearing in double-digit games.
All-session tickets for the 2014 NCAA Regional in Louisville will be available online here starting Sunday evening or can be purchased by phone (502-GO-CARDS) through the UofL Ticket Office starting Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., ET. All-session tickets for the four-team, double-elimination regional are $70 for reserved chairback seats and $45 for college students.
Fans are encouraged to purchase and pick up tickets in advance or print their tickets at home to avoid long will call lines on game day. Tickets can be picked up at the UofL Ticket Office, located at Gate 2 of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. No tickets will be mailed. Single session tickets, including reserved chairback and general admission berm seating, will go on sale Friday, May 30 from 9 a.m., ET at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium Ticket Office or at Jim Patterson Stadium starting at noon ET.