Owning a 23-2 record against non-conference opponents in 2012 and embarking on a season-long road trip to end the regular-season, No. 2 Kentucky travels to Paducah, Ky., to face off with Murray State at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Brooks Stadium.
Kentucky (41-11, 18-9 Southeastern Conference) will conclude its regular-season with the trip, starting at Murray State on Tuesday, before traveling to face Mississippi State in a Thursday-Friday-Saturday series to conclude the regular-season. UK enters the final weekend of the year owning a half-game lead over South Carolina and a full-game lead over Western Division leader LSU, with the Tigers ending the year at USC’s Carolina Stadium. The Wildcats will be seeking their second SEC Championship in program history.
With the sweep last week over Alabama and the 4-0 week, UK extended its winning streak to five games, became the first team in the nation to ascend to 40 wins and regained the NCAA lead in wins. The Wildcats have the second-most wins in program history and its 18 SEC wins ranks second-best in UK annals, behind only the 44-win seasons in 2006 and 2008 and the 20-win SEC Championship season in 2006.
UK owns a 16-4 record in one-run games and a 12-8 record in games against top-25 teams. The Wildcats have opened up the year with series wins over No. 2 South Carolina, at Tennessee, at No. 18 Georgia, No. 10 Ole Miss, at No. 9 Arkansas, No. 1 LSU and Alabama. The Wildcats have the ability to win the conference for the second time in program history entering the final weekend, which would also secure a bye for the SEC Tournament, which UK will travel directly to in Hoover, Ala., following the series in Starkville.
The Wildcats’ offense sits in the top three in the conference in nearly every category, hitting .304 as a team, with a .457 slugging and a .392 on-base percentage, knocking 504 hits, 298 RBI, 99 doubles and 50 homers in 52 games.
Freshman centerfielder Austin Cousino leads UK with a .343 batting average, 18 doubles, nine homers and 38 RBI, stealing 11 bases. Catcher Luke Maile leads the club with 46 RBI, batting .319 with 10 doubles and 11 homers. Outfielder Cameron Flynn has belted nine homers while senior Thomas McCarthy is batting .306 with 16 doubles, five home runs and 29 RBI.
In the bullpen, UK has been guided by Tim Peterson (3-0, 2.66 ERA), who leads the club with 25 relief outings, adding one save. Trevor Gott (3-0, 2.79 ERA) has a school single-season record nine saves in 10 opportunities, owning 29 strikeouts in 19.1 innings. Senior Alex Phillips (5-2, 2.83 ERA) has appeared in 24 games with six saves, tossing 47.2 innings. Reigning SEC Freshman of the Week, southpaw Sam Mahar (3-3, 2.75 ERA) has appeared in 20 games with two saves, tossing 36 innings with 32 strikeouts. As a club, UK owns a school-record 18 saves in 2012, with the Wildcat bullpen blowing only one lead held after the fourth inning in its 52 total games in 2012.
Murray State (22-30, 8-16 Ohio Valley) is coming off a series loss on the road at Southeast Missouri over the weekend. The Breds has hit .288 as a team with 23 homers and 13 steals in 52 games. On the mound, Murray State has a 6.01 ERA in 52 games with eight saves, walking 227 and striking out 282 in 467.1 innings.
Offensively, Murray State has been led by Ty Stetson, who has a .313 average with 14 doubles, five homers and 29 RBI. Mike Kozlowski has hit .311 with 13 doubles, two homers and 38 RBI, while Travis Issak leads the team with 20 dobules, six homers and 39 RBI.
In the bullpen, Will Handlin (4-3, 3.81 ERA) has four saves in a team-high 24 relief outings, tossing 52 innings with 34 strikeouts and 11 walks. Luke Shuemaker (0-1, 4.76 ERA) has appeared in 17 games with two saves.