LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Kentucky baseball team will open its 2012 season with three games in Spartanburg, S.C., with the season lidlifter at Wofford set for Friday at 4 p.m. ET at Russell C. King Field. UK will face Eastern Michigan on Saturday at 12 p.m. ET before finishing the opening weekend with a game at USC Upstate on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
The Wildcats will open the campaign in South Carolina for the fourth consecutive season, also making season-opening trips to Coastal Carolina and the College of Charleston. UK owns a 57-31-3 all-time record in season openers, with a loss at No. 20 COC last year snapping a school-record seven game winning streak. UK opened up the 2009-10 seasons in Myrtle Beach, facing Coastal Carolina and opened up the 2007 season at Furman in Greenville. The Wildcats opened up the 2008 season at South Alabama in Mobile, Ala.
The three games will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WGVN 1580-AM (Friday and Saturday), WLAP 630-AM on Sunday and online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky is coming off a 25-30 season that saw the Wildcats paced by a dynamic offensive attack. The Wildcats rode the hot bats of Thomas McCarthy, J.T. Riddle, Luke Maile, Michael Williams, Taylor Black and Chad Wright as one of the best hitting teams in the league. Black and Wright have departed and McCarthy – a year after the coaches voted him as first-team All-SEC – is poised to help anchor what should be another potent offensive attack.
Kentucky will send its first weekend starting rotation of the year out to the mound of Friday, with Taylor Rogers making his second consecutive opening-day start on the bump. The junior southpaw, who is coming off an all-star summer in the Cape Cod League, will face off with Wofford’s ace southpaw Cash Collins. On Saturday, UK will send junior southpaw Jerad Grundy to the hill to face Eastern Michigan right-hander Joe Battistelli. In the finale of the weekend, UK sophomore southpaw Corey Littrell will start against USC Upstate’s right-hander Brandon Lee.
A native of Littleton, Colo., Rogers will make his 28th career start on Friday in the opener. Overall in his two years as a weekend starter, the 6-foot-3, 175-pound lefty owns a 7-14 record and a 5.79 ERA, with two complete games and 88 strikeouts in 160 innings. He is coming off a dominating summer in the Cape Cod League, where he was the winning pitcher in the all-star game at Fenway Park. Wofford will counter with its ace right-hander Cash Collins, a 6-foot, 170-pound senior. Collins appeared in 18 games with 14 starts last year, posting an 8-4 record and a 3.15 ERA, striking out 59 and walking 32 in 97 innings.
Grundy will be making his first career appearance and start for the Wildcats after transferring from Miami (Fla.) and Heartland Community College. Rated as the No. 57 prospect available in the 2012 MLB Draft and as the 14th-best Southeastern Conference talent available, Grundy was a 42nd round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft by the Miami Marlins, his second time drafted. Last year at Heartland, Grundy went 7-3 with a 3.77 ERA in 12 games, striking out 40 in 62 innings. Grundy will face off with right-hander Joe Battistelli. Last year, Battistelli went 6-3 with a 3.96 ERA, striking out 39 in 63.2 innings.
A native of Louisville, Ky., and the 2010 Louisville Slugger Kentucky High School Player of the Year, Littrell will be making his 14th career start after serving as a midweek and weekend starters as a freshman. A 35th-round pick out of high school, Littrell posted a 6-6 record and a 6.95 ERA as a freshman, with four quality starts. Littrell was named SEC Freshman of the Week after carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his first career start in UK’s 2011 home opener. USC Upstate will counter with Lee, a pitcher and catcher out of Palatka, Fla., where the 6-foot, 195 pound junior last played at Dayton State.
Wofford is coming off a 22-33 season and a 9-21 record in the Southern Conference. A year ago, Wofford totaled a .265 average as a team and a 5.12 ERA, with 10 saves. Offensively senior catcher Mac Doyle leads the team with a .300 average, 10 homers and 46 RBI. Konstantine Diamaduros hit .332 with 36 RBI, while outfielder James Foster owned a .306 mark with 22 RBI.
Eastern Michigan is coming off a 37-22 overall record and a 16-11 finish in the Mid-American Conference. Led by Jay Alexander, EMU is one of the top programs in the oft-overlooked MAC. Offensively, EMU returns Brent Ohrman, who hit .339 with two homers, 37 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 201. Sam Ott added a .333 mark with a homer and 19 RBI, while Ben Magsig added a .316 average with four homers and 33 RBI. In the bullpen, Brian Valente (4-0, 1.86) and Kristian Calibuso (3-0, 2.55 ERA) are the returnees with the best statistics.
USC Upstate posted a 19-36 record in 2011, with a 10-18 record in the Atlantic Sun. Its pitching staff was led in 2011 by Scott DeCecco (5-0, 5.08), who made 17 appearances, with David Roseboom (4-10, 6.20 ERA) also making 17 starts. DeCecco and Roseboom are slated to pitch the first two games of the weekend for USC Upstate. Last year, they played several talented teams, including Virginia Tech, College of Charleston, Jacksonville, South Carolina, Charlotte and Wofford.
UK leads the all-time series with Eastern Michigan, 15-6 and has now won six consecutive meetings, including a 5-1 lead in games played at neutral sites. UK has never played USC Upstate in program history and owns a 1-1 record all-time vs. Wofford with the last meeting in 2001.
Kentucky owns a 57-41-3 all-time record in season openers. The Wildcats has their school-record streak of winning seven consecutive season openers snapped in a loss last year at No. 20 College of Charleston. That streak bested the previous record of five consecutive seasons-opening wins.
Several Wildcats have earned preseason honors, including Brian Adams, Grundy, Trevor Gott and McCarthy. Adams, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound outfielder/wide receiver, was voted by the league coaches as the best athlete in the SEC in a preseason tools survey by Baseball America. A lefty transfer from Miami (Fla.) and Heartland CC, Grundy was rated as the No. 57 prospect available for the 2012 MLB Draft and as the 14th-best prospect in the SEC by Baseball America. Gott was ranked as the 59th best player in college baseball in a top-100 listing and McCarthy – the defending first-team All-SEC third sacker – earned first-team All-SEC honors by CollegeBaseball360.com.
The UK Alumni Association has a weekend-long gathering planned with the Wildcats in Spartanburg. The Upstate South Carolina UK Alumni Club will gather on Saturday at noon to watch UK take on EMU, and will then transition to the Wild Wing Café in Spartanburg to watch the No. 1 UK men’s basketball team take on Ole Miss. If any alumni are interested in attending or having any questions, please contact William Murphy (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Kentucky – 25-30, 8-22 SEC
Wofford – 22-33, 9-21 Southern
Eastern Michigan – 37-22, 16-11 MAC
USC Upstate – 19-36, 10-18 Atlantic Sun
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) -- Spartanburg, S.C.
Friday, February 17 * at Wofford * 4:00 p.m. (Russell C. King Field)
Saturday, February 18 * vs. Eastern Michigan * 12:00 p.m. (Russell C. King Field)
Sunday, February 19 * at USC Upstate * 3 p.m. (Harley Park)
Radio (BBSN with Neil Price)
Friday, February 17
• WGVN 1580-AM in Lexington
Saturday, February 18
• WGVN 1580-AM in Lexington
Sunday, February 19
• WLAP 630-AM in Lexington
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday vs. Wofford
LHP Taylor Rogers vs. LHP Cash Collins
Saturday vs. EMU
LHP Jerad Grundy vs. RHP Joe Battisteli
Sunday vs. USC Spartanbug
LHP Corey Littrell vs. RHP Brandon Lee