LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The No. 27 Kentucky baseball team will host No. 1 South Carolina in the first home Southeastern Conference series of the 2014 season, with first pitch in the series opener on Friday slated for 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The series will resume on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET and conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
All three games will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, and Dick Gabriel calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the games live on WLAP 630-AM, WKJK 108-AM in Louisville and online at UKathletics.com. Saturday will be televised live on FSN, with Tom Werme (play-by-play) and Larry Conley (color) calling the game. The Sunday game will be available live on ESPN3.com.
The matchup will mark a series with the NCAA’s top scoring team, Kentucky, and the nation’s top pitching staff, South Carolina. Entering the series and through official NCAA stats on Monday, Kentucky ranks as the nation’s leading scoring team, with 194 runs scored and 9.7 runs scored per game. Meanwhile, South Carolina ranks as the nation’s No. 1 team in ERA (1.36) and shutouts (nine), heading into the SEC’s second week.
Kentucky (15-6, 1-2 SEC) is coming off a 10-3 midweek win over Western Kentucky on Tuesday, getting the first win of the year from sophomore southpaw Sam Mahar, who fired three shutout innings in relief. UK got a three-hit game from senior catcher Micheal Thomas – who leads the SEC in average – and two-RBI games from Austin Cousino, Storm Wilson, Marcus Carson and Matt Reida.
Last weekend, UK ventured to Alabama, ranked No. 21 in the preseason, with the Crimson Tide securing a 3-0 win to open the series, behind a game-changing defensive output, including a bases-loaded triple play, two double plays and the robbing of a would-be game-tying home run. The two teams then split a series-concluding twinbill, with UK getting a 7-2 win in the first game behind homers from Cousino and Thomas. Chandler Shepherd worked into the eighth inning for his fourth win. In the finale, UK took a 3-1 lead into the ninth inning behind a three-run homer from NCAA homer and RBI leader A.J. Reed. Alabama rallied in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out, two-run homer to tie the game and keep Andrew Nelson from a complete game in his first career SEC start. The Tide then got a two-out, two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th for the win to secure the series rubber match.
UK will send the weekend rotation of junior southpaw A.J. Reed (3-1, 1.91 ERA) on Friday, junior righty Chandler Shepherd (4-0, 2.41 ERA) on Saturday and junior right-hander Andrew Nelson (1-0, 1.99 ERA) on Sunday. South Carolina will counter with junior lefty Jordan Montgomery (3-1, 3.14 ERA) on Friday, sophomore southpaw Jack Wynkoop (4-0, 1.84 ERA) on Saturday and freshman right-hander Will Crowe (4-0, 1.10 ERA) on Sunday.
A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed will be making his sixth series-opening start of the year on Friday vs. South Carolina. A 6-foot-4, 240-pounder, Reed has worked 33 innings, allowing 22 hits and 13 walks, striking out 20 and holding opponents to a .191 average. In his three-year career, Reed has a 10-12 record and a 3.14 ERA in 35 games and 24 starts, working 169 innings, walking 37 and striking out 123. In his last start at Alabama on Friday, Reed took a hard-luck loss, working seven innings, allowing just four hits and three runs, walking four and striking out six. Reed allowed just one run in the bottom of the second inning, before the UK bullpen allowed two inherited runners to score in the bottom of the eighth inning to dent Reed’s pitching line. In two appearances and one start against Alabama in his career, Reed has a 1-1 record and a 3.68 ERA in 7.1 innings, walking one and striking out six. Reed worked 5.1 innings in a loss at South Carolina last year, allowing nine hits and four runs – three earned – without issuing a walk, striking out four. Montgomery has made five starts for the Cocks in 2014, working 28.2 innings, allowing 25 hits and 11 walks, striking out 30 and holding opponents to a .234 average. On Friday night vs. No. 12 Ole Miss, Montgomery worked six innings, allowing six hits and six runs, walking three and striking out five.
Shepherd, a native of Louisa, Ky., has made five starts in 2014, working 33.2 innings, allowing 28 hits – 24 singles – six walks and striking out 26. In his three-year career, Shepherd has a 12-1 record and a 3.10 ERA, appearing in 49 games with 15 starts. Shepherd has worked in 145.1 innings in his career, with 138 hits and 39 walks allowed, striking out 98. On Saturday at Alabama, Shepherd worked his third straight quality start in a win over the Tide. Shepherd worked 7.2 innings, allowing nine hits and two runs, not issuing a walk and striking out five. He allowed just a run in the third inning, before his bid for a complete game falling short after allowing a runner in the bottom of the eighth inning, with UK’s bullpen allowing the run to score. Last year, Shepherd was the first reliever out of the bullpen in UK’s middle game with South Carolina, working 2.2 innings and allowing just one hit and one unearned run, walking one and striking out three over the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Wynkoop has made five starts for USC in 2014, working 29.1 innings, allowing 29 hits and three walks, striking out 25.
A native of Omaha, Neb., Nelson has appeared in six games with three starts, tossing 22.2 innings, allowing 20 hits and two walks, striking out 14. In his last start in the series finale at Alabama, Nelson came an out away from a historic complete game, with UK falling an out shy of its first series win at Bama in 21 years. Nelson worked 8.2 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs – two earned – not issuing a walk and striking out five. Before allowing a two-out, two-run homer that tied the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, Nelson had allowed just an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth inning after an error led off the inning. Crowe has made five starts in 2014 for the Cocks, working 32.2 innings, allowing 22 hits and four walks, striking out 23 and holding opponents to a .196 average. In the series finale vs. No. 12 Ole Miss on Saturday, Crowe worked 5.1 innings, allowing six hits and one run, walking one and striking out two. Wynkoop worked three innings vs. No. 12 Ole Miss last week, allowing seven hits and four runs – two earned – not issuing and walk and striking out one.
The Wildcats have hit an SEC-leading .323 as a team in 2014 in 21 games, leading the nation with 204 runs scored. UK has slugged 49 doubles, five triples, 18 homers and a .433 on-base percentage, stealing 40-of-51 bases. On the mound, UK has a 2.70 team ERA in 21 games, walking 57 and striking out 139 in 187 innings. Defensively, UK has turned 20 double plays, fielded .966 and allowed just 9-of-13 steal attempts.
Individually, UK has been led by fifth-year senior catcher Micheal Thomas, who paces the SE with a .431 average. Thomas has six doubles, three homers and 24 RBI, owning a .525 on-base percentage. Centerfielder Austin Cousino has hit .409 with nine doubles, two triples, two homers and 15 RBI, stealing nine bases. A.J. Reed leads college baseball in homers (nine), batting .403 with four doubles, one triple and 31 RBI, with a .551 on-base percentage. Leftfielder Ka’ai Tom has a .347 average with four doubles, 10 RBI and a 9-1 walk-strikeout ratio. Third baseman Max Kuhn has hit .333 with eight doubles, two homers and 18 RBI, with rightfielder Kyle Barrett batting .310 with four doubles, one homer, 14 RBI and nine steals. Thomas Bernal has hit .250 with nine RBI, with freshman second baseman JaVon Shelby owning three doubles, one triple and one homer.
In relief for the Wildcats, UK has seen junior righty Spencer Jack (1-0, 0.68 ERA) appear in a team-high 10 games, working 13.1 innings, walking three and striking out nine. Freshman lefty Logan Salow (1-1, 1.08 ERA) has appeared in seven games, striking out 12 in 8.1 innings. Sophomore Zach Strecker (0-1, 3.86 ERA) has appeared in six games in relief, striking out nine in 4.2 innings. Sam Mahar (1-0, 4.05 ERA), Zack Brown (0-0, 2.08 ERA) and Matt Snyder (0-0, 6.23 ERA) have each appeared in five games in relief.
South Carolina (18-1, 2-1 SEC) is coming off a series win over No. 12 Ole Miss to open SEC play in Columbia last weekend. The Gamecocks opened the year winning their first 17 games of 2014, before being the only remaining undefeated team to suffer a loss in the opener vs. Ole Miss on Friday. The South Carolina bullpen enters the weekend having not allowed a run in 61.1 straight innings, dating back to opening day on Feb. 15.
The Cocks have hit .315 as a team through 19 games, with 36 doubles, two triples, 14 homers and 131 runs scored, owning a .396 on-base percentage and stealing 12-of-22 bases. On the mound, South Carolina leads the conference with a 1.36 team ERA, owning six saves in 172 innings, walking 41 and striking out 167, with opponents hitting .206. Defensively, USC has fielded .980, turning eight double plays and allowing just 4-of-8 steals.
The Gamecocks have been led at the plate by Connor Bright, who is hitting a team-high .417 average with 10 doubles, 18 RBI and three steals. Second baseman Max Schrock has hit .354 with one double, four homers and 10 RBI, including belting the pinch-hit homer in USC’s comeback win over Ole Miss on Saturday. All-America catcher Grayson Griener has allowed just three steals behind the plate, while hitting .354 with four doubles, three homers and 20 RBI. First baseman Kyle Martin has a .343 average with three homers and 13 RBI, with centerfielder Tanner English batting .339 with three doubles, one triple, one homer and 14 RBI. Shortstop Marcus Mooney has hit .304 with four doubles, one triple and 10 RBI. All-America third baseman – a two-year starter at shortstop – has hit .286 with four doubles, one homer and seven RBI.
In relief, USC has been paced by closer Joel Seddon (1-0, 0.00 ERA), who has appeared in 10 games with six saves and just two hits allowed in 11.1 innings. Cody Mincey (2-0, 0.00 ERA) has struck out 22 and walked four in 14 innings, while Vince Fiori (0-0, 0.00 ERA) has appeared in six games and working 8.1 shutout innings.
South Carolina leads the all-time series, 44-32, with UK leading the series in Lexington, 20-14. The Gamecocks have won three straight in the series, after UK had won three straight in the last meeting in Lexington. UK has won five consecutive meetings with South Carolina in Lexington.
In the last meeting, the Gamecocks swept UK in Columbia, with the Friday game getting rained out, forcing a doubleheader on Saturday and the finale on Sunday. In the opener, South Carolina erased UK’s 2-0 lead with a four-run inning in the bottom of the sixth, getting homers from Joey Pankake and LB Dantzler to erase A.J. Reed’s lead. Reed worked 5.1 innings in a start, allowing nine hits and four runs – three earned – not issuing a walk and striking out 86. UK used Walter Wijas and Ryne Combs in relief, with Combs working 1.2 shutout innings. Nolan Belcher started for USC, working 7.2 strong innings, allowing six hits and two runs, not issuing a walk and striking out six. Adam Westmoreland picked up the save with 1.1 innings in relief. In the second game of the doubleheader, the two teams battled in an 11-inning thriller, with UK taking a 6-5 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning. UK turned to Trevor Gott to try and get the final out of the eighth with the tying run at third and one out, with the Cocks getting a first-pitch game-tying RBI single. The Gamecocks then rallied with the walk-off run in the bottom of the 11th inning as Brison Celek delivered the walk-off single. Jordan Montgomery worked 5.2 innings in the start for USC, allowing four hits and three runs – two earned – walking two and striking out seven. Tyler Webb picked up the win with three shutout, one-hit innings in relief. UK started Jerad Grundy, who worked five innings, allowing nine hits and five runs – four earned striking out two. Chandler Shepherd worked 2.2 strong innings in relief of Grundy, allowing just an unearned run. In the finale, UK took a 1-0 lead with a run in the top of the fourth, with South Carolina answering with two runs in the fourth and a run in the fifth to sweep the series. Corey Littrell started for UK, going 7.2 innings, allowing five hits and three runs. Jack Wynkoop dominated for USC< working eight inning, allowing just one unearned run and striking out three. Webb picked up his 12th save of the year with a perfect ninth inning. UK was led at the plate by Reed, who went 3-for-4 with an RBI double.
In the 2012 meeting in Lexington, South Carolina entered as the No. 2 team and the Wildcats as the No. 16 team in the nation, with UK riding an 18-game winning streak entering the series. Down 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning in the opener, Luke Maile drilled a two-run, walk-off homer over the centerfield fence to give UK the thrilling win. Michael Roth (6.2 IP, 2 R, 6 SO) worked for the Gamecocks, with Taylor Rogers (5.2 IP, 2 ER, 4 SO), starting for the Wildcats. Saturday, UK got a 4-3 win to clinch the series, behind single runs in the sixth and seventh innings, with Gott getting the save. UK then swept the series with a 6-3 win in the finale, as Maile belted another homer and UK got 5.1 innings in a start from Littrell and 2.1 shutout innings in relief from Wijas.
UK fell in the rankings to No. 23 in the Perfect Game poll and No. 27 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association top-30 this week, going unranked by USA Today and Collegiate Baseball. The Gamecocks are ranked No. 1 by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball and No. 2 by USA Today and the NCBWA.
UK ranks throughout the SEC stats, XXX
Kentucky – 15-6, 1-2 SEC
South Carolina – 18-1, 2-1 SEC
Kentucky – No. 23 (Perfect Game), No. 27 (NCBWA), not ranked (Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, USA Today)
South Carolina – No. 1 (Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball), No. 2 (USA Today, NCBWA)
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change)
vs. No. 1 South Carolina * Friday, March 21 * 6:30 p.m.
vs. No. 1 South Carolina * Saturday, March 22 * 2 p.m.
vs. No. 1 South Carolina * Sunday, March 23 * 1 p.m.
Radio (UK IMG Network with Neil Price and Dick Gabriel)
Friday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Saturday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Sunday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Saturday: FSN (with Tom Werme and Larry Conley)
Sunday: available live on ESPN3.com (radio simulcast with UK IMG)
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday vs. South Carolina
Jr., LHP/1B A.J. Reed (3-1, 1.91 ERA) vs. Jr., LHP Jordan Montgomery (3-1, 3.14 ERA)
Saturday vs. South Carolina
Jr., RHP Chandler Shepherd (4-0, 2.41 ERA) vs. So., LHP Jack Wynkoop (4-0, 1.84 ERA)
Sunday vs. South Carolina
Jr., RHP Andrew Nelson (1-0, 1.99 ERA) vs. Fr., RHP Wil Crowe (4-0, 1.10 ERA)
Live video (Friday and Sunday only), audio and stats on UKathletics.com
Cliff Hagan Stadium (3,000)
Parking at Cliff Hagan Stadium is FREE.
UK will utilize three lots: the C8 lot behind Shively Sports Center, the R lot, adjacent to the first base side, and the Parking Structure 7 on the corner of Complex Drive and Jerry Claiborne Way.
Fans who park in the PS7 lot will be given a parking value card to exit the structure free of charge. Value cards should be picked up at the baseball ticket booth prior to the fifth inning.
SINGLE GAME TICKET PRICES
$5 - General Admission Seating - Adults
$2 - General Admission Seating - Kids/Seniors
SEASON TICKET PRICES
$35 General Admission
$55 Reserved Seating