LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Riding an 18-game home winning streak that ranks second in the NCAA, No. 2 Kentucky takes a break from the road with a midweek game against Western Kentucky, with first pitch on Tuesday slated for 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (24-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) leads the nation in wins and is ranked tied atop the SEC standings through the first two weekends of the year. The Wildcats ran up a school-record 22-game winning streak to open the season, the second-longest winning streak in program history, before suffering a loss on Friday as the nation’s lone unbeaten team.
The Wildcats are coming off a four-game week that saw UK post a midweek win at Cincinnati and a series victory at Tennessee. UK suffered a 4-1 loss in the opener on Friday night, before rebounding to post wins in the final two games of the series for the win. UK’s 5-1 start to conference play is its best since opening 7-0 in league action in 1992.
The game on Tuesday will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with Dick Gabriel calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WGVN 1580-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
UK has been paced by an explosive offensive attack that leads the SEC in nearly every offensive category. UK leads the league in average (.321), on-base percentage (.421), runs scored (195), hits (272), RBI (179), total bases (403) and hit batters (50). UK ranks third in strikeouts in the league and second in fielding percentage (.980).
UK will start freshman right-hander Chandler Shepherd (2-0, 3.15 ERA) in his fifth career start, facing off with Western Kentucky sophomore southpaw Austin Clay (3-2, 4.01 ERA). Shepherd, has made four starts with five total appearances, tossing 20 innings, allowing 20 hits and five walks, striking out 11. In his last start, Shepherd worked 5.2 innings in his first career road start at Cincinnati, allowing two hits and no walks, striking out two. Clay has appeared in 10 games with three starts, tossing 24.2 innings, allowing 32 hits and nine walks, striking out 14.
Western Kentucky (10-14, 2-4 Sun Belt) is coming off a series loss to FIU at home over the weekend, picking up a 9-6 win in the series finale on Sunday. The Hilltoppers have hit .266 as a team through 24 games, with eight homers and 111 RBI, stealing 18 bases and fielding .962 as a club. On the mound, WKU has a 5.03 ERA in 223.2 innings, tossing 223.2 innings with 192 strikeouts.
Individually, WKU has been led by Blake Crabtree, who owns a .350 average with four RBI. Ivan Hartle has hit .307 with eight doubles and 12 RBI, while Scott Wilcox has a .294 mark with a homer and 10 RBI. Adam Lavelle has a .277 average with three doubles and 17 RBI, while Casey Dykes has hit .264 with a homer and 11 RBI. Ryan Hutchinson has a .261 average with two homers and 21 RBI, while Ryan Huck has charted a .246 average with two homers and 11 RBI.
On the mound, WKU has been led in the bullpen by Taylor Haydel (1-2, 2.55 ERA), who has a save in 24.2 innings, walking only three and striking out 24. Ross Hammonds (0-2, 3.18 ERA) has appeared in 11 games in relief with 22 innings and three walks, striking out 29.
UK leads the all-time series with Western Kentucky 30-24, including a 17-13 mark in Lexington. The Hilltoppers have won four-consecutive meetings in the series, snapping a three-game winning streak in the series for the Wildcats.