No. 17 baseball travels to No. 14 South Carolina

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- In the midst of a stretch of 14 games against ranked foes in a 16-game span, No. 17 Kentucky will travel to No. 14 South Carolina for a three-game series, with the opener slated for 7 p.m. ET on Friday at Carolina Stadium. The series will resume on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET and conclude at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

The three 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 games live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. The Saturday game will be televised by Fox Sports South.

The Wildcats are coming off a 12-5 midweek loss to No. 8 Louisville on Tuesday. The Cardinals split the two-game series with UK, after Kentucky won 5-4 in 10 innings on April 2 at Jim Patterson Stadium. The Wildcats plated a first-inning run but the Cardinals rallied with a five-run third and a six-run fifth inning to post the series-splitting win. Last weekend, the Wildcats suffered a series loss to Tennessee, as the Vols rallied to win the final two games of the three-game set after UK’s 5-4 series-opening win.

Kentucky will send its regular weekend rotation of sophomore southpaw A.J. Reed (2-4, 3.02 ERA) on Friday, senior lefty Jerad Grundy (5-4, 4.18 ERA) on Saturday and junior left-hander Corey Littrell (4-2, 3.16 ERA) on Sunday. South Carolina will use the rotation of senior southpaw Nolan Belcher (5-3, 1.63 ERA) on Friday and sophomore lefty Jordan Montgomery (3-0, 0.69 ERA) on Saturday, with the Sunday starter to be announced.

A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed will be making his 10th weekend start of the year, owning 53.2 innings, allowing 59 hits and 12 walks, striking out 39. Last Friday vs. Tennessee, Reed worked a quality start in a no-decision, tossing 6.2 innings, allowing eight hits and two runs, walking two and striking out six. In his two-year career on the mound, the preseason All-America lefty has a 7-7 record and a 2.77 ERA in 25 games and 14 starts, working 107.1 innings with 90 strikeouts. In a relief outing during a 2012 Saturday win over then No. 2 South Carolina, Reed worked two shutout innings, allowing two hits and one walk.

Grundy, a native of Johnsburg, Ill., will be making his 10th middle-of-the-weekend start for UK in 2013. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder has worked 56 innings, allowing 56 hits and 16 walks, striking out 49. On Saturday vs. Tennessee, Grundy worked four innings, allowing nine hits and six runs, walking two and striking out seven. In his two-year UK career, Grundy has an 11-7 record and a 3.94 ERA in 25 starts, working 141.2 innings, with 112 strikeouts. In his 2012 start vs. No. 2 South Carolina, Grundy worked 5.2 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs, walking three and striking out three on 75 pitches.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Littrell, has made nine weekend-closing starts in 2013. The preseason All-America lefty has tossed 57 innings, allowing 54 hits and 21 walks, striking out a staff-high 51. In his three-year career, Littrell has a 19-10 record with a 4.13 ERA, tossing 224.1 innings, striking out 189.

Kentucky (24-12, 7-8 SEC) has hit .273 as a team, with a .382 slugging and a .384 on-base percentage. UK has stolen 43 bases, fielded .969 and turned 38 double plays, picking off nine runners and allowing only 16 steals. On Sunday, Littrell suffered a loss in 7.1 innings, allowing eight hits and five runs, walking two and striking out three vs. Tennessee. In his series-sweep clinching win over No. 2 South Carolina in 2012, Littrell worked 5.1 innings, allowing nine hits and three runs, walking two and striking out three. In 2011, Littrell made a quality start at Carolina Stadium, working six strong innings, allowing six hits and two runs, walking three and striking out one.

The Wildcats have been led individually by freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett, who has hit .338 with four doubles, one triple, 10 RBI and three steals. Reed has hit .317 with five doubles, two triples, nine homers and 40 RBI. Junior second baseman J.T. Riddle has hit .308 with seven doubles, one triple, one homer and 18 RBI, stealing five bases. All-America centerfielder Austin Cousino has hit. 275 with nine doubles, one triple, four homers, 22 RBI and 10 steals. Catcher Micheal Thomas has batted .273 with two doubles, two homers and 18 RBI, while third baseman Max Kuhn has a .267 average with seven doubles, one triple, three homers and 24 RBI, leading the team with 29 walks.

In the bullpen, Kentucky has been paced by senior righty Walter Wijas (2-0, 0.44 ERA), who has appeared in 18 games and worked 20.1 innings with three walks and 19 strikeouts. Junior Trevor Gott (4-0, 0.90 ERA) – the program record holder for saves in a career and season – has appeared in 17 games with nine saves. Gott has fanned 24 and walked four in 20 innings. Chandler Shepherd has tossed 35 innings, allowing 37 hits and 10 walks, striking out 22 in 15 outings. Freshmen Zach Strecker (1-0, 0.84 ERA), Ryne Combs (0-0, 1.65 ERA), Dylan Dwyer (1-0, 4.76 ERA) and Kyle Cody (3-2, 6.21 ERA) have each appeared in double-digit games.

South Carolina (28-10, 8-7 SEC) is coming off a midweek win over College of Charleston and a series sweep at the hands of Florida in Gainesville, Fla., at McKethan Stadium. In his last series at home, the Gamecocks swept No. 13 Texas A&M a weekend after getting swept by No. 17 Arkansas at Carolina Stadium. The Gamecocks has hit .287 as a team, with a .430 slugging and a .387 on-base percentage, stealing 39 bases. As one of the top power-hitting teams in college baseball, South Carolina has slugged 62 doubles and 35 homers. Defensively, USC has allowed the fewest steals in the SEC, fielding .974 with three pickoffs. On the mound, USC has a 3.20 ERA in 38 games, walking 97 and striking out 315 in 337 innings.

At the plate, the Gamecocks have been led by Connor Bright, who has hit .330 with five doubles, one triple, four homers and 13 RBI. Slugging first baseman LB Dantzler has hit .326 with nine doubles, one triple, 10 homers and 38 RBI, while strong-armed catcher Grayson Greiner has a .306 average with five doubles, three homers and 25 RBI. Leftfielder Graham Saiko has hit .304 with five doubles, one homer and 17 RBI, stealing a team high 10 bases. Shortstop Joey Pankake has hit .292 with five doubles, seven homers and 28 RBI. Chase Vergason has added a .283 average with four homers and 18 RBI, with Max Schrock hitting .260 with three homers and 28 RBI.

In the bullpen, USC has been paced by league saves leader, lefty Tyler Webb (1-1, 0.75 ERA), who has 11 saves and 36 strikeouts in 24 innings. Adams Westmoreland (4-1, 1.74 ERA) has two saves in 14 relief outings, with Patrick Sullivan (1-0, 3.50 ERA), Jack Wynkoop (4-2, 3.90 ERA), Colby Holmes (4-2, 4.39 ERA) and Curt Britt (2-0, 4.96 ERA) have each appeared in double-digit games. Right-hander Evan Beal (2-1, 5.33 ERA) has appeared in nine games.

South Carolina leads the all-time series with Kentucky, 41-32, including a 23-10 mark in games played in Columbia. UK swept the 2012 series with South Carolina sweeping at home in 2011. UK has won three all-time series meetings in Columbia, with its last coming as a sweep in 1999.

In the 2012 series, Kentucky posted a series sweep on SEC opening weekend at Cliff Hagan Stadium. In the opener, UK fell behind 3-0 after six innings, before rallying with two runs in the seventh to take a 3-2 hole into the bottom of the ninth inning. After Austin Cousino was hit by a pitch, Luke Maile belted a walk-off, two-run homer off South Carolina’s Evan Beal. Taylor Rogers started for UK, working 5.2 innings, allowing three runs, with Michael Roth working 6.2 innings of two-run ball for USC. In the second game of the 2012 series, UK jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, before USC took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the sixth. UK rallied for a run in the bottom of the sixth, before getting the go-ahead RBI in the seventh. Jerad Grundy started for UK, working 5.2 innings of three-run baseball, with USC All-America closer Matt Price tossing 6.1 innings, allowing seven hits and four runs in a 110-pitch start. In the finale, UK jumped out with two runs in the first, before the game sat tied at 3-3 after five. UK plated three runs in the sixth and held on for a 6-3 win, with Trevor Gott completing the sweep with the save in the ninth. Corey Littrell tossed 5.1 innings, allowing nine hits and three runs in the start, with USC’s Colby Holmes starting and working 4.2 innings with three runs allowed.

In the meeting last year, the Wildcats were led in hitting by A.J. Reed, who hit .455 (5-for-11) with a double and two RBI. Zac Zellers hit .444 (4-for-9) with a double, RBI and a steal. Catcher Luke Maile hit .364 during the weekend with two homers and six RBI. Austin Cousino had a 4-for-13 weekend against the Cocks in 2012. Overall during the series with USC in 2012, UK had a .271 average and a 2.67 team ERA.


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