LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Winners of eight consecutive games, No. 7 Kentucky will host its final non-conference weekend of the regular-season, welcoming Michigan State for a three-game series, starting on Friday at 4 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. UK will face MSU on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET and conclude the series with the 2012 37-win Spartans on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
All three games will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with Dick Gabriel voicing the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the Friday and Saturday games on WWTF 1580-AM and on Sunday on WLAP 630-AM, in addition to live coverage on UKathletics.com
The Wildcats will send the weekend rotation of sophomore southpaw A.J. Reed (2-1, 4.70 ERA) to the mound on Friday to face off with MSU senior right-hander Andrew Waszak (1-1, 2.50 ERA). On Saturday, senior lefty Jerad Grundy (3-0, 0.43 ERA) will face Spartans junior right-hander David Garner (2-0, 4.50 ERA) and on Sunday, junior left-hander Corey Littrell (1-0, 4.32 ERA) will face MSU sophomore right-hander Mick VanVoossen (0-0, 6.30 ERA).
A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed enters the start as the reigning national and Southeastern Conference Player of the Week, largely from his 15 RBI over a five-game span last week. Reed has made three starts on the mound in 2013, working 15.1 innings, allowing only two walks and striking out 11. In his last start, Reed, turned in a quality start vs. Akron. He worked six innings, allowing only six hits and two runs, walking two and striking out four. In his two-year UK career, Reed has made 19 appearances and eight starts, with a 7-4 record and a 3.00 ERA in 69 innings, walking only 11 and striking out 62. Waszak has made three starts for the Spartans in 2013, posting 18 innings and allowing only 13 hits and four walks, striking out 15. In his last start vs. Austin Peay, Waszak suffered his first loss of the year, allowing four hits and five runs – three earned – in six innings, walking two and striking out four.
Grundy enters his fourth start of the year as one of the top starters in college baseball, cruising through his first three outings with dominating efficiency. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound native of Johnsburg, Ill, has tossed 21 innings and allowed only nine hits and three walks, striking out 24. He opened his season not allowing an earned run in his first 12 innings and currently ranks second in the SEC in ERA and third in strikeouts and innings pitched. In his last start, Grundy had his best career outing, working eight shutout, two-hit innings. He retired 24 of the 26 hitters he faced, allowing only a pair of singles and no runners to reach second base. Grundy set a new career high with 12 strikeouts, including a stretch of seven consecutive strikeouts. Garner has made three weekend starts for the Spartans, tossing 18 innings, allowing 21 hits and four walks, striking out 16. In his last start vs. Austin Peay, Garner tossed seven shutout innings, allowing only five hits and one walk, striking out five in 99 pitches.
A native of Louisville, Ky., Littrell will be making his fourth start of the year, tossing 16.2 innings, allowing 18 hits and seven walks, striking out 15. In his last start vs. Akron, Littrell rebounded after a pair of rocky starts to open the campaign. He worked seven innings, allowing five hits and one run, not issuing a walk and striking out a career-high equaling eight. In his career, Littrell has a 16-8 record and a 4.45 ERA in 35 games and 32 starts, tossing 184 innings, allowing 61 walks and striking out 153. With 16 career wins, Littrell needs one win to move into a tie for 10th place on the UK career win list, which would equal him with Scott Downs (1995-97), Adam Shadburne (1993-96), Josh Paxton (1996-2000) and Scott Wade ( 2000-03). VanVoosen has started two games for MSU in 2013, tossing 10 innings, allowing eight hits and seven runs, walking seven and striking out 10. VanVoosen worked 5.2 innings in his last start vs. Austin Peay, allowing seven hits and four runs, walking four and striking out four on 99 pitches.
Kentucky has totaled a .325 average as a team with eight homers and 119 runs scored, stealing 24 bases and fielding .974. On the mound, UK has a 2.61 ERA in 107 innings, walking only 29 and striking out 93. UK, known for its stingy approach to allowing steals and homers from its pitching staff, has allowed only three steals in 2013 and five homers, with UK currently riding a 249 plate-appearance stretch without allowing a homer and a 235 plate-appearance streak without allowing a steal.
The Wildcats have been led offensively by junior second baseman J.T. Riddle, who has hit .440 with three doubles, one triple, one homer and 12 RBI in 12 games. Catcher Micheal Thomas has a .429 average with eight RBI and a pair of steals. Reed, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound left-handed hitter, has belted a conference-leading five homers and hit .426 with a double, triple and 23 RBI, adding a .809 slugging and a .526 on-base percentage. Third baseman Max Kuhn has hit .349 with four doubles, one triple and 14 RBI, owning a .508 on-base percentage courtesy of a 14-6 walk-strikeout ratio. All-America centerfielder Austin Cousino – the preseason Baseball America SEC Player of the Year – has a .300 average with three doubles, two homers and 10 RBI, stealing five bags. Paul McConkey owns a .286 average with two doubles, one triple and eight RBI, while senior outfielder Zac Zellers owns a .268 mark with a double and six RBI. Shortstop Matt Reida has hit .268 with two doubles and seven RBI, while Lucas Witt has a .237 average with a double, 10 RBI and five steals. Thomas Bernal has added a .308 average with two doubles and two RBI.
In the bullpen, Trevor Gott (2-0, 0.00 ERA) has appeared in five games with two saves in 6.1 innings, allowing only three hits and two walks, striking out nine. Chandler Shepherd (1-0, 2.92 ERA) has worked in five games in relief, with 12.1 innings, six walks and 11 strikeouts. Senior Walter Wijas (1-0, 0.00 ERA) has also appeared in five games, working 6.1 innings, allowing two unearned runs and two walks, striking out four. Freshman lefty Dylan Dwyer (0-0, 0.00 ERA) has appeared in four games, tossing six shutout innings without a walk, with freshman lefty Ryne Combs (0-0, 1.42 ERA) working in three games with one start.
Kentucky is in the midst of an eight-game winning streak, its longest since a school-record 22-game streak to open the 2012 season. During the eight-game stretch, UK has totaled a 1.62 ERA on the mound, with opponents holding a .298 slugging percentage and UK fielding .984.
Kentucky moved up a spot to No. 7 in the Collegiate Baseball top-30 poll on Monday, also advancing to No. 11 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll and No. 10 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association top-30. UK stayed at No. 11 in the Baseball America top-25 on Monday.
UK picked up a midweek win over Xavier on Wednesday, getting the fifth homer of the year from Reed and the first career win from freshman righty Kyle Cody, who worked five innings in his second career start. Over the weekend, UK swept Akron by a combined score of 37-4, including a 21-2 pounding in the series opener. Akron had opened its season with consecutive three-game series at No. 16 Georgia Tech and at No. 4 Louisville, with the Yellow Jackets owning an 18-6 aggregate total vs. the Zips and the Cardinals posting a 17-1 total score vs. Akron. Reed earned Louisville Slugger, SEC, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and CollegeBaseballInsider.com National Player of the Week honors after the sweep of Akron, where he hit .526 (10-for-19) with four homers and 15 RBI during the five-game week.
UK, which leads the NCAA in scoring per game, ranks throughout the SEC stats, checking in second in average (.325), second in slugging (.452), second in on-base percentage (.430), third in runs (119), fourth in hits (136), third in RBI (106), third in homers (eight), fourth in total bases (189) and third in steals (24). Individually, Riddle ranks fifth in average (.440), eighth in slugging (.600), sixth in on-base percentage (.508), fifth in runs (14) and fourth in hits (22). Reed ranks seventh in average (.426), second in slugging (.809), fourth in on-base percentage (.526), ninth in hits (20), second in RBI (23), first in homers (five) and first in total bases (38). Kuhn ranks sixth in on-base percentage (.508), ninth in RBI (14), eighth in doubles (four) and second in walks (14). Cousino ranks second in the league in runs (18). On the mound, Grundy ranks fifth in ERA (0.43), fourth in opponent average (.125), second in innings (21), third in strikeouts (24) and second in wins. Gott ranks sixth with two saves and eighth in games finished (five).
Michigan State (5-5) has wins over Northwestern, Cincinnati, Austin Peay and Tennessee Tech, suffering losses to Furman, Miami (Ohio) and Austin Peay. The Spartans have hit .263 as a team, hitting three homers with a .342 slugging percentage and a .354 on-base percentage. MSU has stolen 14 bases and fielded .968 as a club, posting a 5.02 ERA as a team with 35 walks and 79 strikeouts in 86 innings. Individually, Jordan Keur leads the team with a .333 average, with three doubles, one homer and 10 RBI, stealing five bags. Blaise Slater has hit .311 with two doubles and five RBI, while Anthony Cheky has a .296 average in six games, with four doubles and an RBI, with four steals. Jimmy Pickens has batted .282 with four doubles, a homer and six RBI, while Ryan Richardson has also added a .282 mark with six RBI. In the bullpen, Jeff Kinley (0-0, 4.82 ERA) has three saves in 9.1 innings, allowing eight hits and six walks, striking out 14. Justin Allerman (0-2, 5.40 ERA) has appeared in a team-high seven games in relief with a save in 6.2 innings, walking two and striking out nine. Trey Popp (0-0, 9.00 ERA) has appeared in five games in relief with five innings and six strikeouts.
Michigan State won in the first meeting in the series, a 6-2 win in East Lansing in 1913. UK then posted a 9-2 win over the Spartans in San Antonio, Texas, in 2006. Overall, UK has won 11 of the last 13 meetings with B1G teams, including eliminating the last two NCAA Regional hosting berths from the conference, Michigan in 2008 and Purdue – hosting in Gary, Ind. – in 2012.