LEXINGTON, Ky. -- In its final non-conference tune up before opening league action at Florida, No. 7 Kentucky will host a pair of midweek games, welcoming Ohio on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET and Cincinnati on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The games will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the games live on WWTF 1580-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky (13-2) is coming off a four-game week that saw UK pick up a midweek win over Xavier (6-3) and a series win over Michigan State, a 2012 NCAA Tournament team and club that won 37 games a year ago. UK won the opener 2-1 on Friday night vs. the Spartans on the strength of Max Kuhn’s first career homer in the bottom of the eighth and seven shutout innings from A.J. Reed. Michigan State evened the series behind standout righty David Garner on Saturday, before the Wildcats claimed the rubber match 3-1 with great pitching from Corey Littrell, Walter Wijas and Trevor Gott and a clutch sixth-inning double from Paul McConkey.
UK will send freshman southpaw Ryne Combs (0-0, 1.12 ERA) to the mound on Tuesday to face Ohio and freshman righty Kyle Cody (1-0, 7.00 ERA) on Wednesday against Cincinnati. Ohio will counter with junior lefty Sean Kennedy (2-0, 5.19 ERA). Cincinnati plays a game on Tuesday and has yet to determine a starting pitcher for the game in Lexington.
Combs will be making his second career start and his fifth appearance. The 2012 Kentucky High School Mr. Baseball out of Lexington Bryan Station, Combs has worked eight innings, allowing 12 hits and one earned run, walking one and striking out three. In his last outing, Combs came on in relief of senior Jerad Grundy on Saturday, working 1.2 innings, allowing three hits and one unearned run, tossing 17 pitches. Kennedy has appeared in six games in relief, tossing 8.2 innings, with 10 hits and five runs allowed, walking three and striking out seven. In his last outing, Kennedy picked up the win with 0.2 innings in relief vs. Oakland on Saturday.
On the year, UK has batted .308 as a team with 11 homers, a .435 slugging and a .410 on-base percentage in 15 games, stealing 24 bases and owning a .976 fielding percentage. On the mound, UK has a 2.42 ERA with four saves in 134 innings, walking only 33 and striking out 116. UK’s all left-handed weekend rotation of Reed (2-1, 3.22 ERA), Jerad Grundy (3-1, 1.35 ERA) and Littrell (2-0, 3.42 ERA) have been solid through four starts.
Gott recorded three saves in three appearances during the last week to move into a tie for the UK career record with 15 saves. Gott (2-0, 0.00 ERA) had four saves on the year, working 8.1 innings, allowing only four singles and two walks, striking out 10. In his 15 career saves, Gott has worked 16.1 innings, allowing four hits and three walks, striking out 24. Littrell’s 17th career win also moved him into 10th place on the career UK win list.
In the bullpen, Gott leads the club with seven relief outings, also joining Wijas (1-0, 1.12 ERA) with seven appearances. Freshman right-handers Zach Strecker (0-0, 2.25 RA), Tyler Cox (0-0, 0.00 ERA) and Cody (1-0, 7.00 ERA) have each been weapons in their collegiate debuts. Sophomore Chandler Shepherd (1-0, 2.92 ERA) has appeared in five games and worked 12.1 innings, while freshman lefty Dylan Dwyer (1-0, 0.00 ERA) has made five shutout relief outings, working 6.1 innings.
Individually, J.T. Riddle leads the team in hitting with a .403 average, totaling three doubles, one triple, one homer and 13 RBI, stealing three bases. Catcher Micheal Thomas has a .394 average with eight RBI, while Reed has batted .362 with a double, triple, five homers and 23 RBI. Kuhn owns a .340 average with four doubles, one triple, one homer and 15 RBI, stealing five bases, while McConkey has a .324 average with a homer and 11 RBI. Cousino has hit .283 with three doubles, three homers and 11 RBI, stealing five bags. Shortstop Matt Reida owns a .260 average with two doubles and seven RBI, while outfielders Zac Zellers and Lucas Witt each have hit .234.
Kentucky moved from No. 7 to No. 9 in the Collegiate Baseball weekly top-30 after its 3-1 week but advanced from No. 11 in the Baseball America top-25 to No. 10. UK also moved up to No. 10 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll. The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association top-25 in announced later on Monday night, with the Wildcats No. 10 last week.
Ohio (3-10) has hit .230 as a team through 13 games, slugging 19 doubles and three homers, owning a .296 slugging and a .311 on-base percentage, stealing seven bases and fielding .959. On the mound, Ohio has a 5.06 ERA with a save in 112 innings, walking 49 and striking out 75. The Bobcats are coming off a series loss to Oakland at home, splitting a doubleheader on Saturday and falling in the rubber match on Sunday, 6-2. Ohio has an early season win over Boston College, in addition to high point, falling vs. Belmont, Valpo, Illinois, New Mexico State, Virginia Tech, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and High Point.
The 15-time Mid-American Conference Champion Bobcats have been led individually by Taylor Emody, who has hit .345 with five RBI and a steal. Jake Madsen has a .327 average in all 13 games, with three doubles, one homer and seven RBI. Cody Gaertner has hit .308 with two doubles and four RBI. Tyler Wells has hit .260 with a double and three RBI, while Nick Squires has a .239 average with five doubles and five RBI. Dan Schmidt and Brice Nikithser have each hit homers. In the bullpen, Ohio has been led by eight appearances from Logan Cozart (0-0, 0.96 ERA), who has a save in 9.1 innings. Brett Barner (0-2, 4.09 ERA) has appeared in seven games and worked 11 innings, striking out 11, with Ryan Ferrell (0-0, 3.60 ERA) also making six relief outings.
Cincinnati (4-8) is coming off a series sweep at the hands of Eastern Michigan over the weekend at Marge Schott Stadium. The Bearcats have a series sweep over New York Tech and a win over Western Carolina on its record, falling to Furman, Michigan State and Florida Atlantic. The Bearcats have hit .257 as a team through 12 games, with 17 doubles, three triples, five homers and 68 runs scored, stealing 20 bases and fielding .958. On the mound, UC has a 4.89 team ERA with a save in 105 innings, walking 60 and striking out 91.
Individually, UC has been led by Jeff Murray’s .341 average with a double and four RBI. Woody Wallace has hit .313 with a double and five RBI, while Justin Glass has batted .306 with two doubles, one homer and six RBI, stealing three bases. Devin Wenzel has a .292 average with two homers and a team-high 10 RBI. In the bullpen, Thomas Gentile has appeared in five games in relief, with a 1-0 record and a 5.23 ERA, striking out 11 in 10.1 innings.
UK leads the all-time series with Ohio, 8-7, with the last meeting coming in 2000. In games played in Lexington, the Wildcats hold a 7-6 lead. UK has won three consecutive meetings in the series, which started with five straight Bobcat wins from 1915-1967.
UK leads the all-time series with Cincinnati, 56-29-2, including a 37-13-1 all-time record in games played in Lexington. UK has won four consecutive meetings in the series, last falling in 2009 in Lexington, 12-6. Last year, UK swept the two-game series with UC, picking up a 10-7 win in Cincinnati at Marge Schott Stadium, getting the sixth homer of the year from Luke Maile and a 5.2 inning start from Shepherd. Maile went 3-for-3 with two walks and three runs scored, while Thomas McCarthy collected a 4-for-5 outing. UC started Grant Walker, who worked 3.2 innings, allowing seven hits and five runs – four earned – walking two and striking out two. UK won the returning meeting in Lexington in mid-April, getting six shutout innings out of starter Sam Mahar, who allowed only two hits and struck out five. Cousino, Maile and Riddle each belted homers, with McCarthy adding a 2-for-3 game. Brad Mergen started for UC, working 3.2 innings, allowing eight hits and six runs, walking three and striking out two.
In the Southeastern Conference stats, the Wildcats rank among the league top five in average (.308; fifth), slugging (.435; fourth), on-base percentage (.410; fourth), runs (125; third), RBI (112; third), home runs (11, third), hit batters (32; first), sacrifice bunts (13; third) and sac flies (14, third). Individually, Riddle ranks 12th in the SEC in average (.403), seventh in hits (25) and 14th in total bases (33). Reed ranks fourth in slugging (.672), fourth in RBI (23), first in homers (23), fourth in total bases (39) and seventh in hit by pitch (four). Kuhn ranks seventh in the league in on-base percentage (.493), 11th in RBI (15), 12th in doubles (four), 13th in steals (five) and fourth in walks (15). Cousino ranks third in the SEC in runs scored (19) and 13th in steals (five). Grundy ranks 10th in ERA (1.35), seventh in opponent average (.161), fifth in innings (26.2), fifth in strikeouts (28) and ninth in wins (three). Gott ranks fifth in saves (four) and fifth in games finished (seven).