LEXINGTON, Ky. – Fresh off its first series win at Florida in 14 years, No. 8 Kentucky returns to action with a midweek game against Western Kentucky, with first pitch slated for 6:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The game 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 game live on WWTF 1580-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky (16-3, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) is coming off a historic series win in Gainesville, Fla., where the Wildcats rebounded from a series-opening loss to claim the last two games of the series for their first series win at Florida since 1999. Kentucky also picked up a midweek win over Ohio, before venturing to the Sunshine State.
UK will send freshman right-hander Kyle Cody (1-0, 7.00 ERA) to the mound to face WKU freshman right-hander Alex Mercer (0-0, 4.50 ERA). Cody will be making his third career midweek start, also appearing in two games in relief. The 6-foot-7, 230-pounder has worked in nine innings, allowing 12 hits and eight runs – seven earned – walking two and striking out six. In his two starts, Cody – rated in the preseason as the 37th-best freshman in college baseball – has a 1-0 mark and a 5.87 ERA in 7.2 innings. In his last start on March 6 vs. Xavier, Cody worked five innings in his first career win, allowing four hits and two runs, not issuing a walk and striking out three. A 6-foot-4, 201-pounder out of Louisville’s St. Xavier High School, Mercer has made three relief outings for the Hilltoppers, working four innings, allowing three hits and three runs – two earned – walking two and striking out eight.
The Wildcats have been paced by an explosive offensive attack, batting .297 as a team and scoring 149 runs in 19 games. UK has belted 31 doubles and 14 homers and stolen 29 bases, slugging .427 and reaching base at a .404 clip. On the mound, UK has a 2.45 ERA as a team, walking a SEC-low 49 in 169 innings, striking out 138. Defensively, UK has fielded .974, turning 19 double plays and allowing only five stolen bases in 11 attempts, picking off six runners.
Individually, UK has been led by junior infielder J.T. Riddle, who has hit .372 with four doubles, one triple, one homer and 16 RBI, stealing three bases and owning a 7-2 walk-strikeout ratio in 78 at bats. First baseman A.J. Reed has hit .370 with three doubles, two triples, five homers and 26 RBI, while catcher Micheal Thomas has added a .341 average with a double, homer and 12 RBI. Centerfielder Austin Cousino – who hit .526 during the series at Florida – has a .325 average with four doubles, four homers and 15 RBI, stealing 8-of-8 bases. Paul McConkey has added a .289 average with three doubles, one triple, one homer and 11 RBI, while Max Kuhn has hit .286 with five doubles, one triple, one homer and 16 RBI, stealing five bags. Outfielder Zac Zellers has batted .234 with a homer and nine RBI, while shortstop Matt Reida has also added a .234 average with three triples and nine RBI. Outfielder Lucas Witt has .224 with a double, 10 RBI and five steals.
In the bullpen, UK has been paced by its career record holder for saves, junior Trevor Gott (2-0, 0.79 ERA), who has six saves in 2013 and 16 in his career. Senior Walter Wijas (1-0, 0.93 ERA) has appeared in eight games, while freshman Zach Strecker (1-0, 1.42 ERA) has pitched in seven games in relief. Sophomore Chandler Shepherd (1-0, 3.21 ERA) has pitched in six games and tossed 14 innings, while freshmen lefties Dylan Dwyer (1-0, 0.00 ERA) and Ryne Combs (0-0, 1.50 ERA) have helped anchor the relief corp.
Western Kentucky (10-9) has hit .277 as a team through 19 games, with 12 homers and 35 doubles, scoring 110 runs and stealing 10 bases. On the mound, WKU has a 3.74 ERA with six saves in 170.2 innings, walking 74 and striking out 183. The Toppers have turned 13 double plays, allowing 18 steals and fielded .960 as a team, picking off and impressive 11 runners.
Ryan Huck has led the Toppers with his .400 average, belting five doubles, six homers and 18 RBI. Scott Wilcox has hit .377 with three doubles and 11 RBI, while Ryan Messex has a .348 average with three doubles, one triple, one homer and 13 RBI. Devin Kelly has a .333 average with three homers, with Regan Flaherty batting .299 with a team-high seven doubles.
In the bullpen, Taylor Haydel (0-0, 1.86 ERA) has appeared in a WKU-leading eight games with two saves. Ian Tompkins (1-2, 0.00 ERA) has three saves in seven relief outings, with Tate Glassock (0-0, 4.50 ERA) pitching in seven games and Jake Thompson (1-3, 4.11 ERA) appearing in eight games and hurling 15.1 innings.
UK leads the all-time series with the Hilltoppers, 31-24, including an 18-13 mark in games played in Lexington. WKU has won four of the last five meetings, including two of the last three in Lexington.
In the last meeting between UK and WKU, the Wildcats posted a 7-4 win on March 27, 2012 in Lexington to improve to 25-1 as the No. 2 ranked team in the nation. UK got 4.1 innings in a start out of Shepherd, who allowed five hits and two runs, striking out two. Sam Mahar worked three innings in relief for his first career win, with Tim Peterson and Gott closing the door. UK got a three-RBI game from Cousino and Micheal Williams, with Cousino hitting his third homer of the year. Witt and Thomas McCarthy also collected two hits, with Riddle doubling and Reida adding a single. Witt also stole two bases. Austin Clay started for WKU, working 3.2 innings, allowing six hits and three runs. Colton Satterlee, Glasscock and Ross Hammonds worked in relief, with Clay saddled with the loss. WKU scored two in the first for an early lead, before UK scored seven over the second, fourth and sixth innings.
UK ranks throughout the SEC, checking in No. 5 in average (.297), No. 4 in slugging (.427), No. 4 in on-base percentage (.404), No. 3 in runs scored (149), No. 4 in RBI (135), No. 3 in homers (14), No. 1 in hit batters (42) and No. 5 in steals (29). On the mound, UK ranks No. 6 in ERA (2.45), No. 2 in pickoffs (six) and No. 1 in walks allowed (41). Individually, Riddle ranks 10th in average (.372) and 11th in hits (29), with Reed ranking No. 11 in average (.370), No. 5 in slugging (.671), No. 10 in on-base percentage (.466), No. 5 in RBI (26), No. 4 in homers (five) and No. 4 in total bases (49). Cousino ranks No. 12 in slugging (.532), No. 3 in runs (22), No. 6 in homers (four), No. 12 in total bases (41), No. 3 in HBP (six) and No. 8 in steals (eight).