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No. 1 baseball host No. 10 Ole Miss in three-game tilt

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Winners of a school-record 20 consecutive home games, No. 1 Kentucky hosts one of the hottest teams in the nation in a clash of top-10 teams, welcoming No. 10 Ole Miss for a three-game series, with first pitch of game one on Friday set for 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The series will resume on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET and conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

Kentucky (27-2, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) enters the series sitting alone atop the SEC standings, as the Rebels posted a series win over then consensus No. 1 Florida last weekend to give the Wildcats a one-game edge in the standings. UK enters the series off to the best start to a season in school history, leading the nation in wins, pacing the NCAA in batting average and riding the longest home winning streak in program annals.

The Wildcats will face off with the Rebels, one of the top clubs in college baseball, with Ole Miss coming off a monumental series win over the Gators in front of over 30,000 fans in the three game series in Oxford, Miss., last weekend. Through their first three SEC weekends, the Wildcats own a series sweep at home over No. 2 South Carolina, the two-time defending NCAA Champions, and road series wins at No. 18 Georgia and Tennessee.

UK is coming off a 19-6 midweek win over Dayton on Wednesday, as the two teams sat through a two-hour rain delay before beginning the offensive slugfest. UK allowed four runs in the first inning to the Flyers, before rebounding with a season-best 24 hits and six homers, including a two-homer game from Luke Maile and a grand slam from Zac Zellers.

Leading the NCAA with a .333 batting average entering the series, Kentucky’s offensive attack has helped spearhead the most wins in the nation. UK leads the SEC with a .508 slugging percentage and a .426 on-base mark, with a SEC-best 66 doubles, adding 36 homers and 32 stolen bases. On the mound, UK has totaled a 3.32 ERA, with seven saves in 266 innings, walking 73 and striking out 267.

The three-game series 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 WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.

UK will send its regular weekend rotation of junior left-hander Taylor Rogers (4-1, 4.65 ERA) to the mound on Friday, facing off with Ole Miss sophomore right-hander and current SEC Pitcher of the Year front-runner Bobby Wahl (5-0, 1.91 ERA), with Wahl entering the series and the reigning national and SEC pitcher of the week. On Saturday, UK junior lefty Jerad Grundy (3-0, 3.41 ERA) will make the start against Ole Miss senior right-hander R.J. Hively (3-1, 1.71 ERA). On Sunday, UK sophomore southpaw Corey Littrell (4-0, 1.88 ERA) will start against Ole Miss sophomore right-hander Mike Mayers (2-2, 4.05 ERA).

The Wildcats have a total of nine of its 10 everyday players with an average above .300, with Lucas Witt leading the club with a .365 mark, adding nine RBI and five steals. Freshman centerfielder Austin Cousino – the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week – has hit .363 with 11 doubles, one triple, five homers and 26 RBI, stealing seven bases in seven attempts. Freshman two-way star A.J. Reed has hit .346 with seven doubles, two homers and 30 RBI, while Maile has batted .333 with seven doubles, eight homers, 34 RBI and seven steals. Second baseman J.T. Riddle has a .333 average with eight doubles, one triple, three homers and 23 RBI, while Zellers has hit .329 with seven doubles, one triple, four homers and 15 RBI. Cameron Flynn has added a .321 mark with five doubles, seven homers and 21 RBI. Senior catcher Michael Williams has hit .311 with three doubles, one homer and 22 RBI, while senior third sacker Thomas McCarthy has a .310 average with seven doubles, four homers and 10 RBI. Shortstop Matt Reida owns a .280 average with five doubles, one triple, one homer and 13 RBI.

In the bullpen, UK has been paced by Tim Peterson (2-0, 2.51 ERA), who has a team-best 15 relief outings, with 19 strikeouts and one walk in 14.1 innings. Sophomore righty Trevor Gott (1-0, 1.59 ERA) leads the team with six saves in seven chances, tossing 11.1 innings, with three walks and 18 strikeouts. UK has also been anchored in the bullpen by lefty Reed (4-0, 2.28 ERA), lefty Alex Phillips (4-0, 2.16 ERA), lefty Sam Mahar (2-1, 2.08 ERA) and right-hander Walter Wijas (2-0, 6.32 ERA), who have each appeared in at least eight games.

Ole Miss (20-8, 5-4 SEC) enters the series as one of the hottest teams in college baseball, coming off the series win over No. 1 Florida in Oxford. The Rebels have hit .311 as a team, with 52 doubles, 24 homers and 187 RBI, stealing 26 bases. On the mound, Ole Miss has a 3.10 ERA with six saves in 249.2 innings, walking just 53 and striking out 238.

The Rebels have been led by All-America infielder Alex Yarbrough, who owns a .426 average with eight doubles, two triples, three homers and 33 RBI. Slugger Matt Snyder has hit .358 with 12 doubles, five homers and 29 RBI, while Will Allen owns a .333 average with four doubles, one triple, one homer and 14 RBI. Shortstop Blake Newalu has a .326 average with three doubles, one homer and 10 RBI. Slugger Zach Kirksey leads the SEC in homers, belting 10 with 37 RBI and five doubles, to complement his .324 average. Centerfielder Tanner Mathis has a .324 average with eight RBI, and a 25-6 walk-strikeout ratio.

In the bullpen, closer Brett Huber (1-1, 2.70 ERA) has helped anchor the pen with six saves and 12 strikeouts in 10 innings. Dylan Chavez (3-1, 4.19 ERA) has a team-high 13 relief outings, with 19 strikeouts and just one walk in 19.1 innings.

Through the SEC stats, UK ranks as the league leader in nearly every offensive category, leading the league in average (.333), slugging (.508), on-base percentage (.426), runs (247), hits (347), RBI (226), doubles (66), total bases (529) and hit batters (58). UK ranks third in the SEC in strikeouts (267) on the mound with a .977 fielding percentage, third-best in the league.

Individually, Cousino ranks among the league leaders in several offensive categories, ranking sixth in average (.363), ninth in slugging (.589), first in runs (33), third in hits (45), ninth in RBI (26), first in total bases (73), sixth in steals (seven) and first in at bats (124). Luke Maile ranks eighth in slugging (.613), 12th in on-base (.453), fourth in runs (29), eighth in hits (37), second in RBI (34), fourth in total bases (68), eighth in walks (18) and sixth in stolen bases (seven).

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