LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Sitting just one win shy of equaling the longest winning streak in the storied history of the Southeastern Conference, No. 2 Kentucky will travel to Knoxville, Tenn., to open its league road slate, facing Tennessee in the series opener on Friday at 6 p.m. ET at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The series will resume on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET and conclude Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.
Kentucky (22-0, 3-0 SEC) needs just one win to equal the SEC record for the longest winning streak, a 23-game span set by the LSU Tigers that began on April 22, 2008 vs. Tulane and ended on June 1, 2008 against UC Irvine in the NCAA Super Regional. UK is the only undefeated team remaining in college baseball, in the midst of a school-record start to the season and winning streak, and leads the nation in wins.
The three games will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with Dick Gabriel voicing the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the games live on WLAP 630-AM and in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM, in addition to online coverage at UKathletics.com.
UK will send its regular weekend rotation of junior southpaw Taylor Rogers (4-0, 4.03 ERA) to the mound on Friday, facing Tennessee junior right-hander Zack Godley (3-1, 3.41 ERA). On Saturday, UK junior lefty Jerad Grundy (3-0, 2.73 ERA) will toe the rubber against UT’s senior right-hander T.J. Thornton (0-0, 6.75 ERA). On Sunday, sophomore left-hander Corey Littrell (2-0, 2.45 ERA) will make the start against sophomore right-hander Nick Williams (2-2, 2.05 ERA), the brother of UK catcher Michael Williams.
A native of Littleton, Colo., Rogers, who has made five Friday-night starts for the Wildcats in 2012. Rogers has tossed 29 innings, allowing 30 hits and eight walks, striking out a staff-best 37. In his last start, Rogers squared off with the top pitcher in college baseball, working 5.2 innings against No. 2 South Carolina and Michael Roth. Rogers allowed eight hits and three runs – two earned – walking two and striking out four in 104 pitches. Godley has emerged as the best starter for the Volunteers, making five starts in 2012. He has hurled 29 innings, allowing 27 hits and just four walks, striking out 26. In his last start at Georgia on Saturday, Godley worked four innings, allowing 10 hits and seven runs, striking out three.
Rated as one of the top prospects in the SEC, Grundy will be making his sixth career start for the Wildcats after transferring over from Miami (Fla.) and Heartland CC. Grundy has made five weekend starts on Saturday’s for UK this year, tossing a team-leading 29.2 innings, allowing 23 hits and 10 walks, striking out 26. In his last start, Grundy worked 5.2 innings vs. South Carolina, allowing seven hits and three runs, walking three and striking out three on 75 pitches. Thornton has appeared in six games with one start, tossing eight innings, allowing six hits and six runs, walking four and striking out nine. Last Friday night, UT starter senior sidearm right-hander Nick Blount, who went 1.2 innings, allowing four hits and three runs, before Thornton replaced him in the second inning. Thornton worked 2.1 innings, allowing two hits and one run, striking out three.
A native of Louisville, Ky., Littrell has been UK’s Sunday starter throughout the season, making five weekend starts. The 6-foot-3 southpaw, has tossed 29.1 innings, allowing 26 hits and eight walks, striking out 31. In his last start, Littrell worked into the sixth inning vs. the two-time defending NCAA Champions. Littrell tossed 5.1 innings, allowing nine hits and three runs, walking two and striking out three. UT will start Michael Williams’ brother Nick Williams in the Sunday game, an outing after a dominating performance at Georgia. Williams has appeared in 10 games with one start as he locked down the closer role early in the year. He has three saves in 22 innings, allowing 20 hits and just four walk, striking out 22. In Nick Williams’ last start – his first career – on Sunday at Georgia, Nick Williams worked six shutout innings, walking one and allowing two hits, striking out five.
The Wildcats have been paced by a balanced club throughout the first 22 games of the year, leading the SEC with a .335 team average, leading the NCAA with a .433 on-base percentage, adding 22 homers and a SEC-leading 182 runs scored. On the mound, UK owns a 3.18 ERA with 205 strikeouts in 198 innings, with the UK defensive unit fielding .979.
Offensively, UK has been led by catcher Luke Maile, who owns a .385 average with six doubles, six homers and 29 RBI, with a 15-4 walk-strikeout ratio and six stolen bases. Outfielder Cameron Flynn has hit .382 with four doubles, six homers and 19 RBI, adding a league-leading five sacrifice flies. A.J. Reed has hit .382 with seven doubles, two homers and 28 RBI, while freshman centerfielder Austin Cousino has a .372 average with nine doubles, one triple, one homer and 14 RBI. Outfielder Zac Zellers has hit .371 with six doubles, one triple, three homers and 11 RBI, while outfielder Lucas Witt owns a .351 mark with a double and eight RBI. Second baseman J.T. Riddle has a .316 average with four doubles and 14 RBI, while third baseman Thomas McCarthy has charted a .275 mark with five doubles, two homers and 11 RBI.
In the bullpen, UK has been led by right-hander Trevor Gott (1-0, 2.08 ERA), who has five saves in six opportunities, fanning 16 in 8.2 innings, walking only two and allowing only seven hits. Tim Peterson (2-0, 2.45 ERA) has appeared in a team-high 12 games in relief, striking out 15 in 11 innings with only one walk and eight hits. Walter Wijas (2-0, 6.08 ERA), Alex Phillips (2-0, 2.65 ERA) and Sam Mahar (0-0, 1.93 ERA) have each appeared in at least nine games out of the bullpen.
Tennessee (12-8, 1-2 SEC) is coming off its SEC-opening weekend at Georgia, where the Vols suffered losses on Friday and Saturday, before winning the Sunday contest behind the pitching of Nick Williams. Tennessee has hit .269 as a club with eight homers and 29 stolen bases through 20 games. UT has fielded .971 as a club, with the staff owning a 3.85 ERA, with four saves and 150 strikeouts in 187 innings.
UT has been led offensively by Davis Morgan, who has hit .341 through 16 games, totaling a double and a homer with eight RBI. Second baseman Will Maddox has hit .310 with a double and two RBI, while Chris Pierce has batted .292 with a homer and 10 RBI. Shortstop Zach Osborne owns a .263 average with no extra-base hits and four RBI, while Drew Steckenrider owns a .262 mark with a team-leading three homers and 19 walks. Centerfielder Chris Fritts has hit .257 with four doubles, two triples, one homer and 18 RBI.
On the mound in relief, UT has used Nick Williams and Carter Watson (2-2, 2.05 ERA), who has the other save for the team in his 10 outings, tossing 21.2 innings, striking out 20. Robbie Kidd (2-0, 3.68 ERA) has appeared in nine games, while Dalton Saberhagen (2-0, 0.00 Era), Steckenrider (1-1, 2.21 ERA) and Conner Stevens (0-1, 2.93 ERA) have each appeared in at least eight games.
In the SEC stats, UK ranks as the league leader in nearly every offensive category, leading the SEC in average (.335), on-base percentage (.433), runs (182), hits (252), RBI (169), doubles (49), total baes (373), at bats (752) and hit batters (45). UK also ranks second in slugging (.496), second in homers (22), second in walks (97) and fifth in stolen bases (24). UK also ranks seventh in ERA (3.14), second in strikeouts (205) and third in fielding percentage (.979).
In the NCAA stats, according to BoydsWorld.com, UK has the No. 5 RPI in the nation, behind only Florida (20-1), UCLA (15-4), Stanford (13-2) and Florida State (19-2). UK leads the nation in on-base percentage, ranking sixth in slugging, third in OPS (.929), seventh in average, fifth in runs scored, fifth in hits, second in RBI, seventh in total bases, third in hit batters and 10th in sacrifice flies. On the mound, UK leads the nation in wins, ranking third in strikeouts behind only Rice and South Carolina’s vaunted pitching staffs.
Tennessee leads the all-time series with the Wildcats, 159-139, including an 86-63 advantage. The Wildcats have won three of the last four series meetings between the two clubs, with UT winning the 2010 series in Knoxville. UK has won nine of the last 14 meetings between the two teams.
In the series last year, UT traveled to Lexington to open up conference play. UK opened up the series with a 5-3 win over UT, behind Alex Meyer and Braden Kapteyn’s first save of the year. Meyer tossed seven innings, allowing seven this and two earned runs, walking two and striking out seven. Kapteyn turned in his best outing of the year, hurling two perfect innings with three strikeouts. A the plate, Kapteyn has a game-best three RBI on a 2-for-3 game with his third homer of the year, while Taylor Black went 3-for-4 at the top of the order. Brothers Michael Williams and Nick Williams faced off against each other late in the game for the only time in 2012, with Nick getting the called third strike on a ball Michael viewed as above the strike zone. Josh Liles had three RBI for UT in the game, with Steven Gruver working 6.1 innings with seven this and four runs allowed. Godley worked 0.2 innings, allowing one hit and one run, with Williams tossing the shutout frame. In the second game, UT posted a 12-8 series-evening win, getting nine runs off UK starter Jordan Cooper in 5.1 innings. UT got four hits from Khayyan Norfork at the top of the order and three RBI from Andrew Toles and Charley Thurber. Steckenrider worked 2.1 innings, allowing five hits and four runs, walking three and striking out one. Blount worked 3.2 innings in relief of Steckenrider and Levi Dean, allowing two runs and striking out three. UK got three hits from Riddle, with Chad Wright launching a homer. In the finale, Rogers worked five innings in the start for UK, allowing two earned runs in the 7-3 UK win. Gott worked 2.2 shutout innings, while Mike Kaczmarek got the save with 1.1 shutout innings. Kaczmarek also went 4-for-4 at the plate with Riddle launching a homer. Carter Watson starter for UT, allowing four hits and four runs in one inning.
Kentucky – 22-0, 3-0 SEC
Tennessee – 12-8, 1-2 SEC
Kentucky: No. 2 (Collegiate Baseball), No. 6 (USA Today/ESPN coaches), No. 13 (NCBWA), No. 16 (Baseball America)
Tennessee: not ranked
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) – Knoxville, Tenn.
Friday, March 24 * at Tennessee * 6 p.m. ET
Saturday, March 25 * at Tennessee * 4 p.m. ET
Sunday, March 26 * at Tennessee * 2 p.m. ET
Radio (UK IMG Radio Network with Dick Gabriel)
Friday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Saturday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Sunday: WLAP 630-AM in Lexington; WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Live audio and stats on UKathletics.com
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday vs. Tennessee
Jr., LHP Taylor Rogers (4-0, 4.03 ERA) vs. Jr., RHP Zack Godley (3-1, 3.41 ERA)
Saturday vs. Tennessee
Jr., LHP Jerad Grundy (3-0, 2.73 ERA) vs. Sr., RHP T.J. Thornton (0-0, 6.75 ERA)
Sunday vs. Tennessee
So., LHP Corey Littrell (2-0, 2.45 ERA) vs. So., RHP Nick Williams (2-2, 2.05 ERA)
Lindsey Nelson Stadium