LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Southeastern Conference’s top two offensive teams will collide at Cliff Hagan Stadium over the weekend in a crucial three-game series, with No. 17 Kentucky hosting No. 12 Ole Miss, with first pitch of the series opener slated for 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday. The series will resume at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday and conclude at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky and Ole Miss will meet in a pivotal three-game series with SEC standings implications. UK ranks as the SEC leader in nearly every offensive category, with Ole Miss right behind. The two teams are the only squads in the league with batting averages over .300, with UK sporting a .312 mark and the Rebels owning a .300 average.
The three games will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the games live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. The Saturday game will be televised on CSS and ESPN3.com.
The Wildcats will turn to the weekend rotation of junior lefty/first baseman A.J. Reed (7-1, 2.15 ERA) on Friday, sophomore southpaw Dylan Dwyer (5-1, 3.40 ERA) on Saturday and junior right-hander Andrew Nelson (1-4, 4.44 ERA) on Sunday. Ole Miss will counter with junior righty Chris Ellis (5-0, 1.72 ERA) on Friday, redshirt sophomore right-hander Christian Trent (5-0, 2.18 ERA) on Saturday and junior right-hander Sam Smith (5-3, 2.32 ERA) on Sunday.
A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed will be making his 25th consecutive weekend series-opening start on Friday. He has made 10 starts in 2014, working 71 innings, allowing 62 hits and 18 walks, striking out 46, and holding opponents to a .23 average. In his three-year career, Reed ranks fourth in UK history with a 3.00 ERA, owing a 14-12 record in 207 innings, walking 42 and striking out 149. In his last start, Reed posted his seventh win of the year in a 6-3 result at Texas A&M, with UK getting three runs in the ninth of a 3-3 game. Reed allowed eight hits and three runs – one earned – walking one and striking out four, with all of the Aggies damage coming in a three-run second inning, with Reed firing six straight shutout innings before facing the leadoff hitter in the ninth at 113 pitches. Reed has pitched in three games with two starts vs. Ole Miss in his career, with a 1-0 record and a 0.61 ERA in 14.2 innings, allowing just one earned run and walking two. Last year, Reed outdueled Ole Miss ace Bobby Wahl on a Thursday night in Oxford, allowing four hits and two unearned runs in 6.2 innings, walking one and striking out three on 92 pitches. Ellis is putting together an SEC Pitcher of the Year season, tossing 62.2 innings, allowing just 56 hits and 19 walks, striking out 41. On Thursday, Ellis dueled with No. 7 LSU ace Aaron Nola through eight strong innings, allowing just eight hits and two runs – one earned – walking two and striking out six. Ellis allowed just single runs for the Tigers in the third and sixth innings, with The Tigers eventually scoring in the top of the 13th for the 4-3 win.
Dwyer, a native of Murray, Ky., will be making his third career SEC start on Saturday. The southpaw has appeared in 10 games with seven starts in 2014, working 45 innings, allowing 38 hits and 13 walks, striking out 40 and holding opponents to a .233 average. In his two-year career, Dwyer has a 6-1 record and a 3.52 ERA in 61.1 innings, walking 20 and striking out 47. On Saturday at Texas A&M, Dwyer fired a gem in his first career road SEC start, working 6.2 innings, allowing five hits and one run, walking two and striking out four on 109 pitches. Dwyer allowed a single run to the Aggies in the first inning, before firing five straight scoreless frames before getting two outs in the seventh inning. Last year, in the middle game of the series at Ole Miss, Dwyer came on to work a shutout inning vs. the Rebels, tossing shutout seventh inning, walking one on 11 pitches. Trent has made 10 weekend starts, owning a team-high 66 innings, walking just 10, allowing 53 hits and striking out a club-best 54, with opponents hitting .220. On Friday vs. No. 7 LSU, Trent pitched a gem in a 5-1 Rebels win. Trent allowed just one unearned run in seven innings, walking two and striking out five to win his fifth game of the year.
A native of Omaha, Neb., Nelson has started the last six series finales for the Wildcats. Nelson has appeared in 11 games with eight starts in 2014, working 48.2 innings, allowing 55 hits and 12 walks, striking out 24. Nelson suffered his fourth loss of the year on Sunday at Texas A&M, allowing 10 hits and eight runs in four innings, walking one on 56 pitches. Nelson allowed five runs on five two-out hits in the first inning, with TAMU adding a run in the second, a run in the fourth and two in the fifth to chase him from the mound. Smith has been a quality start machine through his first 10 weekend starts of 2014, tossing 62 innings, allowing 57 hits and 12 walks, striking out 34. On Saturday vs. No. 7 LSU, Smith worked 7.1 strong innings, allowing just five hits and two runs, walking one and striking out four, with LSU getting single runs in the third and eighth innings in a 2-0 win.
Kentucky (27-14, 9-9 SEC) is coming off a slugfest midweek win over Tennessee Tech, with the game pitting the NCAA’s top run-scoring offense against the Wildcats, who rank fourth in the nation in runs. UK outlasted the Golden Eagles 15-13 in a game that saw 10 homers hit, with three TTU players each hitting two homers. UK got the go-ahead blast in the bottom of the eighth inning from Micheal Thomas, with UK getting a career day from senior shortstop Matt Reida, who was 4-for-4 with four runs, four RBI, two doubles and his first homer of the year, also stealing third base.
The Wildcats lead the SEC in average (.312), slugging (.459), on-base percentage (.412), runs (348) and homers (39), slugging 80 doubles and eight triples. UK has stolen 57 bases and owns a 178-277 walk-strikeout ratio. Defensively, UK has fielded .967 and turned 41 double plays, allowing just 21 steals. On the mound, UK has a 3.73 team ERA in 364 innings, walking 111 and striking out 254.
Individually, junior A.J. Reed leads UK with a .375 average, adding 12 doubles, one triple, a nation-leading 16 homers and 55 RBI, with a .783 slugging and a .495 on-base percentage. First baseman Thomas Bernal has hit .354 with six doubles, one homer and 23 RBI, with his .419 average in SEC play marking the only regular in the league over .400. Third baseman Max Kuhn has hit .347 with 13 doubles, five homers and 38 RBI, with centerfielder Austin Cousino hitting .331 with 10 doubles, two triples, three homers and 26 RBI, stealing 14-of-14 bases. Catcher Micheal Thomas has hit .329 with seven doubles, one triple, seven homers and 39 RBI. Leftfielder Ka’ai Tom has a .310 average with six doubles, 20 RBI and a 17-8 walk-strikeout ratio, stealing 12 bases. Second baseman JaVon Shelby has hit .277 with six doubles, one triple, four homers and 19 RBI. Rightfielder Kyle Barrett owns a .266 average with five doubles, one homer and 18 RBI, stealing 10 bases. Shortstop Matt Reida has hit .235 with five doubles, one homer and 22 RBI, stealing five bases.
In the bullpen, UK has been paced by junior righty Spencer Jack (2-1, 1.85 ERA), who has appeared in 19 games with two saves in 24.1 innings. Freshman Logan Salow (2-1, 3.10 ERA) – the SEC Pitcher of the Week – has a save in 20.1 innings, striking out 22. Sophomore Kyle Cody (3-0, 2.35 ERA) has a team-high five saves, appearing in 13 games with three weekend stats. Sophomore Ryne Combs (1-2, 4.33 ERA), sophomore Zach Strecker (0-1, 4.91 ERA) and freshman Zack Brown (0-0, 6.23 ERA) have each appeared in double-digit games in relief.
Kentucky ranks as the SEC leader in average (.312), slugging (.459), on-base percentage (.412), runs (348), hits (453), RBI (308), homers (39), hit batters (76), double plays turned (41) and total bases (666). UK also ranks second in doubles (80), third in walks (178) and sixth in steals (57). Individually, A.J. Reed leads the SEC in average (.375), slugging (.783), on-base percentage (.495), RBI (55), homers (16) and total bases (119), ranking second in runs (46), fourth in hits (57), 10th in doubles (12), third in walks (27) and second in wins (seven). Thomas Bernal ranks fifth in average (.354) and sixth in on-base percentage (.432). Max Kuhn ranks as the SEC leader in runs (50) and walks (31), ranking eighth in average (.347), eighth in slugging (.512), third in on-base percentage (.459), sixth in doubles (13), sixth in homers (five) and third in total bases (87). Austin Cousino ranks third in runs (41), fourth in hits (57) and fourth in steals (14). Micheal Thomas ranks fifth in slugging (.538), sixth in runs (36), third in RBI (39) and third in homers (seven). Ka’ai Tom ranks 13th in on-base percentage (.417) and eighth in steals (12).
Ole Miss (30-12, 10-8 SEC) is coming off a midweek rivalry loss vs. No. 20 Mississippi State in Pearl, Miss., a neutral-site game played in front of 8,496 fans at Trustman Park. The Rebels have hit .300 as a team in 2014 – ranking second in the league – with a .408 slugging and a .365 on-base percentage. Ole Miss has slugged 68 doubles, seven triples, 27 homers and scored 240 runs, stealing 70 bases. Defensively, The Rebels have fielded .974 with 36 double plays turned, allowing just 28 steals. On the mound, Ole Miss has a sparkling 2.25 ERA in 388.2 innings, with nine saves and 110 walks, with 320 strikeouts.
Individually, centerfielder Auston Boufield leads the team with a .344 average, with 10 doubles, two doubles, four homers and 27 RBI, stealing 12-of-12 bases. Infielder Austin Anderson has hit .339 with 12 doubles, four homers and 28 RBI, stealing nine bags. Catcher Will Allen has a .337 average with 15 doubles, five homers and 42 RBI, with slugger Sikes Orvis hitting .310 with nine doubles, nine homers and 29 RBI. Brantley Bell has a .308 average with six doubles, with speedster Braxton Lee hitting .294 with 19 RBI, 21 walks and 21 steals. Shortstop Errol Robinson has a .285 average, with J.B. Woodman owning a .280 average with a homer and six RBI, stealing four bases. Will Jamison has a .278 average with two homers and eight RBI. Preston Overbey has hit .263 with two homers and 20 RBI.
In relief, Ole Miss has been paced by Josh Laxer (2-2, 1.80 ERA) who leads the team with 16 relief outings and four saves in 25 innings, walking seven and striking out 32. Wyatt Short (3-1,2.11 ERA) has also appeared in 16 games and saved three in 21.1 innings, allowing only 11 hits – nine singles. Preston Tarkington (0-1, 0.90 ERA), Aaron Greenwood (1-0, 1.48 ERA), Jeremy Massie (2-2, 2.56 ERA), Scott Weathersby (1-1, 3.00 ERA), Matt Denny (1-1, 3.24 ERA) and Cheyne Bickel (3-1, 3.75 ERA) have each made double-digit appearances.
Ole Miss leads the all-time series between the two schools, 44-31, with UK holding an 18-15 all-time lead in games played in Lexington. UK won the last two series meetings, in 2013 in Oxford and in 2012 in Lexington. The Wildcats have also faced the Rebels in the SEC Tournament opener in 2012 and 2013, with the Rebels eliminating UK in 2013 in the tourney opener.
In the last series meeting, UK traveled to Oxford with its back against the wall, having lost seven consecutive games to fall to No. 24 in the rankings. UK also had just played the longest game in college baseball in 2013, an 18-inning loss at Western Kentucky on a Tuesday, with UK then hitting the road on Wednesday morning to travel to Oxford, despite returning to Lexington around 3 a.m. ET on Tuesday night. UK responded in the opener, the Thursday Night SEC ESPNU Game of the Week, posting a 3-2 win behind a strong pitching performance from A.J. Reed and Chandler Shepherd. Reed worked 6.2 innings, allowing just two unearned runs in the seventh inning on a pair of Max Kuhn errors. Shepherd picked up the win with 2.1 shutout, three-hit innings in relief as UK’s bullpen was taxed to its limit by the 18-inning game on Tuesday. Ole Miss starter Bobby Wahl worked seven one-run innings in a no-decision, just allowing a solo homer from Austin Cousino in the first inning, part of a two-RBI game from Cousino. Aaron Greenwood suffered the loss, allowing two runs without getting an out to start the eighth inning as UK rallied from down 2-1 for the 3-2 win. Ole Miss then evened up the series with a pounding of UK on Friday, posting an 11-5 win with four runs in the first, two in the third and fifth innings and three in the sixth. UK starter Jerad Grundy allowed 12 hits and nine runs in 5.2 innings, as he took the bullet for the UK bullpen by eating up innings despite a big hole. UK got three runs in the second and two in the eighth. Ole Miss starter Mike Mayers allowed just one UK hit in six innings, allowing three runs – one earned – walking three and striking out eight. Chris Ellis worked 1.1 innings, allowing two runs, walking one and striking out two on 35 pitches. Andrew Mistone was 3-for-4 with five RBI, with Lance Wilson going 3-for-4 in the nine hole. In the series rubber match, UK got a strong start from Corey Littrell, who worked eight innings, allowing seven hits and three runs, walking one and striking out six in a 5-4 UK win. UK plated the go-ahead runs with one in the seventh and two in the eighth for a 5-3 lead, getting a big day from Greg Fettes, who homered and two-hit games from Reed, Max Kuhn and Kyle Barrett. Trevor Gott got the nail-biting save, with Cousino tracking down a ninth-inning drive from Sikes Orvis into the gap for a sacrifice fly, just missing a walk-off homer. Sam Smith worked 4.2 innings in the start, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks, striking out two. Ole Miss ended UK’s season on May 21 in the opener of the SEC Tournament, as the Rebels got single runs in the first and third innings, getting two in the sixth in a 4-1 win. Grundy worked 5.2 innings, allowing nine hits and four runs. Shepherd worked 2.1 shutout, two-hit innings in relief. UK got two hits from Matt Reida and Zack Storm, with Barrett, Reed, Zac Zellers and J.T. Riddle each collecting hits.
UK also won the series meeting in 2012 in Lexington, as the Wildcats posted a 3-2 win in the opener, fell 9-3 on Saturday, before claiming the rubber match, 8-3. UK got two hits from Luke Maile and Cameron Flynn in the opener, as Taylor Rogers allowed two runs on 10 hits in five innings. Alex Phillips picked up the win, working 3.1 shutout innings, with Trevor Gott saving the game with the final two outs. Bobby Wahl worked four innings, walking four and allowing one run. In the second game, Jerad Grundy suffered the loss, allowing six runs in 4.2 innings, with A.J. Reed working 2.1 innings in relief, allowing one run. UK got three hits from Reed, including his third homer of the year. UK rode Corey Littrell in the rubber match, as he worked six innings, allowing nine hits and two runs. UK got homers from Maile and Flynn, with Flynn belting a grand slam.
PREVIEWING OLE MISS IN THE PRESEASON
Head coach: Mike Bianco (13th year)
2013 record/SEC finish: 38-24, 15-15 SEC/sixth
Final RPI: No. 22
Final ranking: not ranked
Postseason: 0-2 (NCAA Raleigh Regional)
Key returning position players: SS Austin Anderson (.310/.386/.418, 3 HR, 39 RBI), OF Will Jamison (.281/.396/.388, HR, 17 RBI), 3B Preston Overbey (.280/.330/.415, 5 HR, 37 RBI), OF Austin Bousfield (.253/.344/.344, 2 HR, 25 RBI), C Will Allen (.231/.264/.313, 4 HR, 23 RBI)
Key returning pitchers: RHP Sam Smith (3-1, 3.41 ERA, 15 GS, 68.2 IP, 33 SO), LHP Matt Denny (2-1, 2.14 ERA, 21 APP, 21 IP, 23 SO), LHP Jeremy Massie (0-1, 2.92 ERA, 19 APP, 1 SV, 24.2 IP, 17 SO), RHP Josh Laxer (2-0, 3.21 ERA, 42 IP, 21 SO), RHP Scott Weathersby (0-2, 4.82 ERA, 14 APP, 18.2 IP, 16 SO)
Key position player losses: C Stuart Turner (.374/.444/.518, 5 HR, 51 RBI), 3B Andrew Mistone (.317/.384/.379, 36 RBI), OF Tanner Mathis (.280/.409/.307, 14 RBI)
Key pitcher losses: RHP Bobby Wahl (10-0, 2.02 ERA, 16 GS, 97.2 IP, 78 SO), RHP Mike Mayers (5-6, 2.83 ERA, 16 APP, 15 GS, 92.1 IP, 73 SO), RHP Brett Huber (3-1, 1.54 ERA, 20 APP, 12 SV, 23.1 IP, 26 SO), RHP Aaron Greenwood (3-5, 2.66 ERA, 27 APP, 2 SV, 50.2 IP, 42 SO), RHP Tanner Bailey (4-2, 2.74 ERA, 30 APP, 4 SV, 42.2 IP, 38 SO)
Series record: Ole Miss leads 44-31; UK leads 18-15 in Lexington
Last meeting: UK won series in 2013 in Oxford, 2-1
Kentucky – 24-14, 9-9 SEC
Ole Miss – 30-12, 10-8 SEC
Kentucky – No. 17 (Baseball America), No. 19 (Perfect Game), No. 21 (Collegiate Baseball), No. 22 (NCBWA), No. 23 (ESPN/USA Today)
Ole Miss – No. 12 (Collegiate Baseball), No. 13 (USA Today/ESPN), No. 16 (Baseball America), No. 18 (NCBWA)
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change)
vs. No. 12 Ole Miss * Friday, April 25 * 6:30 p.m.
vs. No. 12 Ole Miss * Saturday, April 26 * 1 p.m.
vs. No. 12 Ole Miss * Sunday, April 27 * 1 p.m.
Radio (UK IMG Network with Neil Price)
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
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday vs. Ole Miss
Jr., LHP/1B A.J. Reed (7-1, 2.15 ERA) vs. Jr., RHP Chris Ellis (5-0, 1.72 ERA)
Saturday vs. Ole Miss
So., LHP Dylan Dwyer (5-1, 3.40 ERA) vs. R-Jr., Christian Trent (5-0, 2.18 ERA)
Sunday vs. Ole Miss
Jr., RHP Andrew Nelson (1-4, 4.44 ERA) vs. Jr., RHP Sam Smith (5-3, 2.32 ERA)
Live video, audio and stats on UKathletics.com
Cliff Hagan Stadium (3,000)
Parking at Cliff Hagan Stadium is FREE.
UK will utilize two lots: the C8 lot behind Shively Sports Center, and the Parking Structure 7 on the corner of Complex Drive and Jerry Claiborne Way. Both parking lots are only steps away from Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Fans who park in the PS7 lot will be given a parking value card to exit the structure free of charge. Value cards should be picked up at the baseball ticket booth prior to the fifth inning.
SINGLE GAME TICKET PRICES
$5 - General Admission Seating - Adults
$2 - General Admission Seating - Kids/Seniors
SEASON TICKET PRICES
$35 General Admission
$55 Reserved Seating