LEXINGTON, Ky. - Winners of two consecutive games, Kentucky returns to its grueling slate against ranked foes, hosting No. 1 Vanderbilt for a three-game series, with first pitch on Friday slated for 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The series will resume on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET and conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
Two of the three games will be televised, with the first game live on CSS and ESPN3.com and the finale televised live on Fox Sports South, CKWYT-TV (Central Kentucky) and WYMO-TV (Louisville) by the UK IMG Network, with Dick Gabriel, Doug Flynn and Brian Milam on the call. All three games will also be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans can hear the games live on WLAP 630-AM in Central Kentucky, WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville and online at UKathletics.com.
The meeting between the two teams will mark the third consecutive year that Kentucky and Vanderbilt have met in a weekend series with one of the two teams ranked No. 1. In 2011, Vanderbilt came in Cliff Hagan ranked No. 1 and in 2012, UK traveled to Nashville as the NCAA’s top-ranked club. Vanderbilt also came to Lexington in 2007 as the No. 1 team. The Commodores enter the series owning the best eight-week record in Southeastern Conference history, a staggering 21-2 mark.
The series will also mark a matchup of the two teams that lead the NCAA in drafted players on its 2013 rosters. Vanderbilt paces the nation with 18 drafted players on its team, with UK ranking second with 15 players drafted on its 2013 roster.
Kentucky (28-19, 10-14 SEC) is coming off a win over No. 14 Arkansas on Saturday to conclude a series against the NCAA’s top pitching staff. UK then posted a 4-1 win over Wright State in midweek action on Tuesday, getting a strong start from senior Jerad Grundy, making his first career midweek appearance.
The Wildcats will send the weekend rotation of sophomore southpaw A.J. Reed (2-6, 2.84 ERA) to the mound on Friday, freshman right-hander Kyle Cody (3-2, 4.86 ERA) on Saturday and junior southpaw Corey Littrell (5-4, 3.46 ERA) on Sunday. Vanderbilt will counter with two of the top starters in college baseball on Friday and Saturday, as junior southpaw Kevin Ziomek (9-2, 2.03 ERA) starts on Friday and sophomore star righty Tyler Beede (12-0, 1.73 ERA), looks to continue wins in each of his 2013 starts. Junior righty T.J. Pecoraro (3-1, 3.38 ERA), the Vanderbilt Friday-night starter against UK in 2012, will start on Sunday.
A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed will be making his 13th start of the year on Friday, working 73 innings, allowing 79 hits and 13 walks, striking out 51. In his last start on Friday vs. No. 14 Arkansas, Reed worked 7.1 strong innings, allowing seven hits and two runs, striking out five as the hard-luck loser of a 2-1 game.
Ziomek has made 12 weekend starts for VU in 2013, tossing 88.2 innings, allowing 53 hits and walking 29, striking out 88. In his last start, Ziomek worked eight strong innings at No. 15 South Carolina, allowing eight hits and one run, striking out four. Ziomek last worked against UK in a Sunday starter in 2012 in Nashville, working 5.2 shutout innings, allowing three hits and four walks, striking out eight.
UK CAREER VS. ZIOMEK
Zellers: 1-for-1, BB
Cousino: 0-for-3, 2 SO
Reed: 0-for-3, 2 SO
Reida: 0-for-3, 2 SO
Riddle: 0-for-1, sac bunt
The 6-7, 230-pound Cody, has made 13 appearances and eight starts in 2013, working 46.1 innings, allowing 46 hits and 14 walks, striking out 41. Last Saturday, Cody made his first career SEC start vs. No. 14 Arkansas, working seven strong innings, allowing seven hits and three runs – one earned – walking three and striking out five. Cody allowed just three runs in the first inning – as the UK defense made two errors – before settling in to fire six straight shutout frames.
Beede, the NCAA’s top-ranked sophomore in the preseason, has made 12 starts in 2013, winning all 12 games. Beede has tossed 78 innings, allowing just 45 hits and 44 walks, striking out 81. In his last start, Beede worked 6.1 innings vs. No. 15 South Carolina, allowing two hits and two runs, walking four and striking out seven. In 2012 vs. UK, Beede worked seven shutout innings, allowing four hits and four walks, striking out eight.
UK CAREER VS. BEEDE
Zellers: 1-for-3, SO
Reida: 0-for-3, SO
Reed: 0-for-2, BB, SO
Riddle: 0-for-1, 2 HBP, 0-1 SB
Cousino: 1-for-3, 2B, BB, SO
A native of Louisville, Ky., Littrell has made 12 starts in 2013, working 80.2 innings, allowing 75 hits and 29 walks, striking out 67. In his last start vs. No. 14 Arkansas on Saturday, Littrell worked eight innings, allowing nine hits and five runs, walking two and striking out seven. In his three-year career, Littrell has made 44 appearances and 41 starts, owning a 20-12 record and a 4.14 ERA, tossing 248 innings, walking 83 and striking out 205. In 2012 at Vanderbilt, Littrell worked 5.1 innings, allowing six hits and one run, walking two and striking out four.
Pecoraro has appeared in seven games with five starts in 2013, tossing 21.1 innings, allowing 16 hits and 11 walks, striking out 12. In his last SEC start vs. No. 16 Mississippi State on April 28, Pecoraro worked five innings, allowing four hits and one run, walking three and striking out two. In 2012 vs. UK in Nashville, Pecoraro worked 1.2 innings, allowing five hits and four runs, walking four and striking out two.
UK CAREER VS. PECORARO
Cousino: 2-for-2, HR, 2 RBI, 1-1 SB
Riddle: 0-for-1, SO
Zellers: 0-for-0, BB
The Wildcats have been paced by an offense that has hit .256 with a .364 slugging and a .364 on-base percentage. UK has belted 30 homers and stolen 51 bases. On the mound, UK has a 3.31 ERA in 426.1 innings, walking 123 and striking out 342. Defensively, UK has fielded .971 with 49 double plays, allowing 24-of-39 steals, picking off 10 runners.
Individually, freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett leads the club with a .359 average, totaling four doubles, one triple and 13 RBI. A.J. Reed has hit .295 with eight doubles, two triples, 11 homers and 48 RBI. Junior J.T. Riddle has hit .285 with seven doubles, one triple, one homer and 19 RBI, stealing six bases. Senior Zac Zellers has a .253 average with three doubles, three homers and 25 RBI, while sophomore Austin Cousino has batted .243 with 11 doubles, one triple, six homers and 25 RBI, stealing 12 bases and getting hit by 20 pitches. Max Kuhn has hit .241 with eight doubles, one triple, three homers and 26 RBI.
In the bullpen for UK, senior righty Walter Wijas (2-0, 0.68 ERA) leads the team with 24 relief outings, tossing 26.2 innings and allowing only 20 hits. Junior Trevor Gott (4-1, 1.29 ERA) has 11 saves in 21 outings, striking out 33 in 28 innings. Sophomore Chandler Shepherd (4-0, 3.15 ERA) has appeared in 21 games with one start, working 45.2 innings. Freshmen Ryne Combs (0-0, 1.37 ERA), Zach Strecker (1-1, 2.40 ERA) and Dylan Dwyer (1-0, 4.38 ERA) have each appeared in at least 10 games in relief.
Vanderbilt (42-6, 21-2 SEC) is coming off a two-game sweep at No. 15 South Carolina last weekend, with the third game washed out. In midweek action, the Dores picked up a 5-2 win over Presbyterian College on Wednesday. As a team, VU has hit a SEC-leading .315 with 93 doubles, 15 triples, 32 homers and 314 RBI, stealing 106 bases. On the mound, Vandy has a 2.22 ERA in 432 innings, allowing just 319 hits and walking 194, striking out 391, with its opponents hitting only .209. Defensively, Vanderbilt has fielded .978, turning 38 double plays and picking off nine runners, allowing just 28-of-45 steals attempts.
The Commodores have been led at the plate by All-America speedster Tony Kemp, who has hit .391 with 11 doubles, five triples, 25 RBI and 25 steals. Senior outfielder Mike Yastrzemski has a .333 average with 13 doubles, two triples, three homers and 33 RBI, swiping 16 bases. Third baseman Vince Conde has a .322 average with 14 doubles, six homers and 35 RBI. Outfielder Connor Harrell has a .317 average with nine doubles, three triples, eight homers and 53 RBI. Shortstop Jack Lupo has hit .315 with seven doubles and 21 RBI, stealing 15-of-17 bases. Strong-armed catcher Spencer Navin has batted .307 with four doubles, four homers and 26 RBI, stealing seven bags. Xavier Turner has a .303 mark with five doubles, 23 RBI and 12 steals, with first baseman Conrad Gregor batting .288 with nine doubles, two homers, 32 RBI and 15 steals.
In relief for Vandy, closer Brian Miller (5-0, 1.08 ERA) leads the SEC in saves with 13, working 41.2 innings, allowing 31 hits and seven walks, striking out 35. Carson Fulmer (1-0, 2.84 ERA) has appeared in 21 games with four saves, striking out 34 in 31.2 innings. Jared Miller (2-1, 2.41 ERA) has appeared in 18 games and worked 18.2 innings, while Walker Buehler (3-1, 2.41 ERA) and Steven Rice (2-0, 3.68 ERA) have each appeared in at least 10 games.
UK leads the all-time series with Vanderbilt, 141-133-5, including a 71-49-1 all-time mark in games played in Lexington. VU has won three consecutive series meetings between the two teams, with UK’s last series win coming in 2009 in Lexington.
In the last meeting between the two teams, UK won the opener, 5-2, before the Dores rebounded to claim the final two games of the series in Nashville in 2012. In the opener, Vanderbilt starter TJ Pecoraro allowed four UK runs in the first two innings, with UK starter Taylor Rogers working into the sixth inning with two runs allowed. Alex Phillips got the final 10 outs of the game for the save, with Austin Cousino going 3-for-5 with a homer. VU got a strong 3.2 relief innings from 2013 closer Brian Miller. In the second game, Vanderbilt owned a 3-0 lead entering the eighth inning before UK rallied with three runs in the eighth to even the game. Vanderbilt then plated the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning for a 4-3 win. UK starter Jerad Grundy worked 5.2 innings, allowing five hits and three runs, with UK using Walter Wijas, Sam Mahar, Chandler Shepherd and Trevor Gott in relief. Tyler Beede worked seven dominating innings in his breakout start of 2012, allowing four hits and four walks, striking out eight. VU reliever Will Clinard picked up the win, with Drew VerHagen saving his first game of the year. In the finale, the two teams battled in a 1-1 game entering the bottom of the eighth inning, before a Connor Harrell grand slam lifted the Dores to a 6-1 win. Kevin Ziomek worked 5.2 shutout innings, walking four and striking out eight, scattering three hits. Corey Littrell started for UK, working 5.1 innings and allowing just one run.