No. 8 baseball hosts Georgia in three game SEC set

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Winners of its first two Southeastern Conference series tests of 2013, No. 8 Kentucky will host Georgia in a three-game set, starting on Friday at 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 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

All 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 on Friday and Sunday live on WLAP 630-AM and on Saturday on WWTF 1580-AM. All three games are also available in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.

Kentucky (19-5, 4-2 SEC) is coming off a pair of SEC series wins to open the year, claiming two games at Florida and picking up the series win over No. 14 Mississippi State last weekend. The Wildcats have now won nine of their last 12 SEC weekends, dating back to 2012. Last week, UK dropped the series opener after three errors in the sixth erased a lead and led to an 8-4 MSU win. UK swept a pair of one-run games in a doubleheader on Saturday, claiming the first game 3-2 and getting a walk-off single in the ninth in the finale, 4-3.

The Wildcats will send the weekend rotation of sophomore southpaw A.J. Reed (2-3, 2.94 ERA) on Friday, senior lefty Jerad Grundy (5-1, 1.99 ERA) on Saturday and junior left-hander Corey Littrell (3-0, 2.56 ERA) on Sunday. Georgia will counter with freshman righty Sean McLaughlin (3-2, 2.81 ERA) on Friday, junior southpaw Patrick Boling (1-3, 3.93 ERA) on Saturday and senior right-hander Bryan Benzor (1-1, 5.57 ERA) on Sunday.

A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed will be making his seventh Friday night start of 2013. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound southpaw has tossed 33.2 innings, walking only eight, allowing 37 hits and striking out 26. Reed has been victimized by two hard-luck Friday night losses his last two times out, as three-error innings led to decisive runs. In his career, Reed has appeared in 22 games with 11 starts, posting a 7-6 record and a 2.68 ERA, working 87.1 innings, walking only 17 and striking out 77. In his last start on Friday vs. No. 14 Mississippi State, Reed worked five+ innings, allowing seven hits and five runs – two earned – walking three and striking out five. Reed got into a bases-loaded, no-out jam to start the sixth with UK committing three errors in the frame, before UK’s bullpen allowed the three decisive runs to score. Reed worked 1.1 innings in relief at Georgia in 2012, allowing four hits and one run, walking one and striking out three. McLaughlin has made six Friday night starts for the Dogs, working 32 innings, allowing only 28 hits and 13 walks, striking out 24. In his last start vs. Alabama, McLaughlin worked five innings, allowing nine hits and five runs, walking four and striking out three.

Grundy, a native of Johnsburg, Ill., has made six Saturday starts for the Wildcats, tossing 40.2 innings, allowing only 27 hits and eight walks, striking out 38. In his two-year career, Grundy has an 11-4 record and a 3.21 ERA, tossing 126.1 innings, allowing only 106 hits and 44 walks, striking out 101. In his last start, Grundy was magnificent vs. No. 14 Mississippi State. He worked eight innings, allowing only six hits and two runs, striking out 10, starting the ninth inning before Hunter Renfroe homered to end his complete-game bid. Grundy made a start at No. 18 Georgia in 2012, working 2.2 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs, walking one and striking out one, as the Bulldogs got single runs in the first four innings, before UK rallied to win it in the late innings. Boling has appeared in nine games with six starts, tossing 36.2 innings, allowing 39 hits and 12 walks, striking out 40. Boling worked 5.1 innings vs. Alabama last weekend, allowing five hits and five runs – two earned – walking four and striking out one.

Littrell, the 2010 Kentucky High School Louisville Slugger Player of the Year out of Louisville’s Trinity High School, will be making his seventh series finale start of 2013. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound southpaw has worked 38.2 innings in 2013, allowing 34 hits and 14 walks, striking out 35. In his three-year career, Littrell has an 18-8 record and a 4.11 ERA, tossing 206 innings, walking 68 and striking out 173. In his last start on Saturday vs. Mississippi State, Littrell battled his command but only allowed two singles in a 4-3 win. Littrell worked seven innings, allowing three runs – one earned – walking a career-high six and striking out four. In his start vs. then No. 18 Georgia in 2012, Littrell took the ball in a rubber-match situation, picking up the win with 7.2 innings of one-run baseball. Benzor has appeared in nine games with one start, working 21 innings, allowing 24 hits and 15 runs, walking six and striking out eight. Last Sunday vs. Alabama, Benzor worked four innings, allowing five hits and one run, striking out one.

UK has been led by an offense that has hit .292, slugged .412 and reached base at a .404 clip, stealing 35 bases and belting 15 homers. On the mound, UK has a 2.52 ERA in 214 innings, allowing 203 hits and 58 walks, striking out 181. Defensively, UK has fielded .971 as a team, allowed only six steals, picked off six runners and turned 24 double plays.

Individually, junior J.T. Riddle leads the club with a .352 average, totaling five doubles, one triple, one homer and 17 RBI, sporting a 13-3 walk-strikeout ratio and stealing four bases. Reed has hit .341 with four doubles, two triples, six homers and 28 RBI, while Max Kuhn has a .310 average with seven doubles, one triple, one homer and 19 RBI, stealing five bases. Catcher Micheal Thomas has hit .291 with a double, homer and 14 RBI. All-America centerfielder Austin Cousino has batted .286 with five doubles, four homers and 16 RBI, swiping eight bases. Paul McConkey has a .273 average with three doubles, one triple, one homer and 11 RBI, while Zac Zellers has hit .263 with a double, homer and 11 RBI.

In the bullpen, junior right-hander Trevor Gott (2-0, 0.73 ERA) has seven saves in his seven chances and team-high 11 relief outings. Senior Walter Wijas (2-0, 0.68 ERA) has appeared in 11 games and worked 13.1 innings, allowing 12 hits and two walks, striking out 13. Freshman righties Zach Strecker (1-0, 1.23 ERA), Tyler Cox (0-0, 4.15 ERA) and Kyle Cody (2-1, 6.89 ERA) have each been weapons in the bullpen, while freshmen lefties Ryne Combs (0-0, 1.26 ERA) and Dylan Dwyer (1-0, 0.00 ERA) have each appeared in seven games.

Georgia (9-17, 0-6 SEC) has wins over Georgia Southern, Belmont, UAB, Liberty, Appalachian State and Clemson. The Bulldogs snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 5-3 win at Clemson on Wednesday night. Overall, UGA has hit .282, slugged .397 and reached base at a .351 clip, stealing 8-of-17 bases. Georgia has fielded .976, turned 26 double plays and picked off six runners. On the mound, UGA has a 4.80 ERA in 232.1 innings, walking 104 and striking out 165.

Individually, UGA has been led by third baseman Curt Powell, who has a .374 average with six doubles, one triple and 11 RBI. Nelson Ward has a .360 average with four doubles, three triples and 10 RBI, with shortstop Kyle Farmer – the USA Collegiate National Team shortstop – hitting .340 with 10 doubles, one triple one homer and 28 RBI. Jared Walsh has a .321 average with five doubles, one triple, two homers and 12 RBI, with slugging outfielder Hunter Cole batting .294 with three homers and 18 RBI. Catcher Brett DeLoach has a .235 average with three homers and 15 RBI, with Daniel Nichols batting .213 with a homer and seven RBI.

In the bullpen for the Dogs, Walsh (1-2, 2.35 ERA) has three saves in his 10 relief outings, striking out 16 in 15.1 innings. Jarrett Brown (0-0, 2.57 ERA) and Ross Ripple (1-0, 1.47 ERA) have appeared in a staff-high 13 games.

In the all-time series history with Kentucky dating back to 1950, Georgia leads 116-82-1. UK has won the last two series meetings, with wins in five of the last seven games. The Wildcats trails the series in games played in Lexington, 47-41-1.

Last year in Athens, Georgia won game one 7-6 and then UK took the next two, 9-8 and 11-2. UK was led during the series by Michael Williams who hit .462 with two doubles and six RBI. Riddle batted .455 vs. Georgia in 2012, with two doubles, a homer and three RBI. Reida added a.417 average vs. UGA, with Cousino slugging two homers and driving in six runs. After rain forced a cancellation of the series opener on Friday, the two teams split the DH on Saturday, with Georgia winning the opener, 7-6. Georgia has a 6-0 lead before the Wildcats rallied with six runs in the sixth inning for the final margin, 7-6. Taylor Rogers worked 5.1 innings, allowing six runs, with Sam Mahar suffering his first career loss in relief, allowing a run and getting two outs. UK evened up the series with a 9-8 win behind a four-RBI game from Williams, with Cameron Flynn belting a monster homer as UK erased a three-run hole with four runs in the fourth, one in the fifth and eighth, and three in the seventh. Grundy worked 2.2 innings, allowed seven hits and three runs in a start. Reed, Wijas, Gott, Alex Phillips and Tim Peterson each worked in relief, with Gott getting the save in the ninth. UK won the series on Sunday with an 11-2 result, getting four runs in the second, two in the fourth, fifth and ninth and a single run in the seventh. Littrell worked 7.2 innings of one-run ball on the mound, with UK getting eight runs on 11 hits in five innings off Georgia starter Michael Palazzone.

UK ranks throughout the SEC stats, checking in fifth in average (.292), fourth in slugging (.412), third in on-base percentage (.404), fourth in runs (171), eighth in hits (231), fourth in RBI (154), fifth in homers (15) and fifth in steals (eight). UK also ranks third in the SEC in ERA (2.52) and fifth in double plays turned (24). Individually, Riddle ranks 15th in average (.352) and 13th in on-base percentage (.455). Reed ranks fifth in slugging (.626), sixth in RBI (28), fourth in homers (six) and seventh in total bases (57). Cousino ranks eighth in runs scored (24), seventh in homers (four) and 10th in steals (eight). Kuhn ranks third in walks (22) and 12th in on-base percentage (.455). Grundy ranks 10th in ERA (1.99), fifth in opponent average (.189), fourth in innings pitched (40.2) and seventh in strikeouts (38). Littrell ranks sixth in innings pitched (38.2) and 10th in strikeouts (35).


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