LEXINGTON, Ky. - Coming off a midweek win over No. 15 Indiana, Kentucky will conclude its 2013 regular season with a three-game series at Missouri, with first pitch of the series opener slated for 7 p.m. ET on Thursday at Taylor Stadium. The series will resume on Friday at 7 p.m. ET and conclude on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET.
Kentucky (29-22, 10-17 Southeastern Conference) is in the midst of a race for the SEC Tournament, held May 21-27 in Hoover, Ala., at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. UK needs a win in the series to clinch a berth in the 12-team field. Sitting with a No. 27 NCAA RPI and the No. 6 strength of schedule after the Tuesday night win over Indiana, the Wildcats own 13 wins over top-41 RPI teams.
All three games will 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 Wildcats will send their weekend rotation of sophomore southpaw A.J. Reed (2-7, 3.81 ERA) to the mound on Thursday, freshman right-hander Kyle Cody (3-3, 4.82 ERA) on Friday and junior lefty Corey Littrell (5-5, 3.92 ERA). Missouri will counter with sophomore righty Brett Graves (1-5, 3.95 ERA) on Thursday, junior right-hander Eric Anderson (0-3, 3.98 ERA) on Friday and have yet to announce a starter on Saturday.
A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed will be making his 14th series-opening start of the year on Thursday. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder has worked 78 innings, allowing 91 hits and 13 walks, striking out 52. In his two-year career, Reed has appeared in 29 games with 18 starts, totaling a 7-10 record and a 3.28 ERA in 131.2 innings, walking 22 and striking out 103. In his last start on Saturday vs. No. 1 Vanderbilt, Reed worked five innings, allowing career-highs in hits (12) and runs (10), hurling 74 pitches. Graves, a 6-1, 173-pound freshman righty, has appeared in 13 games with 12 starts, tossing 66 innings, allowing 75 hits and 16 walks, striking out 29.
Cody, a 6-foot-7, 230-pounder, has appeared in 14 games with nine starts, including two consecutive SEC starts. Cody has worked 52.1 innings, allowing 54 hits and 16 walks, striking out 43. In his last start, Cody worked his fourth quality start of 2013, tossing six strong innings vs. No. 1 Vanderbilt, allowing eight hits and three runs, walking two and striking out two. Anderson, a 6-5, 226-pound junior out of Colorado, has appeared in nine games with three starts, earning one save and working 20.1 innings, allowing 28 hits and seven walks, striking out 13.
Littrell, a native of Louisville, Ky., has made 13 series-ending starts in 2013, working 87.1 innings, walking 31 and striking out a team-high 70. Littrell has had a decorated three-year career, appearing in 45 games with 42 starts, tossing 254.2 innings, walking 85 and striking out 208. In his last start on Sunday vs. No. 1 Vanderbilt, Littrell worked 6.2 innings, allowing eight hits and seven runs, walking two and striking out three on 98 pitches. Missouri has not announced a starting pitcher for Saturday, but options include Keaton Steele (5-3, 3.35 ERA) and its ace lefty junior Rob Zastryzny (2-9, 3.64 ERA).
The Wildcats have hit .257 as a team with a .366 slugging and a .363 on-base percentage, stealing 55 bases and belting 35 homers. Defensively, UK has fielded .971 with 58 double plays turned, picking off 12 runners and allowing only 29-of-50 steals. On the mound, UK has a 3.58 ERA in 462.1 innings, walking 133 and striking out 354.
Individually for UK, freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett leads the club with a .351 mark, adding four doubles, one triple, 14 RBI and four steals. A.J. Reed has a .291 average with eight doubles, two triples, 13 homers and 51 RBI, slugging .548 and reaching base at a .389 clip. J.T. Riddle has hit .286 with seven doubles, one triple, one homer and 19 RBI, with Austin Cousino batting .256 with 12 doubles, one triple, six homers and 25 RBI, stealing 13 bases and owning a .389 on-base clip. Max Kuhn has hit .251 with eight doubles, one triple, five homers and 29 RBI, stealing seven bases. Catcher Micheal Thomas has a .240 average with three homers and 20 RBI and senior Zac Zellers has hit .290 with three homers and 25 RBI, stealing seven bases.
In relief for the Wildcats, senior Walter Wijas (2-0, 1.27 ERA) has made a staff-high 26 appearances, allowing only 23 hits – 22 singles – in 28.1 innings. Junior Trevor Gott (4-1, 1.24 ERA) owns a single-season record 12 saves and has a record 23 in his career. Sophomore Chandler Shepherd (5-0, 3.17 ERA) has been a force in 23 games, tossing a bullpen-leading 48.1 innings. Freshmen Ryne Combs (0-0, 2.01 ERA), Zach Strecker (1-1, 2.35 ERA) and Dylan Dwyer (1-0, 3.86 ERA) have each appeared in at least 14 games.
Missouri (16-30, 8-19 SEC) is coming off a series loss at Alabama last weekend, picking up a win in the middle game of the series. The Tigers have hit .248 as a team in 2013, with 14 homers and 195 runs, slugging .327 and reaching base at a .342 clip, swiping 20 bases. Defensively, Missouri has fielded .962 with 30 double plays, picking off five runners and surrendering 47-of-63 stolen bases. On the mound, Missouri has a 4.04 ERA as a team, walking 138 and striking out 309 in 396.1 innings.
Individually, Missouri has been led by Dane Opel, who has a .317 average with four doubles, four triples, three homers and 27 RBI. Dylan Kelly has hit .294 with eight doubles, one homer and 26 RBI, while Dillon Everett has a .269 mark with four doubles, two triples, one homer and 10 RBI. Keaton Steele has batted .268 with four doubles, four homers and 22 RBI. Logan Pearson has hit .266 with a double, two triples, one homer and 15 RBI.
In the bullpen for Missouri, Jake Walsh (1-1, 4.35 ERA) has appeared in a team-high 27 games, working 31 innings. John Miles (0-2, 2.08 ERA) has two saves in 17 games, with Jace James (3-2, 2.85 ERA), Keaton Steele (5-3, 3.35 ERA), Alec Rash (2-1, 4.55 ERA) and Breckin Williams (0-3, 7.00 ERA) each appearing in double-digit games.
UK and Missouri will be meeting for just the second time in series history and the first since 1984. UK won the lone meeting, 11-4, coming at Cliff Hagan Stadium on March 19, 1984.