LEXINGTON, Ky. (5/20/13) – For the first time in 14 years, Kentucky will be making back-to-back Southeastern Conference Tournament berths, drawing six-seed Ole Miss in the opener of the tournament on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. ET at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
Kentucky (30-24, 11-19 Southeastern Conference) earned the No. 11 seed in the nation’s best conference tournament. The Wildcats will face the Rebels for the fourth time in 2013, claiming two of three games over Ole Miss in Oxford, April 25-27. Last season, UK and Ole Miss also opened the SEC Tournament with the first game of the day, with UK advancing with the win.
The first round of the 2013 SEC Tournament will be played as a play-in game, single-elimination format to advance to the double-elimination round, starting on Wednesday. Top-four seeds Vanderbilt, LSU, Arkansas and South Carolina earned byes on Tuesday.
The Wildcats will send senior southpaw Jerad Grundy (6-5, 4.75 ERA) to the mound on Tuesday to face the Rebels for the second time in 2013. Grundy has made 13 starts – 11 weekend starts – tossing 77.2 innings, walking just 20 and striking out 60. Over his last two starts, Grundy has a 1-0 record and a 1.64 ERA, allowing just nine hits and two walks in 11 innings. In his last start, Grundy posted a win over No. 15 Indiana last Tuesday, working six strong innings, allowing just four hits and one run, walking two and striking out two. In his decorated two-year career, Grundy has made 29 starts and posted a 12-8 record and a 4.24 ERA, striking out 123 in 163.1 innings. In his two starts vs. Ole Miss in his career, Grundy has a 0-2 record and a 13.06 ERA, allowing 15 runs in 10.1 innings. In 2013, Grundy suffered a loss on Friday at Ole Miss, surrendering nine hits and 12 runs in 5.2 innings. Ole Miss has yet to announce a starting pitcher, using the rotation of Mike Mayers-Sam Smith-Bobby Wahl on the final weekend of the regular season.
UK is coming off a series loss at Missouri over the weekend, falling in the first two games, before rebounding to post a 5-1 win over the Tigers to end the regular season.
Kentucky has hit .256 as a team, slugging .363 and reaching base at a .361 clip. UK has belted 36 homers and stolen 56 bases. Defensively, UK has fielded a strong .973, turning 58 double plays and surrendering just 29-of-51 steal attempts. On the mound, UK has a 3.56 ERA, allowing a .333 on-base percentage and a .363 slugging mark, striking out 370 and walking just 144 in 487.1 innings.
UK has been led offensively by freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett, who has hit .352 to rank 10th in the SEC and second among SEC freshmen, just behind potential NCAA Freshman of the Year Alex Bregman. Junior J.T. Riddle has hit .284 with seven doubles, two triples, one homer and 20 RBI, stealing six bases. Slugger A.J. Reed has batted .281 with eight doubles, two triples, 13 homers and 52 RBI, ranking third in the league in RBI. Austin Cousino has hit .251 with 12 doubles, one triple, six homers and 27 RBI, stealing 13 bags. Max Kuhn has hit .247 with nine doubles, five homers and 29 RBI, stealing seven bags. Catcher Micheal Thomas has hit .246 with three homers and 21 RBI.
In relief for UK, senior Walter Wijas (2-1, 1.45 ERA) has appeared in a staff-best 27 games, working 31 innings and allowing 29 singles. Junior Trevor Gott (4-1, 1.20 ERA) has a school-record 12 saves in 30 innings, walking five and striking out 35. Chandler Shepherd (5-0, 2.89 ERA) has been a force in his 25 appearances, tossing a strong 53 innings, allowing 48 hits and 17 walks, striking out 37. 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 10 games in relief.
Ole Miss (36-20, 15-15 SEC) has hit .278, with a .369 slugging a .361 on-base percentage, belting 23 homers and stealing 43 bases. Defensively, the Rebels had fielded .970, turning 49 double plays and allowing just 26-of-53 steals. On the mound, Ole Miss has a strong 3.15 ERA, walking 202 and striking out 403 in 503 innings.
The Rebels have been led at the plate by star catcher Stuart Turner, a laser-armed backstop who thwarts opponents running games. He has hit .377 with 15 doubles, one triple, five homers and 47 RBI. Third sacker Andrew Mistone has a .320 average with 10 doubles and 33 RBI, with centerfielder Austin Anderson batting .296 with eight doubles, three homers and 37 RBI. First baseman Preston Overbey has a .283 average with eight doubles, five homers and 36 RBI, with outfielder Will Jamison batting .281 with a homer and 16 RBI. Standout leftfielder and leadoff man, senior Tanner Mathis, has hit .272 after a blistering weekend against LSU pitching, with 13 doubles and a 32-17 walk-strikeout ratio.
In the bullpen, Ole Miss has been paced by closer Brett Huber (3-2, 1.59 ERA), who has 12 saves in 22.2 innings, allowing just 14 hits and walking 17, striking out 26. Tanner Bailey (4-1, 2.65 ERA) has appeared in a staff-best 27 games, with three saves, striking out 36 in 37.1 innings. Aaron Greenwood (3-4, 2.98 ERA) has appeared in 24 games and worked 42.1 innings. Lefty Matt Denny (2-1, 2.18 ERA) has appeared in 20 games, striking out 22 in 20.2 innings.
Ole Miss leads the all-time series with UK, 43-30, with the series tied 1-1 in neutral site meetings. UK has won five of the last seven meetings between the two teams, claiming series victories in 2012 and 2013 and picking up a SEC Tourney win in 2012.
In the series with Ole Miss in 2013, UK posted a 3-2 win on Thursday night as part of the ESPNU SEC Thursday Night Game of the Week. UK got a solo homer from Austin Cousino off Bobby Wahl in the first inning for an early lead, then falling behind after two unearned runs in the bottom of the seventh. UK rallied with two runs in the top of the eighth inning, getting clutch RBI from Cousino and J.T. Riddle. Chandler Shepherd worked 2.1 innings for the win for an exhausted UK bullpen that worked 18 innings at Western Kentucky just 40 hours earlier and then traveled back to Lexington to leave the next morning for Oxford. Wahl worked seven innings for Ole Miss, allowing four hits and one run. Aaron Greenwood took the loss with two decisive runs in the eighth. Ole Miss bounced back to even the series with an 11-5 win in the second game, getting nine runs off UK starter Jerad Grundy. Mike Mayers worked six innings, allowing just one hit and three runs – one earned – walking three and striking out eight. Stuart Turner led the Rebels with four runs on a 2-for-3 game, blasting a homer. In the rubber match UK got a strong start from junior Corey Littrell who hurled eight innings and UK took a 5-3 lead into the ninth inning after three runs over the seventh and eighth. Closer Trevor Gott battled through a pair of hits and a run to pick up his 10th save, with UK getting a clutch game-tying homer from Greg Fettes in the seventh inning. Sam Smith worked for Ole Miss, allowing just two hits and two runs in 4.2 innings.
In the meeting in the SEC Tournament opener in 2012, UK posted a 2-0 win over the Rebels to set up a strong run in the tournament. A.J. Reed was a force at the plate and one the mound, going 4-for-4 with a homer and working 5.2 shutout innings in a start. Taylor Rogers picked up a 3.1 inning save, allowing just two hits and no runs. Bobby Wahl started for the Rebels, allowing two runs in six innings.
The Wildcats enter the SEC Tournament owning a No. 38 RPI, after falling 11 points on the final weekend during a series loss at Missouri. UK has 13 wins over top-50 teams in the RBI, including series wins over Michigan State (39), at Florida (26), at Ole Miss (19) and vs. Mississippi State (10). UK also has midweek wins over No. 14 Indiana, No. 13 Louisville and No. 29 Austin Peay.
UK ranks throughout the SEC stats, with Kyle Barrett ranking 10th in average (.352) and second among SEC freshmen. A.J. Reed ranks ninth in slugging (.524), third in RBI (52) and fourth in homers (13). Austin Cousino leads the league with 21 HBP, also ranking 13th in steals. Max Kuhn ranks third in the SEC in walks (36). Trevor Gott ranks fifth in the SEC with 12 saves, with Walter Wijas checking in ninth in appearances (27).
Information provided by Brent Ingram (UK Athletics)
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