LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The University of Kentucky Wildcats (18-13, 4-7 SEC) arrive in Louisville Wednesday for a mid-week tilt against in-state rival and No. 5 ranked University of Louisville Cardinals (25-7, 14-1 ACC).
Louisville is fresh off a three-game series sweep of No. 25 Virginia, and the Cards are steamrolling through opponents at an unprecedented rate. Kentucky will start the first of a four-game road week, and battles their 15th top 25 program on the year with this game.
Interestingly, UK has five victories over top 25 opponents, No.1 LSU, No. 16 UC Santa Barbara, and No. 20 Mississippi State. Out of the last seven games the Cats have played, six of them were against a top five ranked program.
If you are not aware, these two schools do not like each other. The rivalry, mainly associated with the basketball programs, has spread to every meeting between the two universities in all athletic programs. The winner of this game gives their fans essential bragging rights over the other, a prize – in the minds of fans — that has become almost as important in the state of Kentucky as food itself.
“The Louisville-Kentucky rivalry is one of the best in college sports,” said Louisville Head Coach Dan McDonnell. “It’s the water cooler game of the year. Thursday, one fan base will proudly stand by their water cooler and brag about their team’s success. You have to enjoy that as a fan, a player, and a coach.”
Both teams are dangerous, with a matchup against two coaches — in Mcdonnell, and Kentucky’s Gary Henderson – whose styles are tailored to beat the other.
McDonnell is renowned for his team’s ability to steal bases and run the base paths with adept skill. Henderson is known for being one of the foremost coaches in the country at defending against stealing bases. It’s always an interesting event every time these two teams/coaches go head-to-head.
On The Mound:
UK has a 4.59 ERA, with six saves in 278.2 innings, walking 98 and striking out 223.
The weekend rotation of Zack Brown (2-3, 3.06 ERA), Dustin Beggs (3-2, 3.33 ERA) and Kyle Cody (2-3, 5.87 ERA) has been productive, and in relief junior Zach Strecker (2-0, 4.11 ERA) and senior Andrew Nelson (2-2, 4.40 ERA) both have made appearances in 13 games.
Senior Spencer Jack (1-0, 3.27 ERA) has tallied four saves in 12 games, while Logan Salow (1-1, 9.26 ERA) has a save over 12 games as well.
U of L has a superb freshman left-hander, with his 5-0 record; Brendan McKay has a 2.03 ERA and 55 strikeouts with only 13 walks in 40.0 IP.
MLB prospect Kyle Funkhouser (4-2), sports a 2.22 ERA, with 54 strikeouts and has been solid throughout the season, while Josh Rogers has posted a 5-1 record with 37 strikeouts and a 3.35 ERA.
Closer Zack Burdi has returned from an oblique injury to lock down one win, three saves, and seven strikeouts with his blazing fastball.
Drew Harrington (3-1) and Lincoln Henzman (3-0) have been solid in relief for the Cards all year.
At The Plate:
With a team batting average of .303 in 2015 (4th SEC), the Cats are sporting a .404 slugging percentage to go along with an on-base-percentage of .388. Kentucky has 40 stolen bases and has scored 184 runs.
Ka’ai Tom is batting .384 to lead the Wildcat hitters, and has two home runs with 30 RBIs.
Second baseman JaVon Shelby is batting .330 by means of seven doubles, one triple, two homers and 23 RBI. At the hot-corner, Thomas Bernal bats .317 with six doubles, one homer and 22 RBI.
Storm Wilson, who College Baseball Central featured earlier this year, is batting .250 and wreaking havoc on the base paths with six stolen bases.
Backstop Greg Fettes leads the Cats with three long balls, tallying 13 RBI and two doubles.
Louisville is a dangerous team at the plate. There is for all intents and purposes, no drop off in their six through nine holes in terms of production.
Sutton Whiting has been astral with his .390 batting average leading the team, and Corey Ray (.326), Nick Solak (.322), and McKay (.289) together have combined for 157 hits, 86 runs, 80 RBI, and 37 stolen bases. As a team Louisville has 58 stolen bases.
Tentative Pitching Matchups:
Wednesday at Louisville
Freshman righty Sean Leland vs. TBA
Schedule times are subject to change due to the threat of rain, however first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Jim Patterson Stadium.