Photo by Chet White/UK Athletics
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Winners of six of its last eight games, the Kentucky baseball team will open a crucial three-game series with the defending NCAA Champion, No. 8 Vanderbilt, with first pitch in the opener slated for Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The series will resume on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. before concluding on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The three games will be broadcast live on SEC Network+ and WatchESPN, with Dick Gabriel and Keith Madison voicing the action. The games will also be broadcast live on the UK Radio Network, available in Central Kentucky on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
The Wildcats will send the weekend rotation of sophomore right-hander Zack Brown (4-4, 2.81 ERA) on Friday, junior righty Dustin Beggs (6-2, 2.84 ERA) on Saturday and have not yet announced a starter for Sunday. Vanderbilt will counter with star junior righty Carson Fulmer (8-1, 1.52 ERA) on Friday, junior lefty Phillip Pfeifer (3-2, 3.18 ERA) on Saturday and junior right-hander Walker Buehler (3-1, 2.66 ERA) on Sunday.
A native of Seymour, Ind., Brown was named SEC Pitcher of the Week on Monday after hurling seven shutout innings at No. 5 Florida on Friday, blanking the league’s top run-scoring offensive unit. Brown has appeared in 11 games with 10 starts in 2015, tossing 67.1 innings and two complete games. He has hurled 67.1 frames and allowed 59 hits, walking 32 and striking out 53. In his career, Brown has a 5-5 record and a 3.66 ERA in 30 games and 15 starts, tossing 96 innings with 71 strikeouts. In 2015 in SEC play, Brown has a 3-3 record and a 3.28 ERA in 46.2 innings. Fulmer is charting a historic season, owning 101 strikeouts and just 28 walks in 71 innings, surrendering 45 hits and a .180 opponent average. Fulmer worked seven shutout innings in his last start on Friday vs. No. 14 Missouri, allowing just three hits and four walks, striking out 11.
Beggs, a native of Roswell, Ga., has made 11 weekend starts in 2015, owning a team-high 73 innings, allowing 57 hits and 16 walks, striking out 57, holding opponents to a .213 average. In SEC play, Beggs has a 4-1 record and a 2.96 ERA, tossing 48.2 innings with 37 strikeouts. Pfeifer has worked in 19 games with one start and a team-high five saves, working 51 innings, allowing 30 hits and 27 walks, striking out 67. Last weekend, Pfeifer worked seven innings in his first start of the year, allowing two runs on seven hits, walking two and striking out 13 in a 12-2 win over No. 14 Missouri.
Last Sunday, UK turned to senior righty Andrew Nelson (2-3, 4.62 ERA) for the second consecutive week. A native of Omaha, Neb., Nelson has appeared in 15 games with two starts and one save, hurling 30.1 innings, allowing 33 hits and six walks, striking out 22. Nelson has appeared in 35 games with 13 starts in his career, owning a 4-8 record and a 4.11 ERA in 100.2 innings, saving two games with 51 strikeouts. Last year, Nelson worked 5.2 innings in a loss at No. 5 Vanderbilt, allowing three runs and five hits. Buehler, a product of Lexington’s Henry Clay High School, has worked 50.2 innings, allowing 50 hits and 14 walks, striking out 56. In his last start on Sunday vs. No. 14 Missouri, Buehler allowed two runs over seven hits and two walks, striking out nine in a 5-2 Vanderbilt win, with the Dores tying the game with a run in the seventh and winning it with three in the bottom of the eighth.
Kentucky (25-18, 10-10 Southeastern Conference) is coming off a 10-inning loss at No. 3 Louisville on Tuesday, 2-1 in midweek action. The Wildcats got four shutout innings out of starter Logan Salow vs. the Cardinals and four no-hit innings out of Dylan Dwyer, with UL scoring a run in the ninth and a run in the 10th for the win. Last weekend, UK posted its third consecutive series win over the Gators, equaling the best run in series history and the longest since 1973-75. UK opened the series with its second consecutive SEC series-opening shutout led by Zack Brown. Brown hurled seven shutout frames, allowing only five hits – four singles – and two walks, striking out six, extending his shutout innings streak to 15.1 frames. UK then posted a 7-1 win over Florida to clinch the series on Saturday, getting back-to-back homers from Connor Heady and Greg Fettes and 8.1 innings from Dustin Beggs. Florida then salvaged the series on Sunday and kept UK from its first sweep over UF since 1993 with a 10-1 win in the finale, plating the final 10 runs of the game. The Wildcats posted their first consecutive series-opening shutouts in league play school history, after notching a 5-0 win over Tennessee a week prior.
The Wildcats have hit .296 as a team in 2015, with 240 runs scored in 43 games, slugging .400 and reaching base at a .382 clip, stealing 45 bases and belting 21 homers. UK has a 4.21 ERA as a team, with 382 hits and 133 walks allowed in 385 innings, striking out 304. Defensively, UK has fielded .965, turning 42 double plays and allowing 41-of-54 base stealers.
Junior leftfielder Ka’ai Tom has led the Wildcats at the plate with a .368 mark, belting 13 doubles, one triple, three homers and 44 RBI, stealing 14-of-14 bases. Junior centerfielder Kyle Barrett has hit .346 with 10 doubles, two triples, one homer and 21 RBI, swiping seven bases. Second baseman JaVon Shelby has belted five homers and hit .338 with nine doubles, two triples and 31 RBI, stealing four bases. First baseman Evan White has hit .325 with 10 doubles, one triple, one homer and 22 RBI. Outfielder Dorian Hairston has a .309 average with five doubles, two homers and 14 RBI. Catcher Zach Arnold has hit .293 with six doubles and 10 RBI, with catcher Greg Fettes belting four homers and driving in 14 runs. Third baseman Thomas Bernal has hit .279 with seven doubles, one homer and 23 RBI, with outfielder Storm Wilson hitting .250 with four doubles, two triples, one homer and 15 RBI, stealing 16 bases. Infielder Riley Mahan has a .241 average with a homer and eight RBI. Shortstop Connor Heady has charted a .239 mark with two homers and 11 RBI, with Marcus Carson adding a .224 mark with five steals and five RBI.
In relief, the Wildcats have been paced by a club-best 19 relief appearances from junior righty Zach Strecker (2-0, 2.86 ERA). Senior righty Spencer Jack (1-1, 4.61 ERA) has five saves in 17 games, with lefty Logan Salow (1-1, 6.20 ERA) totaling three saves in 18 games. Kyle Cody (3-4, 6.35 ERA), Dylan Dwyer (2-0, 2.49 ERA), Brad Schaenzer (0-0, 3.38 ERA), Andrew Nelson (2-3, 4.62 ERA), Zach Logue (2-2, 4.75 ERA) and Robert Zeigler (1-1, 7.04 ERA) have each appeared in double-digit games.
Vanderbilt (33-13, 15-6 SEC) is coming off a three-game sweep of Missouri last weekend and a midweek loss vs. Belmont. The Dores have hit .297 as a team, with a .451 slugging and a .390 on-base percentage, stealing 72 bases and belting 38 homers, scoring 314 runs in 46 games. VU has a 2.90 ERA as a team, in 424.2 innings, allowing 327 hits and 211 walks, striking out 460. Defensively, Vanderbilt has fielded .977 with 44 double plays turned, allowing only 18-of-35 stolen-base attempts.
The Commodores have been led by shortstop Dansby Swanson at the plate, who has hit .348 with 15 doubles, five triples, seven homers and 40 RBI, stealing 12 bases. First baseman Zander Wiel has a .329 average with 12 doubles, one triple, nine homers and 45 RBI, stealing eight bags. Switch-hitting outfielder Bryan Reynolds has hit .328 with 12 doubles, three triples, three homers and 35 RBI, stealing 13 bases. Outfielder Rhett Wiseman has a .305 average with 12 doubles, three triples, nine homers and 31 RBI, stealing nine bases. Ro Coleman has a .296 average with a homer and 17 RBI, with Jeren Kendall hitting .292 with three homers, 19 RBI and nine steals. Will Toffey has a .288 mark with two homers and 30 RBI, with Tyler Campbell batting .255 with 20 RBI and four steals.
In relief for Vanderbilt, Kyle Wright (4-1, 1.16 ERA) has appeared in 17 games with three starts, tossing 38.2 innings, allowing 26 hits and 18 walks, striking out 38. Ben Bowden (5-1, 2.73 ERA) has a save in 17 games, with 34 strikeouts in 26.1 innings. Ryan Johnson (4-0, 1.94 ERA), Jordan Sheffield (3-1, 3.20 ERA), Collin Snider (0-0, 3.55 ERA) and Tyler Ferguson (0-1, 8.76 ERA) have each appeared in double-digit games.
Kentucky leads the all-time series with Vanderbilt, 142-138-5, including a 71-52-1 in games played in Lexington. Vanderbilt has won five consecutive series meetings with Kentucky, with UK’s last win coming in 2009 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky: 25-18, 10-10 SEC
Vanderbilt: 33-13, 15-6 SEC
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change)
Friday, May 1 vs. No. 8 Vanderbilt 6:30 p.m. [SEC Network+]
Saturday, May 2 vs. No. 8 Vanderbilt 6:30 p.m. [SEC Network+]
Sunday, May 3 vs. No. 8 Vanderbilt 1 p.m. [SEC Network+]
Radio (UK Radio Network with Neil Price)
WLAP 630-AM in Central Kentucky, WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville, UKathletics.com
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Friday vs. No. 8 Vanderbilt
So., RHP Zack Brown (4-4, 2.81 ERA) vs. Jr., RHP Carson Fulmer (8-1, 1.52 ERA)
Saturday vs. No. 8 Vanderbilt
Jr., RHP Dustin Beggs (6-2, 2.84 ERA) vs. R-Jr., LHP Phillip Pfeifer (3-2, 3.18 ERA)
Sunday vs. No. 8 Vanderbilt
TBA vs. Jr., RHP Walker Buehler (3-1, 2.66 ERA)
Cliff Hagan Stadium (3,000)
Free gameday parking is available in the C-8 lot beyond rightfield or in the E lot adjacent to Cliff Hagan Stadium. The C-8 lot will be filled on a first come, first served basis. Once C-8 is filled, vehicles will be directed to park in the E lot next to Cliff Hagan Stadium. After the E lot is full, a limited amount of parking will be available in Parking Structure No. 7 on the ground floor. If you’re parking in PS#7, please exchange your ticket for a pink payment voucher at the ticket booth, prior to the end of the fourth inning. Additionally, overflow parking will be available in the smaller E lots close to Cooper Dr., as well as the C-6 lot at Commonwealth Stadium. All fans are asked to please follow the signage provided to the nearest parking location.
SINGLE GAME TICKET PRICES $5 - General Admission Seating - Adults $2 - General Admission Seating - Kids/Seniors