Kentucky freshman Zack Thompson (pictured) pitched six shutout innings as the Wildcats defeated Xavier on Wednesday, April 26. Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics
LEXINGTON, Ky. – With just a month remaining in the regular season and teams across the country jockeying for postseason position, No. 6 Kentucky comes off a most impressive week where it went 3-1 against Top 10 teams, entering the Top 10 in the major polls and rising to fifth in the latest NCAA RPI rankings.
Staring at the potential to be a national seed in the NCAA Tournament and host postseason games, the Wildcats took care of business in a midweek affair with a solid Xavier club and now set their sights on a three-game series with host South Carolina, which begins Friday night, April 28. The matchups can be seen on SEC Network Plus (online).
The Cats (29-13, 12-6 SEC) silenced any remaining doubters last week by outscoring No. 2 Louisville and No. 8 LSU by a combined score of 36-18, letting the relentless offense continue to wear down those two pitching staffs.
Junior infielder Riley Mahan earned SEC Player of the Week honors after hitting .688 and reaching base 14 times in 19 plate appearances for the week, which somewhat overshadowed impressive weeks from senior outfielder Zach Reks (.563), junior infielder Luke Becker (2 HR, 9 RBI), sophomore catcher Kole Cottam (2 HR) and senior first baseman Evan White (.444). Sophomore righty Justin Lewis threw his first career complete game, while sophomore Friday starter Sean Hjelle earned his sixth win.
UK enters the weekend two games ahead of Florida and three of South Carolina in the SEC East, and just one game back of Mississippi State in the race for the overall league title with 12 to play. The Gamecocks were dealt a harsh blow last weekend when Friday starter Clarke Schmidt was lost for the season with an elbow injury, but they still have a supremely talented pitching staff, a lineup due to get hot and a significant home field advantage in the beautiful Founders Park.
WEEKEND PITCHING ROTATIONS
UK – Sean Hjelle (So., RHP): 10 starts, 6-2, 4.02 ERA
S. Carolina – Will Crowe (Jr., RHP): 9 starts, 4-3, 3.25 ERA
UK – Zach Logue (Jr., LHP): 5-3 starts, 5-2, 4.20 ERA
S. Carolina – Adam Hill (So., RHP): 9 starts, 2-3, 2.46 ERA
UK – Justin Lewis (So., RHP): 10 starts, 6-2 2.97 ERA
South Carolina - TBA