LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Kentucky baseball team will return from a road series at Arkansas for a five-game homestand, starting with a midweek tilt vs. Western Kentucky on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Tuesday game is the finale of a two-game series with the Hilltoppers, who won the first meeting in Bowling Green, 12-3 on March 24.
The game will be live on SEC Network+, with Dick Gabriel and Keith Madison voicing the action. The game will also be on the UK Radio Network, available on WLAP 630-AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky will turn to senior right-hander Andrew Nelson (2-2, 4.40 ERA) to start for the Wildcats for his first start of the year and the 11th of his career. Nelson has appeared in 13 games in relief for UK in 2015, owning a save in 14.1 innings, allowing six walks, 19 hits and eight strikeouts. In his career, Nelson has a 4-7 record and a 4.01 ERA in 32 games, owning two saves in 89.2 innings, allowing 99 hits and 26 walks, striking out 45. Sophomore right-hander Sam Higgs, a native of Henderson County, will make the start for the Hilltoppers on Tuesday. Higgs has worked eight innings in 2015, allowing 13 hits and nine runs, walking four and striking out three, with eight of his 13 hits going for extra bases.
Last week, Kentucky (19-5) embarked on a four-game road swing that included a three-game series loss at Arkansas and a matchup with No. 5 Louisville that was postponed. UK suffered a 5-3 loss in the series opener at Arkansas on Friday. Arkansas built a 4-1 lead, before UK rallied in the seventh inning to cut the lead to 4-3, with Zach Jackson pitching the Razorbacks to his fourth save of the year in the opener. UK then mounted a furious offensive rally to even the series on Saturday, beating Arkansas 16-4, the largest UK win in the series. UK got eight strong innings from Dustin Beggs, who allowed just one earned run, with Ka’ai Tom charting five RBI and Dorian Hairston and JaVon Shelby each launching homers. In the finale, UK trailed 7-0, after the Razorbacks scored four runs in the first three innings. Shelby belted his second homer in as many days to spoil freshman Keaton McKinney’s complete-game shutout, with the righty getting the final out in the 7-3 win.
UK’s nine-game road swing to open SEC play has been played in front of a total of 81,163, an average of 9.018 per night. UK has opened conference play on the road at No. 7 South Carolina, No. 1 LSU and Arkansas.
The Wildcats have been paced in 2015 by a potent offensive attack that ranks fourth in the SEC with a .302 average. UK has a .405 slugging percentage and a .390 on-base percentage, belting 57 doubles, eight triples, 17 homers and scoring 206 runs in 34 games, swiping 40 bases. On the mound, UK has a 4.62 team ERA with six saves in 303.2 innings, walking 106 and striking out 239.
At the plate, junior outfielder Ka’ai Tom has a .374 average, with 10 doubles, one triple and two homers, totaling 37 RBI and 11 steals. Junior centerfielder Kyle Barrett has hit .364 with seven doubles, two triples and one homer, with 18 RBI and seven steals. Second baseman JaVon Shelby has a .347 average with eight doubles, one triple, four homers and 28 RBI, with Dorian Hairston totaling a .321 mark with three doubles, two homers and 10 RBI. First baseman Evan White has hit. 308 with five doubles, one triple, one homer and 16 RBI. Third baseman Thomas Bernal has hit .305 with six doubles, one homer and 22 RBI. Shortstop Riley Mahan has hit .280 with a homer and eight RBI, catcher Zach Arnold has a .267 mark with five doubles and nine RBI, with Storm Wilson charting a .253 mark with a homer, 12 RBI and six steals. Shortstop Connor Heady has hit .250 with a homer and nine RBI, outfielder Marcus Carson has five steals and catcher Greg Fettes has belted three homers with 13 RBI.
UK’s weekend rotation has involved sophomore right-hander Zack Brown (2-4, 3.57 ERA), junior righty Dustin Beggs (4-2, 3.02 ERA) and junior right-hander Kyle Cody (2-4, 6.37 ERA). In relief, senior Spencer Jack (1-0, 3.09 ERA) has four saves, with Zack Strecker (2-0, 3.71 ERA) leading the team with 14 relief outings. Andrew Nelson (2-2, 4.40 ERA), Zach Logue (1-1, 5.18 ERA), Logan Salow (1-1, 9.26 ERA) and Dylan Dwyer (2-0, 2.65 ERA) have each appeared in double-digit games.
Western Kentucky (16-16) is coming off a series loss at Conference USA power Southern Miss over the weekend. Southern Miss won the final two games of the series after WKU rode a strong performance on the mound from John Harman and Kevin Elder to a 5-0 win in the opener.
The Hilltoppers have hit .280 as a team in 2015, with 172 runs in 32 games, owning a .414 slugging and a .349 on-base percentage, stealing 29 bases. Defensively, WKU has a .961 fielding percentage, turning 27 double plays and nabbing 17 runners stealing. On the mound, WKU sports a 4.84 ERA in 282.2 innings, allowing 301 hits and 123 walks, striking out 203.
WKU has been led at the plate by Leiff Clarkson, who has hit .354 with five doubles. Anderson Miller has stared at the plate with a .330 mark with eight doubles, two triples, eight homers and 20 RBI. Danny Hudzina has hit .323 with three doubles and four homers 25 RBI, Phillip Diedrick has a .318 clip with five doubles, three homers and 12 RBI and Kaleb Duckworth has hit .286 with five bombs and 17 RBI.
In relief, WKU has been led by Tate Glasscock (1-1, 3.78 ERA) has appeared in a team-high 15 games, with one save. Ben Morrison (1-0, 3.38 ERA) has four saves in 13 games, with Brennan Pearson (0-3, 2.95 ERA) and Kevin Elder (1-0, 1.14 ERA) each nothing two saves.
Western Kentucky: 16-16
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) — Lexington, Ky.
Tuesday, April 13 * vs. Western Kentucky * 6:30 p.m.
SEC Network+ with Dick Gabriel and Keith Madison
SEC Network+ and WatchESPN
Radio (UK Radio Network with Neil Price)
Tuesday: WLAP 630-AM in Central Kentucky, UKathletics.com
Live audio and stats on UKathletics.com
Tentative Pitching Matchups
Tuesday vs. Western Kentucky
Sr., RHP Andrew Nelson (2-2, 4.40 ERA) vs. So., RHP Sam Higgs (1-0, 10.12 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
SEASON TICKET PRICES
$35 General Admission
$55 Reserved Seating