Cohen's Corner: UK heads to Knoxville

Boasting a sparkling new national ranking and fresh off a series victory over than No. 8 LSU, the University of Kentucky baseball team takes to the road and Knoxville, Tn., home to the nation's 12th ranked Tennessee Volunteers for a weekend series.

Yesterday, the Wildcats defeated cross-town rival, Xavier, 13-3, while Tennessee won a pair of games over Tennessee Tech and Hartford.

"It's always tough to go on the road in this league, it doesn't really matter where you go," UK Baseball coach, John Cohen said. "Tennessee has a terrific club and they're going to want to prove something after losing two to Mississippi State last week."

The weekend series should be an interesting one with senior left-hander Aaron Tennyson (4-1, 3.22) getting the start against southpaw James Adkins (4-2, 2.41) on Friday night in a tough pitching dual that should be fun to watch. The Wildcat pitcher is coming off an outstanding performance against LSU, where he gave up only two runs.

"They have some great arms," Cohen commented. "(James) Adkins is one of the best left-handers in the country and he's somebody we're going to have to deal with."

Friday evening's match-up and all the series games can be heard locally at WXRA 1580-AM or online at www.UKathletics.com.

"I think we're ready," Cohen said of the roadtrip. "We have a lot of guys who went through the SEC last year and have that experience so they know what to expect. That's the biggest difference between our club this year and last year. We have that experience now and we're not relying on freshmen to win road games for us in the SEC."

Kentucky has played the Vols more than any other opponent in history. The two teams have met 278 times since 1905. This year's game against Tennessee should be especially difficult for Kentucky, following up a top ten home stand against LSU.

"I think every time we line up against another SEC team we're facing a team that is capable of beating anybody in the country," Cohen added. "It goes with the territory, but it's also what makes this the best conference in college baseball. We love the challenge that every game brings and we're going to go try to win another series this weekend."

WEEKEND PREVIEW
(Source: UKAA)

Records
Kentucky – 18-4, 2-1 SEC
Tennessee – 16-5, 0-0 SEC

Rankings
Kentucky – No. 26 (Collegiate Baseball)
Tennessee – No. 12 (Baseball America)

Games at Knoxville, Tenn. (times Eastern)
Lindsey Nelson Stadium - 4,000
Friday, March 24 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 25 at 2 p.m.
Sunday, March 26 at 2 p.m.

Projected Pitching Match-Ups
Friday
LHP Aaron Tennyson, Sr. (4-1, 3.22) vs. LHP James Adkins, So. (4-2, 2.41)

Saturday
LHP Craig Snipp, Sr. (4-0, 1.69) vs. RHP Craig Cobb, Jr. (4-0, 1.75)

Sunday
RHP Greg Dombrowski, So. (4-0, 1.26) vs. RHP Josh Lindblom, Fr. (4-1, 2.75)

Projected UK Line-Up (Avg-HR-RBI)
C (L) Sean Coughlin (.323-6-19)
-or- (R) Justin Scutchfield (.212-0-7)
1B (R) Ryan Strieby (.395-5-31)
2B (R) John Shelby (.234-3-19)
3B (L) Michael Bertram (.351-2-14)
-or- Matt McKinney (.424-0-8)
SS (S) Ryan Wilkes (.333-0-10)
LF (R) Shaun Lehmann (.191-2-7)
CF (L) Antone DeJesus (.370-2-19)
RF (R) Collin Cowgill (.347-5-22)
DH (L) Billy Grace (.345-4-16)
-or- (R) Brian Hastings (.256-0-10)

WHY TO WATCH OUT FOR KENTUCKY

  • Kentucky has matched the best start in the 102-game history of Wildcat baseball at 18-4. The 2000 team also started 18-4 when UK finished 38-20-1. Kentucky has won nine of its last 10.

  • The Wildcats lead the SEC in eight offensive categories, including runs with an average of 9.77 per game. UK is in the top three in the league in 10 of 14 categories.

  • Kentucky has seven starters batting better than .320. The lone starters not hitting at least .300 are John Shelby, a second-team preseason All-American who went .344-10-52 last season, and Shaun Lehmann, who was third-team All-SEC last year after hitting .352 with five homers and 20 doubles.

  • UK starters have an SEC best 13 quality starts (six or more innings, three or fewer runs) have not allowed more than five runs in any outing. By comparison, Kentucky had nine quality starts all of last season.

  • Kentucky leads the SEC in not allowing free passes to first base. The Wildcats have walked only 37 batters in 22 games, an average of fewer than two per outing.

  • Kentucky has led in all four of its losses this season. The Wildcats have been within one run, tied or leading as late as the eighth inning in all three as well.

    QUICK NOTES

  • At No. 26 in the latest Collegiate Baseball poll, Kentucky is ranked for the first time since April 2000. It is the highest ranking for UK since being No. 20 in March 2000.

  • Ryan Strieby is the SEC Player of the Week after leading UK to a series win over No. 8 LSU. He is the second Wildcat to earn the honor this year, joining Sean Coughlin who did so two weeks ago.

  • Strieby ranks in the top six in the SEC in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, hits, runs, doubles, home runs RBIs and total bases. He is the only SEC player in the top 10 in each of the triple crown categories of batting average, home runs and RBIs.

  • Strieby has a team-high 10-game hitting streak, two short of sophomore Antone DeJesus's season best streak of 12.

  • Greg Dombrowski has not walked a batter in 35.2 innings this year and in 53.1 innings dating back to last year. His overall streak is the longest in the nation, just beating Cal State-Fullerton's Wes Roemer, who has a streak of 52.2 innings.

  • Kentucky has walked an SEC-high 142 times while being hit by 39 pitches as well. In fact, UK has scored 75 runs from players who reached via BB or HBP. That number is nearly as high as its opponent run total for the season of 79.

  • Michael Bertram has struck out just once in his last 44 at bats.


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