Kentucky opened conference play this year with impressive series victories over two top-25 opponents in LSU and Tennessee. But last weekend disappointing pitching performances cost the Wildcats, as they dropped two out of three games to the Auburn Tigers.
Kentucky regained a little momentum with a dramatic walk-off win over intra-state rival Louisville on Wednesday night, and they hope to carry that momentum into this weekend's series against the defending SEC Champions.
Florida, on the other hand, is coming off of a loss to North Florida on Tuesday.
Centerfielder Antone DeJesus, who missed all three games last weekend against Auburn due to shoulder soreness, returned to action on Wednesday night only to deliver the game winning single in the bottom of the ninth. With the Wildcats offensive unit at full strength, this weekend's series against the Gators should come down to pitching.
Injuries to would-be weekend starters Scott Green and Andrew Albers have made the question mark on this year's Wildcat ball club the consistency of the starting staff. Green has been shelved for the year after undergoing Tommy Johns Surgery. Albers has healed from his early season arm troubles, but is still being eased back into mound work, and will likely see limited action out of the bullpen this weekend.
Along with the ace of the staff Aaron Tennyson, Craig Snipp and Greg Dombrowski, who have become a part of the weekend rotation out of necessity, have, for the most part, performed well this season. But all three were struggled with their command and getting batters out during the series loss to Auburn this past weekend.
If the starting pitchers throw like they have for the majority of the season, Kentucky has a good shot of taking another big series from an elite member of the conference. With a series win, the Bat Cats can prove that their early season triumphs over powerhouses LSU and Tennessee were not flukes, and that they are in fact one of the top teams in the SEC.
Kentucky head coach John Cohen was an assistant for Florida head coach Pat McMahon from 2002-03. McMahon was also an assistant coach at Mississippi State while Cohen played from 1988-89.
In Thursday's SEC Teleconference, Coach Cohen spoke about his relationship with McMahon.
"Pat is a great friend and one of the best people in all of baseball. It was a great learning experience for me to work with him for two years at Florida and it really helped me prepare for the next step of my career, which is here at Kentucky. But that's something you don't worry about during the games. I'm sure we'll talk beforehand and catch up, but when the first pitch is thrown, he's the enemy. He'll feel the same way."
Kentucky (23-7) is currently holding onto third place in the SEC Eastern Division with a 5-4 league mark, two games ahead of the Gators, who are 3-6 in the conference. A series win for the Wildcats would give them seven league wins for the year, matching the team's total from last season.
Kentucky - 23-7, 5-4 SEC
Florida - 19-14, 3-6 SEC
Kentucky – No. 23 Baseball America
Florida - No. 19 USA Today/ESPN
Schedule (times Eastern)
Lexington, Ky. (Cliff Hagan Stadium – 3,000)
Friday, April 7 vs. Florida 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 8 vs. Florida 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 9 vs. Florida 1 p.m.
Friday – WLAP 630-AM in Lexington
Saturday – WXRA 1580-AM in Lexington
Sunday – WXRA 1580-AM in Lexington
Friday – Big Blue Sports Network (UPN in Lexington; FSN in selected markets)
Saturday – Big Blue Sports Network (UPN in Lexington; FSN in selected markets)
Friday vs. Florida
LHP Aaron Tennyson, Sr. (4-1, 3.89) vs. RHP Bryan Ball, Sr., (4-4, 3.94)
Saturday vs. Florida
LHP Craig Snipp, Sr., (4-1, 2.10) vs. RHP Bryan Augenstein, So. (6-2, 2.51)
Sunday vs. Florida
RHP Greg Dombrowski, So., (5-1, 1.65) vs. TBA