UK Baseball Notebook: Regional Talk

Sean Coughlin, in route to winning his first ever SEC player of the week award in March, was one of the hottest names in the Southeastern Conference heading into league play.

Until a weekend series with Florida, however, he had yet to live up to his pre-conference statistics.

"I had to adjust to some things and change my approach a little bit," Coughlin admitted, "but I'm seeing the ball real well right now and I'm starting to feel more comfortable at the plate."

Whatever adjustments were made, Coughlin nearly single-handidly helped propel Kentucky to a 3-1 record and its first series victory over Florida since 1999, because of it. Coughlin was a shining star in Kentucky's impressive week, hitting for a whopping .615 average, driving in a team-high 7 RBI's and posting a rediculous 1.154 slugging percentage.

Against the Gators, particularly, Coughlin was literally a one-man wrecking crew. The 6-foot-1 junior batted a rediculous .727 average with four doubles and a home run.

"I've been lucky to see some really good pitches and have been just trying to take advantage of them," Coughlin, whose weekend performance raised his batting average over the weekend by 40 points, said.

"We've got a lot of guys that can hit on this team, so it allows us all to see some pretty good pitches. The key is to just be patient at the plate and wait for the right ones to come."

You've been Dombrowski-d
It's almost becoming a normal habit to see Greg Dombrowski dominate on a Sunday afternoon this year. The UK sophomore, who is not necessarily overpowering in any form or fashion, continues to be successful in being strictly a ground ball pitcher.

The New York native, who was a guy that many inside the program considered a long shot to even crack the bullpen, recorded his sixth win of the season in Sunday's series clinching victory over Florida.

His six wins are the most for a Kentucky player since 2003 and although he tops out his fastball in the mid 70's, commands the mound with control and consistency.

"He makes our defense look pretty good," Lehmann said jokingly, earlier this season, "I mean we pretty much just stand out there (in the outfielder). It's hard to make any errors when Greg's pitching - nothing's more than a chopper or two."

As much as the talk centers around UK's highly publicized and heralded junior class of John Shelby, Coughlin and Ryan Strieby, Kentucky's sophomore class has really started to make a name for themselves, outside of Antone DeJesus and Collin Cowgill.

In addition to sophomore Dombrowski, who is now 6-1 on the year with a 1.75 ERA in over 56 innings of work, allowing just 5 extra base hits and holding opponents to a .255 batting average, super sophomore reliever Brock Baber has been equally as impressive coming out of the pen in the early part of the season.

Despite having a tough week statistically, Baber once again helped the Wildcats hold on for victories in two games this weekend. Baber, who got the save in the Wildcats series clinching victory on Sunday, saw his ERA rise to 1.90 after getting roughed up a little bit by the Gators, but continues to be Coach Cohen's most counted on bullpen addition in 2006.

Sunday's save was Baber's fourth of the year and 10th of his short career to this point. Oddly enough, his career number moves him into a fifth place tie in school history.

As the season progresses, the Wildcats are expecting him to play an even more expanded role out of the pen.

Added Game this week?
Earlier this season, third year coach John Cohen attributed a Friday loss to Arkansas State to a schedule mistake by himself and his staff.

"We lost the game for our kids by not finding a mid-week game to play," Cohen said in response to the 7-3 loss to Arkansas State, at the time. "We didn't give our kids a chance, giving them the week-off like that. We just didn't hit the ball well because we were rusty."

With no scheduled mid-week opponent this week and another big SEC road series ahead against arguably the conference's best team, Arkansas, some people were wondering if Cohen was planning on finding an opponent for a Tuesday or Wednesday game.

Problem is, with UK playing so well, nobody wants to come to Lexington. According to a staff member, Cohen's coaches are looking to add a game this week but are having problems finding a "sacrificial lamb" with the numbers the Wildcats are putting up against previous mid-week opponents.

Odds are Kentucky will probably end up adding an NAIA school this week, but with the strong possibility of rain heading to the Lexington area on Wednesday, the 'Cats might be best suited scheduling something for Tuesday.

Stay tuned.

Regional hosting?
With the weekend attendance drawing nearly 2,000 people, Kentucky is confident that if necessary, they can present a respectable case to the NCAA for the hosting of a possible baseball regional.

Citing a possible addition of another 2,000 bleacher seats, Kentucky would be an attractive draw because of its location and proximity to the Northern United States, where the NCAA could place schools like Ohio State, Notre Dame and Northwestern, schools that have in the past, competed in the NCAA regional.

With so many Southern schools needing accomodation, it's a general positive that UK is the northernest most SEC school in the conference and should the Wildcats be good enough to garner some NCAA hosting consideration, could help score the opportunity.

Of course, Wildcat fans need to continue to support the program and show-up each respective chance to give the committee something to think about and allow these kids a well deserved chance to play in front of their home crowd.

Post-season Update
Many people were making quite a ruckus about a recent regional prognostication by an opposing internet website that noticably had the University of Kentucky baseball team absent from its post-season predictions.

Why, you ask?

This despite the 'Cats glowing Southeastern Conference record, which currently places them 3rd in the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division?

According to this famed website, Kentucky was not included in their college baseball version of ESPN's famed 'bracketology' because of UK's RPI index, which sits just below 50.

After the weekend series against Florida, UKAA staff officials assured me that I was not alone in believing these people were idiots, or as my politically correct staff writer, Matt George would say ...


Until next time, Get your "HINEYS to HAGAN" ...

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