UK Baseball: News & Notes

Albers bounces back; Wilkes prepares for SEC's best pitcher; 'Cats dominating Top 25 competition; John Shelby returns; Rusin to the Rescue and more news and notes from UKAA's Scott Dean.

Albers gets the save
Lost in the celebration that followed UK's exciting finish against South Carolina on Sunday was the fact that sophomore Andrew Albers recorded the final three outs for Kentucky and was awarded a save.

"It was huge for his confidence," catcher Sean Coughlin said following the win. "I think he was a little bit down after what happened last Friday night, but he battled back. He threw some great pitches and I was really glad to see him have the success he did in the ninth."

Recovering from arm trouble, the Wildcats had hoped to have a fully recovered Albers by mid-season, but have found his return to have mix results.

Albers was generally attributed to UK's collapse against Arkansas last Friday, where Kentucky held a 9-4 lead heading into the ninth inning before giving up 6 runs in the final frame. Albers, who was called upon after Brock Baber struggled and loaded the bases, could not throw a strike and was subsequently pulled in Kentucky's loss to the 'Hawgs after walking two straight batters on 9 pitches.

Sunday's contest looked nothing like a week ago, as Albers recorded the final three outs and finished with a game ending strike out to officially send the Gamecocks back to Columbia.

Worth The 'Price' of Admission
You never wanna look ahead after a weekend series like the one the Wildcats experienced in Lexington, but it's hard not to get excited about Friday's probable matchup against Vanderbilt.

David Price, arguably the nation's top pitching prospect, is the scheduled starter for Friday's contest. A sophomore, the lefty is 5-2 with a 2.34 ERA heading into this past weekend's series with Alabama, where he was shelled.

Still, Price is worth the 'price' of admission as he's considered with great majority as the best pitcher in the Southeastern Conference.

"He's a good friend of mine," shortstop Ryan Wilkes said of Price. "But he can be beaten and he has been beaten before. It will be good to be able to see him and to have both of our teams playing for first place."

Dominating Top 25 Opponents
With Sunday's victory over #7 South Carolina, the Kentucky Wildcats are now 10-5 on the year against ranked opponents, and even more impressively 7-2 against teams ranked in the top 10. They also hold a sparkling 2-0 series record against the top 10, as well.

Welcome Back, John Shelby
Pre-season All-American candidate John Shelby couldn't have picked a better weekend to find his bat. The junior from Lexington (Ky.), who had been struggling to date, blasted a pair of home runs and three doubles to drive in six, while batting .462 and slugging 1.154 in the series sweep of Eastern Division rival South Carolina.

Arguably his shining moment of the year to date was Friday, when Shelby smacked a walk-off game winning home run in the bottom of the 11th against Wynn Pelzer, who had previously not allowed a run in SEC play in 19 innings. The win over South Carolina was UK's first over the traditional powerhouse, this decade.

Shelby followed up Friday's heroics with an RBI double in Saturday's come-from-behind win and a two-run home run and RBI double on Sunday. For the week, he doubled, had at least one run, one hit and one RBI in all contests, all the while extending his hitting streak to six games.

Rusin to the Rescue
Freshmen Chris Rusin was the pitcher of the week and for good reason. The freshmen from Michigan, pitched in three of Kentucky's four wins during the week, allowing just three hits on 5 2/3 innings of relief. He helped save Kentucky from a disasterous collapse Friday, working 3 1/3 innings in the game -when the game was tied at 9-9 - retiring all 10 men he faced against a USC team that leads the conference in batting.

After throwing 40 pitches Friday, Rusin entered the game on Sunday in the sixth inning of a one-run game with USC base runners on the corners and retired the clean-up man in the order to end the threat. For the weekend, Rusin faced 11 Gamecock batters, retiring all 11 over the weekend.

Team Notes*

  • Kentucky, ranked 21st entering the week, recorded a perfect 4-0 week, including a sweep of seventh-ranked South Carolina ... With the win, UK improved to 30-10 on the year and 11-7 in the SEC. Kentucky reached the 30-win plateau for the first time in six years and the 11th time in school history. This year's team matched the 1991 club for the fastest to 30 wins, doing so in just 40 games ... With 11 league wins, Kentucky already has more than in any season since 2000 ... The Wildcats hung 37 runs over the weekend on the Gamecocks, which came into the weekend ranked 14th in the nation in earned-run average ... Kentucky scored 10 on Friday, 15 Saturday and 12 Sunday. It was the most runs for UK in an SEC series since posting 37 on South Carolina in a 1995 series victory ... The sweep was the first for UK over a ranked opponent since 1991 (No. 5 LSU) and the first over and SEC opponent since 2000 (Vanderbilt) ... On Friday, Kentucky blew a 9-2 lead in the eighth inning before junior John Shelby won it for the Wildcats with a walk-off home run in the 11th inning ... In game two, the Wildcats rallied from six runs down in the seventh inning to tie it before Ryan Strieby launched a mammoth three-run blast for a 15-12 shootout victory ... Kentucky came back from another six-run deficit on Sunday to complete the sweep with a 12-9 win. The Wildcats exploded for all 12 runs in the middle three innings after falling behind 6-0 early. For the weekend, UK pounded out 15 extra-base hits, including eight home runs ...

    Individual Notes*

  • Ryan Strieby held onto the team lead with a pair of long balls to push his total to 12. Shelby is right behind at 11 after cranking out two homers as well ... John Shelby went off for the week, recording four doubles and a pair of homers while slugging a ridiculous 1.059 and raising his batting average to .262. He had at least one hit, one run and one RBI in all four games of the week while extending his hitting streak to six games ... Michael Bertram extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a hit in all four games during the week, including a pinch-hit, game-tying, two-run single with two outs in the eighth on Saturday. It was his only at bat of the game ... Chris Rusin earned the win on Friday night after retiring all 10 men he faced in 3 1/3 innings of work. He entered to stop the bleeding in the seven-run eighth and finished off the game. He also got one out on Sunday ... Troy Ragle entered on Saturday in the seventh inning and shutout South Carolina for 2 1/3 innings to earn his first win at UK. Prior to the game Ragle had not pitched since March 1. He also threw two innings on Sunday before Andrew Albers pitched the ninth to pick up his first career save ... Greg Dombrowski got Sunday's win to improve to 7-1 this year. It is tied for the most wins by a UK pitcher since 1997. He is now 9-1 on his career.

    * - Team News & Notes compiled by UKAA

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