Cats down but not out

Players are just trying to shrug off Wednesday's 9-6 loss to Morehead State, as the UK baseball team heads into Gainesville for a weekend series against Florida.

"It was just one of those games," said first baseman Matt McKinney, who went 2-for-3 against the Eagles.

Recently, the Cats have had a lot of those games.

UK set a school record by winning their first 19 games, a difficult feat no matter how strong a team's schedule is. But an SEC-opening series loss to Arkansas sent the Cats into a tailspin.

Since then, UK has won just one weekend series (against a 6-8-1 LSU team) and has lost its last two non-conference games at Louisville (8-1) and to Morehead (9-6).

McKinney declined to go so far as to pinpoint an exact reason for the team's recent struggles.

"It's not one thing, it's a lot of things right now," McKinney said. "We just have to use practice to try and figure it out and take into the games this weekend against Florida."

Pitching has not been there.

The UK staff has allowed opponents to score eight or more runs in eight of its last 12 games.

Hitting has not been there.

The Bat Cats batted just .253 in three games against Tennessee, .188 in their loss at Louisville and .230 in their three game series against No. 1 Vanderbilt.

Defense has not been there.

The Cats committed eight errors in three games against Tennessee, three errors at Louisville, seven errors in three games against Vanderbilt and four errors against Morehead on Wednesday.

But despite their poor play, McKinney still believes UK can be an elite team this season.

"We are going through a little rough spell," McKinney said, "but everyone says that most great teams have a rough spell. If we can just get over this hump, we have all of the pieces. If we can just get over this hump I think we are going to be a real tough team come postseason time. We just have to find a way to fight through this right now."

Senior catcher Sean Coughlin thinks the team has been shaken by its losses.

"I think the confidence factor is no there," Coughlin said. "There are a lot of guys who are trying in practice and trying in games to get that back. The fact of the matter is we are not playing with the swagger we had at the beginning of the season."

Coughlin said that lack of confidence has affected UK's approach on the field.

"I think we are getting away from it a little bit," Coughlin said. "We are not attacking the game like we used to. We are not being as aggressive as we should be."

"It should be a thing where from inning one to the time we step off the field it is energy all the way around. I don't think we are getting that spark that we need to," Coughlin said. "We try to fire each other up and things of that nature but we really havn't had that spark that we need to get going. We havn't hit on all cylinders yet. There have been some situations where, myself included, we just haven't come through and we are trying to do too much."

This weekend's series at Florida gives UK the opportunity to begin the process of righting the ship this season. Despite being 6-8-1 in the conference, the Cats sit just 2.5 games out of first place in the SEC Eastern Division. Defending the SEC Championship is still in the realm of possibility.

"If we have a good series against Florida, which I hope we do, then maybe it will start the ball rolling and get us going in the right direction," McKinney said.

Coughlin said that a few wins in Gainesville could give the Cats some momentum to turn the season around.

"Hopefully this will bring us closer together and we will take two or three from Florida this weekend," Coughlin said. "That has to be our mentality, to take at least two out of three, instead of just going out and playing. We need to have that mentality that we used to have."

"I think this team can flip-flop really easily," Coughlin said. "We just have to prepare and come to the field and be ready to compete. We need to change a little bit of the preparation that we've been doing to get back to the way we know how to play."

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