Baseball Notebook: Cats enter NCAA

The Kentucky Wildcats (42-17) will be making their sixth overall appearance in the NCAA tournament, and their second in the past three years, when they face the host Michigan Wolverines (45-12) Friday night at 7:00 p.m. EDT in Ann Arbor, Michigan. First team all-SEC left-hander Chris Rusin (6-2, 2.84) is expected to get the starting nod on the mound for the Cats returning to his home state.

The Wildcats will be joined by Big Ten Champion Michigan (45-12), three-seeded Eastern Michigan (25-32) and No. 1 seeded Arizona (38-17). UK will face Michigan in round one on Friday, marking the 17th all-time meeting between the two schools, with the last meeting coming in 2004, a 15-14 UK win in Lexington. Michigan leads the all-time series with UK, 12-3-1.

The winner of the four-team event will advance to a best-of-three NCAA Super Regional that will start eight Friday or Saturday, June 6-7. The Ann Arbor regional winner will match up against the winner of the regional being hosted by the No.1 overall seed Miami (Fla.). The Miami Regional consists of Miami, Missouri, Mississippi and Bethune-Cookman. The eight super regional winners will advance to the College World Series June 14-25 in Omaha, Neb.

Kentucky skipper John Cohen was concerned about how his team finished in the SEC tournament, falling to host team Alabama 13-4 in last Friday night's elimination game. Cohen believes the team will right the ship this weekend. "I really believe that we are going to play well in this regional, you have to have some luck and things have to go your way but you also have to be prepared. That is what we are concerned with right now, preparing a very good Kentucky team, a more prepared Kentucky team emotionally and physically to go complete in a regional then it was two years ago, even though two years ago it was at home. Your preparation and what you do best is the best preparation in the game."

In some ways, facing Alabama last weekend twice in Hoover, Alabama, may have helped this weekend when facing the homestanding Michigan Wolverines. "It doesn't matter what other teams do well, it matters how well we do it and I am sure that Michigan will have a great home field advantage and a great crowd, but will it be more then the 11,000 Alabama fans that we saw in the SEC Tournament, I doubt that," Coach Cohen explained. "That is why I think so many SEC clubs have so much success because usually a regional is so much smaller then an SEC Tournament or a weekend on the road in the SEC. I think it is great preparation for us, we did not play well in the final game down there but I don't want to talk about that, I want to talk about the future and I think it is going to be very good and we will be prepared."

Normal Friday night starter Chris Rusin sat out the SEC tournament last week nursing a tender arm, but is expected to be 100% for the NCAA tournament. Michigan is expected to start their own ace hurler, Zach Putnam (8-0, 2.64). Putnam is a two-way player, hitting .309 with nine home runs and 47 RBI's, earning first team Big 10 honors as both a pitcher and DH.

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