Colorado is known for mountains, skiing and a handful of well-brewed beers. College baseball? Not so much.
Only two of the state’s colleges even have Division I programs, and one of those – the Air Force Academy – has a little more important calling than churning out to-notch players.
So when two native sons square off in a heavily hyped SEC showdown, you have to think the folks of Colorado are pretty proud.
Gausman recalled some confusion when his team played Rogers’ in basketball because of a twin brother – Tyler Rogers – made for confusion.
“We’ve pitched against each other forever,” Gausman said.
“It’s going to be fun. It’s pretty rare that the No. 1 and 2 teams in the country have a Friday guy from Colorado. That’s something pretty special for our state.”
Help from a friend
Mason Katz has already established a handful of personal-bests this season, including home runs (7), runs (41) and stolen bases (8).
And while he gets plenty of credit for his offensive evolution, the junior outfielder/first baseman also doesn’t hesitate to tip his hat to Raph Rhymes.
Hitting in front of Rhymes and his national-best .484 batting average, Katz knows all he needs to do is get into scoring position and he has a chance to add to his statistics.
That is born out in his SEC-leading run total, but also why he has the green light to steal bases. Of the 41 runs Katz has crossed the plate with, 19 of those have been on hits by Rhymes, who leads the team with 40 RBIs.
“Coach has given me the green light, so I try and pick the best times, but (Mainieri) will let me know when he wants me to go,” Katz said. “With the way Raph is swinging, I’m also willing to take a gamble and stretch a single into a double if we need a run.”
Kentucky coach has been around the SEC long enough to be familiar with LSU’s history and when he looks at the current Tigers, he’s reminded of their best teams.
“They’ve got outstanding starting pitchers, a couple of extremely good hitters and some other good bats and their lineup is full of great athletes,” Henderson said. “That’s not an unusual way to describe LSU. Year in and year, they’ve got outstanding teams and this one really appears to be special because of their frontline pitching.”
LSU’s weekend roster:
Position players – Ty Ross, Jordy Snikeris, Tyler Moore, Grant Dozar, JaCoby Jones, Casey Yocom, Austin Nola, Tyler Hanover, Evan Powell, Raph Rhymes, Jared Foster, Arby Fields, Mason Katz, Jackson Slaid, Alex Edward
Around the horn
LSU closer Nick Goody is on the updated watch list for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Stopper of the Year award. Goody saved his 5th game of the season Wednesday in the Tigers’ 5-4 triumph against Lamar. Three saves have come in SEC play and four in one-run wins. Kentucky’s Trevor Gott (8 saves) also made the cut.
Corey Littrell, UK’s Sunday starter, has won four of his five league starts and has a 2.01 ERA against league hitters. Besides him, though, the Wildcats do not have an SEC win from a starting pitcher. The Kentucky bullpen owns the other seven wins, including three by Alex Phillips. LSU’s breakdown is six wins from the starters and five by the bullpen. All three Tigers’ starters claimed victories vs. Alabama last week.
Both teams are accustomed to winning close games. LSU is 9-3 in one-run games this season and has won six in a row and has seven SEC wins by the narrowest of margins. UK is 10-2 in such games, six in league play.
The Tigers are 16th in the latest official NCAA RPI rating released this week. Kentucky is 5th. Both teams already own five wins against teams currently rated in the top 10.
Three of the last four LSU-Kentucky series have finished with sweeps: The Tigers in 2008 and last season and the Wildcats in 2010. LSU took two of three games in 2009. Eight of the last 15 games have been decided by one or two runs.