Bluegrass Battle

Ole Miss has lost three of its last four baseball games since winning a series at Mississippi State. Now it's on to Kentucky to wrap up April conference play.

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The Rebels fell twice to LSU last weekend and then lost to Mississippi State Tuesday night in Pearl.

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said his team, 30-12 overall and 10-8 in Southeastern Conference play, still maintains its confidence.

"They'll bounce back and be ready for this weekend," he said.

Reliever Aaron Greenwood made the trip to Lexington after not pitching for several games with an abdominal strain.

"He threw really well (this week in a bullpen), much better than the normal guy that doesn't pitch for a couple of weeks," Bianco said. "I'm talking about command-wise and the way he threw all his pitches. No pain. Threw a bullpen, 60 feet."

Kentucky, 27-14 and 9-9, ranks as the SEC leader in nearly every offensive category, with Ole Miss right behind. The two teams are the only squads in the league with batting averages over .300, with UK sporting a .312 mark and the Rebels owning a .300 average.

But Ole Miss headed north to Lexington with an offense going south. The Rebels were shut out 2-0 against LSU in the series finale in Oxford and only had three hits against MSU in an 8-3 loss Tuesday night.

More info on the Wildcats from UK media relations:

The Wildcats will turn to the weekend rotation of junior lefty/first baseman A.J. Reed (7-1, 2.15 ERA) on Friday, sophomore southpaw Dylan Dwyer (5-1, 3.40 ERA) on Saturday and junior right-hander Andrew Nelson (1-4, 4.44 ERA) on Sunday. Ole Miss will counter with junior righty Chris Ellis (5-0, 1.72 ERA) on Friday, redshirt sophomore right-hander Christian Trent (5-0, 2.18 ERA) on Saturday and junior right-hander Sam Smith (5-3, 2.32 ERA) on Sunday.

Reed will be making his 25th consecutive weekend series-opening start on Friday. He has made 10 starts in 2014, working 71 innings, allowing 62 hits and 18 walks, striking out 46, and holding opponents to a .23 average. In his three-year career, Reed ranks fourth in UK history with a 3.00 ERA, owing a 14-12 record in 207 innings, walking 42 and striking out 149. In his last start, Reed posted his seventh win of the year in a 6-3 result at Texas A&M, with UK getting three runs in the ninth of a 3-3 game. Reed allowed eight hits and three runs – one earned – walking one and striking out four, with all of the Aggies damage coming in a three-run second inning, with Reed firing six straight shutout innings before facing the leadoff hitter in the ninth at 113 pitches. Reed has pitched in three games with two starts vs. Ole Miss in his career, with a 1-0 record and a 0.61 ERA in 14.2 innings, allowing just one earned run and walking two. Last year,

Reed outdueled Ole Miss ace Bobby Wahl on a Thursday night in Oxford, allowing four hits and two unearned runs in 6.2 innings, walking one and striking out three on 92 pitches.

Dwyer will be making his third career SEC start on Saturday. The southpaw has appeared in 10 games with seven starts in 2014, working 45 innings, allowing 38 hits and 13 walks, striking out 40 and holding opponents to a .233 average. In his two-year career, Dwyer has a 6-1 record and a 3.52 ERA in 61.1 innings, walking 20 and striking out 47.

Chris Ellis
File Photo

Nelson has started the last six series finales for the Wildcats. Nelson has appeared in 11 games with eight starts in 2014, working 48.2 innings, allowing 55 hits and 12 walks, striking out 24. Nelson suffered his fourth loss of the year on Sunday at Texas A&M, allowing 10 hits and eight runs in four innings, walking one on 56 pitches.

The Wildcats lead the SEC in average (.312), slugging (.459), on-base percentage (.412), runs (348) and homers (39), slugging 80 doubles and eight triples. UK has stolen 57 bases and owns a 178-277 walk-strikeout ratio. Defensively, UK has fielded .967 and turned 41 double plays, allowing just 21 steals. On the mound, UK has a 3.73 team ERA in 364 innings, walking 111 and striking out 254.

Individually, junior A.J. Reed leads UK with a .375 average, adding 12 doubles, one triple, a nation-leading 16 homers and 55 RBI, with a .783 slugging and a .495 on-base percentage. First baseman Thomas Bernal has hit .354 with six doubles, one homer and 23 RBI, with his .419 average in SEC play marking the only regular in the league over .400. Third baseman Max Kuhn has hit .347 with 13 doubles, five homers and 38 RBI, with centerfielder Austin Cousino hitting .331 with 10 doubles, two triples, three homers and 26 RBI, stealing 14-of-14 bases. Catcher Micheal Thomas has hit .329 with seven doubles, one triple, seven homers and 39 RBI. Leftfielder Ka'ai Tom has a .310 average with six doubles, 20 RBI and a 17-8 walk-strikeout ratio, stealing 12 bases. Second baseman JaVon Shelby has hit .277 with six doubles, one triple, four homers and 19 RBI. Rightfielder Kyle Barrett owns a .266 average with five doubles, one homer and 18 RBI, stealing 10 bases. Shortstop Matt Reida has hit .235 with five doubles, one homer and 22 RBI, stealing five bases.

In the bullpen, UK has been paced by junior righty Spencer Jack (2-1, 1.85 ERA), who has appeared in 19 games with two saves in 24.1 innings. Freshman Logan Salow (2-1, 3.10 ERA) – the SEC Pitcher of the Week – has a save in 20.1 innings, striking out 22. Sophomore Kyle Cody (3-0, 2.35 ERA) has a team-high five saves, appearing in 13 games with three weekend stats. Sophomore Ryne Combs (1-2, 4.33 ERA), sophomore Zach Strecker (0-1, 4.91 ERA) and freshman Zack Brown (0-0, 6.23 ERA) have each appeared in double-digit games in relief.

Kentucky ranks as the SEC leader in average (.312), slugging (.459), on-base percentage (.412), runs (348), hits (453), RBI (308), homers (39), hit batters (76), double plays turned (41) and total bases (666). UK also ranks second in doubles (80), third in walks (178) and sixth in steals (57). Individually, A.J. Reed leads the SEC in average (.375), slugging (.783), on-base percentage (.495), RBI (55), homers (16) and total bases (119), ranking second in runs (46), fourth in hits (57), 10th in doubles (12), third in walks (27) and second in wins (seven). Thomas Bernal ranks fifth in average (.354) and sixth in on-base percentage (.432). Max Kuhn ranks as the SEC leader in runs (50) and walks (31), ranking eighth in average (.347), eighth in slugging (.512), third in on-base percentage (.459), sixth in doubles (13), sixth in homers (five) and third in total bases (87). Austin Cousino ranks third in runs (41), fourth in hits (57) and fourth in steals (14). Micheal Thomas ranks fifth in slugging (.538), sixth in runs (36), third in RBI (39) and third in homers (seven). Ka'ai Tom ranks 13th in on-base percentage (.417) and eighth in steals (12).

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