Baseball: Vanderbilt visits Kentucky

The sixth ranked Vanderbilt Commodores visit Kentucky for a 3-game series this weekend. Look inside for a scouting report on both teams.

Vanderbilt at Kentucky

Friday (5:30 p.m., SEC Network+)
RHP Carson Fulmer (8-1, 1.52 ERA) vs. RHP Zack Brown (4-4, 2.81 ERA)

Saturday (5:30 p.m., SEC Network+)
LHP Philip Pfeifer (3-2, 3.18) vs. RHP Dustin Beggs (6-2, 2.84 ERA)

Sunday (Noon, SEC Network+)
RHP Walker Buehler (3-1, 2.66 ERA) vs. TBA


ABOUT VANDERBILT

The defending National Champion Vanderbilt Commodores (33-13, 15-6 SEC) had lost two consecutive series and six of their last nine games but put together a solid series last weekend at Hawkins Field. The Commodores dominated a good Missouri team by a combined score of 26-6 and swept the series. Most recently, the 'Dores fell to neighborhood rival Belmont 4-1 on Tuesday night. Now the 'Dores must visit a dangerous Kentucky team that has series wins at both LSU, and most recently, at Florida last weekend.

Vanderbilt at the plate has been somewhat solid this season. The Commodores are third in the SEC in batting average (.297), fourth in slugging percentage (.451) and second in on-base percentage (.390). However, lapses at the plate are a cause for concern. Most recently the Commodores managed just five hits and one run in the loss to Belmont.

First baseman Zander Wiel (.329, 45 RBI) raised his batting average 11 points from last week and now leads the team in RBIs. Three home runs in a weekend, including a grand slam, will do that for you. Wiel as named Southeastern Conference Player of the Week for his efforts. Center fielder Bryan Reynolds (.328, 35 RBI) and short stop Dansby Swanson each had four hits last week. (.348, 40 RBI). Junior right fielder Rhett Wiseman (.305, 31 RBI) had a pair of homers last week but still isn't back to his normal self. The home runs were his only hits of the week but he did get four walks and scored five runs. Leadoff man Ro Coleman (.296, 17 RBI) had five hits including a double last week. He also earned three walks. Young guns Jeren Kendall (.292, 19 RBI) and Will Toffey (.288, 30 RBI) have emerged as reliable bats in the Vandy lineup. Toffey had seven hits last week including a pair of doubles. Kendall pounded out six hits including a homer.

Vanderbilt's pitching staff is still considered one of the top units in the nation. Vandy is No. 1 in the league in opponent's batting average (.216). Vanderbilt also leads the conference in strikeouts with 460. The 'Dores are third in team ERA at 2.90.

Righty Carson Fulmer (8-1, 1.52 ERA) is among the most outstanding pitchers in college baseball. Last week versus Missouri Fulmer allowed just three hits while striking out 11 and walking four. He has an SEC best 101 strikeouts this season.

Lefty Philip Pfeifer (3-2, 3.18), moved back to a starting position and was excellent. He was named a National Pitcher of the Week by Collegiate Baseball after he dominated over seven innings to pick up a win while allowing two runs on seven hits and striking out 13.

Right handed Walker Buehler (3-1, 2.66 ERA) continues to improve after working his way back into the weekend starting lineup. Last week in the 5-2 Sunday win over Mizzou he struck out nine in seven inning while walking just two and allowing two earned runs on seven hits. He didn't get the win unfortunately. Buehler has 56 strikeouts against just 14 walks this season.

The Vandy bullpen is led by former starter Jordan Sheffield (3-1, 3.20 ERA), lefty John Kilichowski (2-3, 3.60 ERA), Kyle Wright (4-1, 1.16 ERA), lefty Ryan Johnson (4-0, 1.94 ERA), and lefty Ben Bowden (5-1, 2.73 ERA).

ABOUT KENTUCKY

Kentucky 25-18 (10-10 SEC) started its conference series by getting swept at South Carolina. UK responded to that disappointing weekend by winning back to back 2-1 series wins against Mississippi State and at LSU. The Cats then lost two games to Texas A&M in a weather shortened series before dropping 2 of 3 at Arkansas. Kentucky got things back on track with a 3-game sweep of Tennessee and then pulled out two victories at Florida. In their most recent action, the Wildcats dropped a mid-week game to fourth ranked rival Louisville, 2-1.

The Wildcats are a solid team at the plate. Kentucky is No. 5 in the SEC in batting average (.296), just behind No. 4 Vandy. The Cats are also No. 5 in hits, with 444. While the Cats are solid at gaining hits, they probably could be better at getting extra bases. Kentucky is eighth in the SEC in doubles (75), 11th in triples (9) and 12th in home runs (21).

Left fielder Ka'ai Tom (.368, 44 RBI) is the Cats' top bat. He's stolen successfully on all 14 attempts this season and has three homers. Center fielder Kyle Barrett (.346, 21 RBI) has 10 doubles and a pair of triples this season. Second baseman JaVon Shelby (.338, 31 RBI) leads the Cats in home runs with five and walks with an impressive 31. First baseman Evan White (.325, 22 RBI) is third on the Kentucky team in hits with 55. Thomas Bernal (.279, 23 RBI), Storm Wilson (.248, 14 RBI) and Connor Heady (.239, 11 RBI) are some of the other key Wildcat batters.

Kentucky's pitching is not the team's strength. UK ranks 11th in the league in both ERA (4.21) and opponent's batting average (.260). While Vanderbilt leads the league with 460 batters struck out, the Wildcats are dead last at 304.

Right-handed Zack Brown (4-4, 2.81 ERA) is Kentucky'S Friday night starter. Statistically, however, he appears to be the Wildcat's second best pitcher behind the Saturday starter, Dustin Beggs. Brown is no slouch. He's got 53 strikeouts on the season and has allowed only six homers in 252 at bats. In last week's 3-0 win over Florida, Brown struck out six while allowing five scattered hits and no runs.

Righty Dustin Beggs (6-2, 2.84 ERA) as mentioned earlier, Beggs is the best pitcher on the Kentucky roster. He's got the best opponent's batting average (.213) and more strikeouts. He also allows fewer walks than Beggs (32-16). In last weekend's 7-6 win over Florida, Beggs pitched 8.1 innings allowing three hits and two walks while giving up three earned runs.

Some of the key relievers for Kentucky include LHP Logan Salow (1-1, 6.20 ERA), RHP Kyle Cody (3-4, 6.35 ERA) RHP Zach Strecker (2-0, 2.86 ERA) and RHP Spencer Jack (1-1, 4.61 ERA). RHP Andrew Nelson (2-3, 4.62 ERA) started Kentucky's game on Sunday and was pulled after 3 2/3 innings after giving up eight hits and five earned runs. Sunday's Kentucky starter is "to be announced".



SEC STANDINGS
EAST CONF GB ALL
VAN 15-6 -- 33-13
FLA 13-8 2 33-12
MIZ 12-9 3 26-19
KEN 10-10 4.5 25-18
USC 9-12 6 26-19
TEN 7-14 8 18-21
GEO 6-14 8.5 21-23
--- --- -- ---
WEST CONF GB ALL
LSU 14-6 -- 38-7
TAM 13-7 1 38-7
ARK 11-10 3.5 26-18
AUB 10-11 4.5 30-16
OLM 10-10 4.5 24-22
ALA 8-13 6.5 23-21
MSU 7-14 7.5 23-22


SEC THIS WEEK

Vanderbilt at Kentucky
Florida at Georgia
Ole Miss at Missouri
Auburn at South Carolina
Texas A&M at Tennessee
Arkansas at Alabama (Thurs.)
LSU at Mississippi State (Thurs.)

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