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May 22nd, 2018

Kentucky Loses 4-3 To Auburn In SEC Tournament Opener

UK Athletics

The BatCats will have to go back to Lexington and await their fate for the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky (34-22, 13-18) lost 4-3 in 11 innings to #21 Auburn (38-19, 16-15) in the first round of the SEC Tournament. UK is now 0-4 all-time against Auburn in the SEC Tournament.

D1 Baseball had UK as one of their last five teams in the NCAA Tournament entering today. UK had the opportunities to help their case for reaching the postseason but struggled with runners in scoring position. The Cats hit 4/20 with runners on base and left ten men on in their 18th conference loss of the season. Sean Hjelle gave his team all he had, going 7.1 innings in a losing effort. Kole Cottam delivered two huge RBIs, including the game-tying knock in the ninth inning. But the amount of missed opportunities hurt UK late in extra innings. Auburn capitalized with runners in scoring position in the 11th when Edouard Julien hit a walk-off single to send the BatCats home.

Cottam did what he could to put UK into the field of 64 today. The junior first baseman hit a solo home run in the top of the first to put UK ahead 1-0. Cottam went collected three hits today, including his SEC-leading 18th home run. The 1-0 lead was short-lived. Former UK-commit Will Holland led off the bottom of the first with his 11th home run of the year to tie the game at one.

UK starter Daniel Harper did a good job of settling down after the home run, but his second trip through the lineup would cause him problems. Four straight batters reached base with one out in the inning as Auburn jumped in front. Steven Williams and Brett Wright drove in runs against Harper to give Auburn a 3-1 lead. Nick Mingione went to his bullpen for his ace starter Sean Hjelle with two outs in the third. Hjelle struck out Brendan Venter to end the third inning.

Hjelle would empty the tank on the mound today. Just five days removed from throwing 123 pitches at Vanderbilt, Hjelle threw 7.1 shutout innings in relief in the must-win opener. The Tigers had no answer for the 2017 SEC Pitcher of the Year. Hjelle struck out nine batters and allowed only four hits in his first relief appearance of the season.

The Cats got an electric outing from Hjelle in relief, but they struggled to back him up at the plate. Before the ninth inning, UK hit 1/10 with runners in scoring position in the first eight innings.

Despite the rest of the lineup struggling with runners on base, Cottam delivered. The UK first baseman collected the biggest hit of the Cats’ season with two outs in the ninth. After Ryan Shinn doubled to start the inning, pinch runner Alex Rodriguez was bunted to third with the top of the order due up. Cottam hit a two-strike, two-out pitch into the game for a double to tie the game at three.

The tenth inning brought more scoring opportunities for UK’s offense. Luke Heyer led off the inning with a single and moved into scoring position with one out. Cody Greenhill retired the next two UK batters with ease as UK failed to deliver with runners on once again.

Hjelle officially emptied the tank after the tenth inning when he retired Holland on a long fly ball to left. Just five days after throwing 123 pitches against Vanderbilt, Hjelle threw 118 in relief today. Hjelle exited after the tenth inning and gave way to fellow starter Zack Thompson. The sophomore flamethrower struggled to find the zone in the 11th and put two men on with one out. Julien sent the huge Auburn crowd home happy with an RBI single to centerfield to win the game 4-3.

Auburn’s walk-off came two months after UK walked off against the Tigers in Auburn. Today’s loss will put the Cats on the bubble with no way to help their case. UK will play the watching game until next Monday.


The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E47: Live from the NBA Combine with Reid Forgrave

The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast is back, as Aaron welcomes in CBS Sports’ Reid Forgrave — fresh off a trip to the NBA Draft Combine. The two nerd out on NBA Draft talk for 45 minutes, including big names, risers and fallers and what the future of some players who have declared without agents. But first, Aaron is riding solo today as Nick Coffey is off, and he runs through some of the biggest across college and pro basketball, including:
Reactions to the NBA Draft CombineAaron shares his thoughts from the NBA Draft Combine, including the incredible rise of Villanova’s Donte DiVencenzio. Is it even fair to call DiVencenzio a “draft sleeper” anymore? Also, how will Villanova be impacted in the 2018-2019 college basketball season if DiVencenzio decides to stay in the draft?
The Future of PJ Washington: Aaron also looks at the future of current Kentucky Wildcat PJ Washington. He explains why there is one unexpected element of this draft that no one is talking about, which could lead Washington to staying in the draft. Aaron also touches on what Kentucky will look like if Washington decides to return versus going pro?
A Surprising West Coast College Basketball StorylineAaron discusses a West Coast recruiting story line that no one is talking about, and how one surprising program could be emerging as a power in the Pac-12.
Next up, CBS’s Reid Forgrave joins the show. Reid was in Chicago for the draft combine and the pair discuss a number of topics including:
Michael Porter’s HealthPorter was the buzz of the Combine, but what is the latest on the health of his back? Also, if if Porter’s back is healthy how high can he go?
The Depth of this Draft? Aaron and Reid debate just how “deep” this draft truly is. Aaron explains why he thinks there are four prospects that are head-and-shoulders above the rest, while Reid believes the pool is a bit deeper. Also, why NBA people are falling in love with Mo Bambhttp://kentuckysportsradio.com/wp-content/podcast/Torres-47.mp3a and just how good is Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson?
Finally, the future of PJ WashingtonAaron gets Reid’s take on the futures of both DiVencenzio and PJ Washington. What are the upsides and downsides to Washington returning to Kentucky? Also, did Kevin Knox ever seriously returning to school for antoher season?
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

Sponsorship Note:

Sign on to sponsor the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast by June 15th to take advantage of a special discount. Contact ksrads@kentuckysportsradio.com to learn more.


Free Baseball in Hoover!

The Cats scored a game-tying run in the ninth inning and now it’s going into extra innings. Sean Hjelle is rolling on the mound and UK has new life.

Get to SEC Network now!


VIDEO: Diallo recaps workout with the Wizards

Hamidou Diallo worked out with the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, his second workout in two days (the other was Monday with the Chicago Bulls).

After putting in work, Diallo took some time to speak to the media about what he can bring to a team and how he would fit in with the Wizards playing alongside the speedy John Wall, who attended Diallo’s workout.

Hear what he had to say:


Louisville down to eight players with new departure

Andy Lyons | Getty Images

Louisville is running out of basketball players for Chris Mack’s first year.

The team was already running low on bodies, and it got worse today with the news that would-be sophomore forward Lance Thomas will transfer to another program.

A four-star prospect in last year’s class, Thomas was expected to provide much-needed depth in Mack’s frontcourt, which lost Deng Adel, Ray Spalding and Anas Mahmoud from a year ago. Thomas will instead leave the Cardinal brotherhood behind, telling his Twitter followers, “After returning home at the end of the semester I was just thinking about my future. I feel it’s in my best interest to look at other options for my career.”

Thomas’ exit leaves Mack with only eight scholarship players on next year’s roster, which includes the recent grad transfer addition from Samford.

Good luck, Chris!


Miami Football Coach Unironically Complains About De-Commitments

Todd Hartley is mad on the internet.

The Miami tight ends coach is a little salty after The U lost their second commitment in three days last night.  This morning he fired off the following not-so-subtle Tweet:

Funny, coming from The University of Miami.  It’s not like they just flipped Kentucky’s highest-ranked recruit to The U last Sunday.  Or that their four-star quarterback originally committed to Kentucky, de-committed, re-committed then flipped to Miami just before signing day.

Pot, meet kettle.


Kentucky’s SEC tournament run starts NOW

Get on over to the SEC Network for Kentucky’s opening game of the SEC Tournament against those pesky Tigers from Auburn.

Things got off to a nice start with a first-inning bomb from Kole Cottam to put the Cats up early.

Let’s go.


No former Cats on NBA All-Rookie teams for only second time under Calipari

The NBA released its All-Rookie selections on Tuesday and the list did not include a former Kentucky player for only the second time since John Calipari has been the head coach of the Wildcats.

De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo were UK’s only three rookies this past season, but they did not play well enough in their debut seasons to earn All-Rookie honors. The NBA’s 2013-14 season is the only other year UK failed to crack the two All-Rookie squads.

In those other years, Calipari has had 11 All-Rookie selections overall: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nerlens Noel, Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Willie Cauley-Stein and Jamal Murray.

This year, Bam Adebayo got robbed as he fell one point shy of the second team.

2017-18

First Team

Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia Sixers
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers
Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls

Second Team

Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas Mavericks
Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers
John Collins, Atlanta Hawks
Bogdan Bogdanovic, Sacramento Kings
Josh Jackson, Phoenix Suns

2016-17

First Team

Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks
Dario Saric, Philadelphia Sixers
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia Sixers
Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings
Willy Hernangomez, New York Knicks

Second Team

Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
Marquese Chriss, Phoenix Suns
Brandon Ingram, L.A. Lakers
Yogi Ferrell, Dallas Mavericks

2015-16

First Team

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia Sixers

Second Team

Justise Winslow, Miami Heat
D’Angelo Russell, L.A. Lakers
Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver Nuggets
Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento Kings

2014-15

First Team

Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
Nikola Mirotic, Denver Nuggets
Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia Sixers
Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic
Jordan Clarkson, L.A. Lakers

Second Team

Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves
Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets
Jusuf Nurkic, Denver Nuggets
Langston Galloway, New York Knicks

2013-14

First Team

Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia Sixers
Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets
Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks

Second Team

Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics,
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves
Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats
Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder

2012-13

First Team

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers
Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors

Second Team

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats
Kyle Singler, Detroit Pistons
Tyler Zeller, Cleveland Cavaliers

2011-12

First Team

Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons

Second Team

Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets
Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings
MarShon Brooks, New Jersey Nets
Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers

2010-11

First Team

DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
Landry Fields, New York Knicks
Blake Griffin, LA Clippers
Gary Neal, San Antonio Spurs
John Wall, Washington Wizards

Second Team

Eric Bledsoe, LA Clippers
Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz
Paul George, Indiana Pacers
Wesley Johnson, Minnesota Timberwolves
Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons


LISTEN: Joe B. Hall remembers Bret Bearup

Joe B. Hall made a special guest appearance on Tuesday’s Kentucky Sports Radio radio show to share the memory of his former player, Bret Bearup, who passed away unexpectedly last week.

As many of you well know or have heard, Bearup was as bright as they come and a close friend to many. Coach Hall remembers him as a genius, and maybe too smart for basketball:

“A sportswriter called me yesterday and started naming the players that I coached or recruited that have passed on, and it’s very discouraging to hear that kind of news. And when Bear passed, he’s too young — 56 years old and a healthy, strong, practically young man. Bret was a free spirited, very intelligent, almost genius. And maybe he was genius; I don’t know how they prove that. But he breezed through law school. He read four newspapers a day. He was very intelligent. But when it came to basketball, he had difficulty focusing. I think he was so intelligent, the game was under his radar.”

Listen to Coach Hall’s full comment below:

Bearup played for Hall at Kentucky from 1980-85, and was the starting center on Hall’s final team in Lexington. He was an All-Academic SEC selection his senior year, and finished his UK career with 410 points and 308 rebounds in 114 games.


Ten Things KSR Learned about Nik Scalzo from a Conversation with his Coach, Matt DuBuc

@NikScalzo

Last week Eddie Gran received a commitment from South Florida quarterback, Nik Scalzo.  An unheralded three-star recruit, we heard the Baker Mayfield comparisons and a few more anecdotes, but there’s much more to learn about UK’s next signal-caller.

To find out more about Scalzo, I sought somebody who knows him quite well, his coach at Cardinal Gibbons, Matt DuBuc.  After a 15-minute conversation with KSR, there are a few things that should make you excited to see Scalzo in Kentucky blue.

1. Air Raid Roots

Scalzo has been tagged as a dual-threat quarterback by 247 Sports, but that’s not necessarily the case.  Throughout his quarterbacking career, he’s led an Air Raid offense.  That tag can often be misleading, especially for Kentucky fans who recall the years Tim Couch fired up the sirens at Commonwealth Stadium.

DuBuc runs the same offense Hal Mumme operated at Kentucky, because he learned it from Mumme’s most successful disciple, Mike Leach.

“It is very similar.  I went to Texas Tech, so I know Mike Leach very well.  It’s very similar to the Air Raid he ran at Texas Tech and Washington State.” DuBuc told KSR.  “We’re running very similar things to what you saw when Leach was there, and Mumme, at Cardinal Gibbons.”

2. Scalzo Loves the Deep Ball

There are differences in the offense Scalzo runs and the one that Tim Couch ran at Kentucky.  The foundation of that offense was to get the ball into open space, often with short passes, then let playmakers make plays.

“That’s how I teach it, but unfortunately, he likes to take the big shots,” DuBuc said with a laugh.  “On almost every play we have a pre-snap read where we have a vertical route.  If he feels like we can win on that vertical route, he’ll take it.  We’re not necessarily dink and dunk.  The Air Raid’s evolved a little bit more in the last few years where there’s a lot more vertical throws within the diamond concept, but if you want to throw for a lot of yards in this offense, you gotta utilize the backs.  The backs are key.”

One of the running backs, Vincent Davis, is also a Kentucky target.  More on him later.

3. He’s Always Been Undersized

DuBuc first began training Scalzo when the quarterback was in middle school.  If he’s considered undersized now at 5’11”, you should have seen him then.

“He was a little 5’3″ kid when we started, but always had a really good arm and good feet, so I thought there was potential there.”

It did not take long for that potential to turn into production.

“His freshman year he threw for almost 2,000 yards on JV, and you could just tell — ball placement, moxie, athletic ability.  He had those things and he’s smart.  He came in here and got a 4.5 GPA.  He’s just done it the right way.”

He was only about 5’8″ in that first season.  As his game grew, luckily he did too.

4. The Comparisons to Mayfield, Manzeil are Fair

Following Scalzo’s commitment, many eyes rolled when he was compared to two of the last six Heisman Trophy winners.  I’ll admit, I was one of them, but DuBuc makes a good case for the comparisons.

“I think he’s very similar to Baker Mayfield and Johnny Manzeil.  I think he’s got a lot of their qualities as a playmaker.  The one thing in the Air Raid — Tim Couch was not really able to, when the pocket collapsed, he had to get it out or throw it away and play on second down.  Nik has that ability, even though we’re running the Air Raid, when things break down he’s able to continue the play, but look to throw and not to run.  He gets a lot of balls out there to guys that they can’t cover for more than three or four seconds.”

5. Not a Runner

Scalzo has the dual-threat tag.  His coach said it’s not because he’s going to run for 1,000 yards.  He’s quick enough to escape the pocket, but once that happens, he looks to throw instead of run.  That development of Scalzo’s game makes his coach proud.

“That’s natural for him.  We had to break him a little bit when he got here — like a wild pony and put a saddle on him — because a lot of times when things broke down early, he ran out.  I challenged him and in the later half of last year he really became a pocket passer.  He ran when he needed to, but he wasn’t looking to run.  He was looking to throw.  I think that’s where his game has really taken the next step.”

DuBuc added: “The thing with most quarterbacks at 5’11, when things break down they run.  This guy is looking to throw, and I think that’s why he’s thrown 50 touchdowns in two years.”

6. Eddie Gran is an Excellent Evaluator

Kentucky’s offensive coordinator has developed an outstanding reputation in South Florida.  DuBuc has the utmost respect for the longtime SEC assistant who has developed relationships at Florida’s top high school programs.

“Eddie Gran does a phenomenal job recruiting the schools.  He has a great eye for talent,” DuBuc said.

Where other schools only see Scalzo’s size, Gran sees a competent quarterback that can move an offense down the field efficiently.

Eddie I would say is not taking a risk.  He is taking the best player available.  I think a lot of teams think, ‘You gotta be 6-foot or you gotta be 6-1.’  I think Eddie’s really figured out that one inch on somebody’s height isn’t going to change the day.  Can they win?  Can they perform? Can they lead people?  Can they do the things necessary to move the chains?  He sees that in Nik.”

7. They Gotta Beat American Heritage

Cardinal Gibbons has one team keeping them from getting over the hump.  Coached by three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Surtain, American Heritage was ranked No. 14 in the nation by the USA Today Super 25 at season’s end.  I’ll let DuBuc explain how they got there…

“We were 11-2 last year and lost in the third round to American Heritage 58-57 in triple overtime on a blocked extra point.  They ended up going 15-0 and winning the state championship with a running clock.  That’s a district game for us.  Nik and I in the two years I’ve been the head coach are 21-4, and all four losses are to American Heritage.  We definitely got them on our sights.”

Scalzo and DuBuc will have another shot at American Heritage on October 12.

8. Talented Teammates

Scalzo isn’t UK’s only recruit at Cardinal Gibbons.  Near the top of Gran’s recruiting board at running back is Vincent Davis.  A three-star prospect, he holds offers from UK, Boston College, Syracuse and a dozen others.

“Vince is a 10.7 100 meters.  He’s about 5’9″, 175 and can flat out guy,” DuBuc said.  “He runs very hard for a smaller back. He’s a guy that you gotta get the ball in his hands any which way.”

Scalzo’s tight end, Nikolas Ognenovic, has traveled to Kentucky with his quarterback.  The 6’5″ target rarely puts his hand in the dirt in Gibbons’ Air Raid offense, which essentially makes him another receiver, “but he’s 240 pounds.”

The other teammate Kentucky is recruiting, offensive lineman Jamari Williams, will choose between Kentucky and Louisville this Friday.

9. Where Scalzo Needs to Improve

Scalzo is far from a polished product.  The high school junior needs to improve on his decision-making, among other things.

“You kind of always use the word “maturity” for every player.  The maturity of understanding that you don’t have to take the deep shot.  You don’t have to force the ball.  You don’t have to run out of the pocket.  Those are all maturity things.

“I think he’s a pretty good student of the game.  By the time he gets up to you guys, he’ll probably be 6-foot 195, 200 pounds.  He’s a workout guy.  He works hard in the gym.”

10. A Playmaker

Nik Scalzo has come a long way since DuBuc first met the 5’3″ seventh grader.  He’s grown physically and mentally.  Scalzo was not handed a ticket to college football.  He had to work to earn his offer from Kentucky.  Scalzo was not born with god-gifted measurements, but he did receive one gift: the ability to make plays.

“He wanted to play in the ACC or SEC.  He got those opportunities because he makes plays.  That’s the bottom line.”

 


SEC Tournament Day One Preview

UK made an improbable run in the 2014 SEC Tournament.

The BatCats are in Hoover for the week-long SEC tournament. Kentucky (34-21, 13-17) hope to stick around for as much of that week as possible. With a win over Auburn in today’s opening round, UK would move into the double-elimination portion of the tournament. But a loss to Auburn would send UK back to Lexington. Before the game gets going at 2 ET (weather permitting), here is everything you need to know about UK’s opening round matchup.

This Game Could Knock UK Out of the NCAA tournament

How crazy is it that UK is now in this position? A week ago the Cats were working to earn a hosting spot, now they need to win today to feel safe in terms of reaching the tournament. D1 Baseball has UK as one of the last five teams in the tournament playing in the Chapel Hill Regional as a three seed. Baseball America has projected that UK will head to Clemson as a three seed. A win today would solidify a spot in the tournament, but a loss will make the Cats sweat a little before next Monday’s Selection Show.

Kentucky Won Two of Three in the Regular Season Series

It seems like years ago that these two teams squared off in Lexington. The Cats won the series thanks to some late-inning heroics in game one. UK scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 5-4 over the Tigers. Casey Mize, the projected #1 pick this year, struck out 12 in seven innings against UK, but his bullpen failed him in the ninth. Luke Heyer tied the game with a two-run homer against AU closer Calvin Coker in the ninth. With one out in the inning, Zeke Lewis scored on a passed ball to give UK the walk-off win. The Cats would win Sunday’s rubber match to take two of three from the Tigers.

Two Freshmen Square Off on the Mound

Nick Mingione will start his freshman midweek starter in the SEC Tournament opener. For more on UK’s starter, click here. The Tigers are going with freshman Jack Owen to start their postseason run. Owen started six midweek games for AU this season, going 2-2 with a 6.14 ERA and 34 strikeouts. Before making the move to the SEC, Owen was the #2 left-handed pitcher in California in the 2017 class. While he has untapped potential, Owen is still very raw. In 32 innings, Owen had a WHIP of 1.68. Of his 13 appearances as a freshman, only three of them came against SEC opponents. Owen allowed four runs in two innings in conference games. Tomorrow will be the first time Owen has pitched on the big stage with a lot on the line.

Auburn’s Top Hitter Was Once Committed To UK

When Brad Bohannon was the recruiting coordinator at UK, he scored a commitment from a shortstop named William Holland. When Bohannon took the assistant coaching job at Auburn in 2015, Holland stayed committed to his coach and switched to AU. In his second season with the Tigers, Holland led the team with a .329 average. He was named second team All-SEC following his breakout season.

Have You Ever Seen The Rain?

If you make the trip to Hoover this week, chances are you will see rain each and every day. The forecasts for the week show good chances for storms throughout the week. The first game of the tournament was already delayed an hour because of showers this morning. It is important to remember that these games HAVE to be played. There is very little room throughout the week for doubleheaders and rain delays. For today, UK will most likely start later in the afternoon.

Every SEC Tournament game will be broadcast on the SEC Network. If you need up to the minute updates, follow @TreyHuntsmanKSR live from Hoover. 


Buffalo Wild Wings wins KSR Food Bracket 2018

Outback’s quest for the rare back-to-back title fell short as Buffalo Wild Wings went on to win the 2018 KSR Food Bracket championship.

B-Dubs took the crown in a lopsided vote among show callers and celebrities on Tuesday. It reached the title game with wins over Rally’s, Little Caesars, Red Lobster, Hooters and Taco Bell.

Celebrate with “One Shining Moment,” courtesy of Wes Ledford.

I’m not happy about this.


Freshman Daniel Harper Named Today’s Starter

Photo: UK Atheltics

Nick Mingione will go to his primary midweek starter today as the BatCats take the field in the opening round of the SEC Tournament. Freshman Daniel Harper was named the starter for today’s SEC Tournament opener against Auburn. The Kansas-native went 3-2 with a 5.14 ERA as Kentucky’s usual midweek starter.

Harper was one of the only pitchers on UK’s staff to get experience starting midweek games and coming out of the bullpen against SEC opponents. In midweeks, Harper showed exceptional development over the course of the season. After allowing 20 earned runs in his first nine appearances of his career, Haper settled down and allowed only seven runs in his final nine trips to the mound. Harper threw a combined ten shutout innings in starts against Miami and Morehead after struggling to open the season.

UK moved Harper to the bullpen for SEC games when more and more guys went down with injuries. Harper allowed five runs in less than an inning against Arkansas, but he was solid after that misstep. After the Arkansas loss, Harper came out of the bullpen in four games and allowed three runs in 6.2 innings.

Auburn will counter with their midweek starter Jack Owen. The freshman went 2-2 with a 6.19 ERA in 13 appearances this season. Owen did not show the gradual improvement against SEC opponents that Harper did this season. The top-rated prospect allowed four runs in three innings against SEC teams as a freshman.

Both teams are in desperate need of a win today. They will go to their freshmen arms to try and push them into the second round of the SEC Tournament. Kentucky and Auburn will be the second game of the first round of the SEC Tournament. All four games today will be single elimination before the tournament moves to double elimination tomorrow.


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