The final weekend at the Cliff is here. #21 Kentucky (31-17) plays host to one of the hottest teams in the SEC this weekend as Mississippi State (27-22) comes into town. There will be a lot going on at the Cliff this weekend, so take a second and catch up on everything you need to know about the series against Gary Henderson’s Diamond Dogs.
The Final Weekend at the Cliff
In case you have been living under a rock for the past few months, here is your reminder that this series will be the last at the Cliff. There will be plenty of events and giveaways this weekend, so check out everything that UK has planned to honor the Cliff in its final weekend. Before the series gets underway, here is KY Wildcats TV’s video to make you tear up a little.
— KYwildcatsTV (@KYwildcatsTV) May 11, 2018
T.J Collett Will Not Play
Nick Mingione said on the KSR Baseball Podcast that Collett will miss yet another weekend with a hip issue. He will be re-evaluated next week before a decision is made moving forward. Collett has not played since the Georgia series. The sophomore DH is third on the team with ten home runs.
How Long will Zack Thompson Pitch?
Thompson made his long-awaited return to the starting role last week against Tennessee. He struck out seven in three hitless innings before exiting after throwing 51 pitches. Thompson is returning slowly from a flexor injury, so it remains to be seen how long he will pitch this weekend. UK would like to extend his pitch count in each start as he bounces back after missing six weeks.
Last Year’s Series
Mississippi State cooled off the Cats last year in Starkville. SEC Player of the Year Brent Rooker went berserk against the UK pitching staff as MSU scored double digits runs twice in the series win. The loss in Starkville dropped UK’s all-time road record at MSU to 13-40. UK did manage to take game one of last year’s series in dramatic fashion.
It is only right that MSU comes to Lexington for the final weekend at the Cliff. Four coaches have been an assistant or head coach at both UK and MSU in the last forty years. Keith Madison, John Cohen, Gary Henderson, and Nick Mingione all spent time in Lexington and Starkville at some point in their coaching careers. It is expected that all four coaches will be at the Cliff this weekend.
UK vs. MSU By The Numbers
22-20- UK holds a two-game lead over MSU at home in the all-time series. The Dogs have not won a series in Lexington since 2004 and have not swept a road series against UK since 1999. Fortunately for UK, they do not have to go to Starkville this season. The Cats are 13-40 at MSU all-time, including a series loss last season.
11-13- Both teams carry this conference record into the weekend. UK and MSU are tied for ninth in the SEC heading into the final two weeks of the regular season. The Dogs have been surging in the standings, while UK has faltered in recently. This is a huge weekend in terms of SEC Tournament seeding and the hosting race for the NCAA Tournament.
Six- The number of home runs Luke Heyer needs to tie A.J Reed and Jeff Abbott for the all-time record at UK. The Cats’ senior third baseman has seven regular season games plus the postseason to attempt to tie the record. Not bad for a guy who hit three home runs in all of last season.
26- The Dogs have hit only 26 home runs all season. The big reason their power numbers have decreased is that Brent Rooker is now in pro ball. The 2017 SEC Player of the Year hit 23 home runs last season before being selected in the first round by the Twins. MSU obviously misses Rooker’s bat and ability to drive in runs. The Dogs are last in the SEC in slugging percentage, RBIs, walks, home runs, and runs scored.
19- The number of times Mississippi State has blown a lead this season. The Dogs have come back to win seven of the games that they have lost a lead, but they have still struggled to keep leads early in games. The most notable blown lead came when the Dogs blew a 5-1 lead against Southeast Louisiana in an 11-5 loss.
Probable Pitching Matchups
Friday 7:30 ET: Konnor Pilkington (2-5, 3.72) vs Sean Hjelle (6-4, 3.19)
Saturday 5 ET: Ethan Small (5-3, 2.99) vs Zack Thompson (2-0, 4.98)
Sunday 3 ET: MSU Starter TBA vs Justin Lewis (7-3, 4.33)
Option number one should be to be in attendance at the Cliff. But if you can’t make it this weekend, all three games will be on TV. Friday night’s game will be broadcast on ESPNU and Saturday and Sunday will be on SEC Network.