Your University of Kentucky Wildcats baseball team begins its quest for Omaha today in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The Cats own their highest preseason ranking in school history across multiple media outlets, checking in at No. 8, No. 11, No. 13, or No. 15 depending on who you ask. Rankings aside, these Cats are dead-set on making the College World Series and building off the surprise season from last year that saw the team make some noise the NCAA Tournament.
On paper, duplicating and improving on last season should be easy to do. Led by a strong and seasoned rotation of southpaws in sophomore A.J. Reed (5-3, 2.52 ERA), junior Corey Littrell (9-2, 2.74 ERA), and senior Jerad Grundy (6-3, 3.78 ERA), starting pitching will again be a strong asset of this squad, even with the loss of ace Taylor Rogers from a season ago.
And the bullpen is stronger than ever, with senior Walt Wijas and junior Trevor Gott pacing the corps of relievers. Add Sam Mahar, and newcomers Chase Millins, Ryne Combs, and Kyle Cody who all may see some serious game action, and the pitching staff is loaded for this Wildcats team.
Kentucky also returns six of eight position starters from its record 45-win season last year. Stud sophomore centerfielder Austin Cousino (.319 avg, 9 HR, 41 RBI), veteran corner outfielder Zac Zellers (.311 avg, 5 HR, 19 RBI in 2012), along with junior Lucas Witt (.319, 9 RBI) will patrol the grass.
And on the dirt, junior shortstop Matt Reida (.239 avg, 2 HR, 22 RBI) and junior second baseman J.T. Riddle (.279, 5 HR, 38 RBI) will lock down the middle infield. Adding to the depth of the position players are junior Paul McConkey (.323, 2 RBI), Max Kuhn (.333, 3 RBI), Jeff Boehm (.357, 1 RBI), Thomas Bernal (.370, 4 RBI), and Michael Thomas (.250, 4 RBI).
The weekend three-game series is set on the campus on Wofford and USC Upstate. Kentucky will play UNC Asheville on Friday, USC Upstate on Saturday, and Niagara on Sunday.