The BatCats sit atop the leaderboard in the SEC and have climbed to #16 nationally. UK hosts Vanderbilt at the Cliff this weekend in what could be the biggest series to this point for Kentucky. The Dores have been a one seed in the NCAA Tournament the last several years and won the title in 2014. Here are five things to watch for this weekend from a guy that has seen this team play nearly 20 times the last three years.
The Dores Bring Two Top Prospects to Lexington- Kyle Wright and Jeren Kendall are both candidates for the number one overall selection in the 2017 MLB Draft. Both guys have been playing below their potential early in their junior seasons, but the combined talent is ridiculous. Kendall is one of the tooliest players in the game. He can beat you on the basepaths just as well as he can with the bat. And with that left-handed pull power, he might put one over the short wall at the Cliff. Kendall was last week’s SEC Player of the Week. Despite his 4.50 ERA, Wright is still the third most talented college arm in the SEC in my book. Known for his hard fastball, Wright impresses with a solid curve as well. Look for Wright on Friday night.
– Trey Huntsman (@TreyHuntsmanKSR) March 31, 2017
Vanderbilt had four players suspended last weekend- For those that follow Vandy Baseball, it is surprising when players act out. Coach Tim Corbin suspended Drake Fellows, Alonzo Jones, Zach King, and Harrison Ray last weekend against Texas A&M for failing to meet team standards. All four players will return this weekend against UK.
Playing for a purpose- Last year, Vanderbilt went through one of the hardest times imaginable. Freshman Donny Everett drowned the night before the NCAA Tournament began. A top prospect, Everett died on a fishing trip after practice. Several guys on the team have tattoos to remember Donny. So if you see the number 41 on uniforms or in the dugout, it is for the teammate who was taken too young. Here is an excellent article on what Donny means to the program.
The offense hasn’t been as strong- Before last weekend, even Kendall was struggling. Jones is hitting .192 after being All-Freshman Team last year and 2016 standouts Ethan Paul and Connor Kaiser have struggled early this season. The Dores are 11th in the SEC in batting average and sixth in strikeouts. Unfortunately for the Dores, Dansby Swanson and Zander Wiel are not walking through the door to help in the infield.
Per usual, the pitching talent is crazy- Tim Corbin has produced the likes of David Price, Sonny Gray, and Carson Fulmer. It shouldn’t be a surprise that he reloaded for 2017. After Wright, Vandy brings in Fellows and Patrick Raby for the weekend. Both guys post ERAs below two and have shown excellent command through six starts. The bullpen is where it gets interesting. If Kentucky can dive into the pen early and force Corbin to burn Matt Ruppenthal and King early, a series win becomes easier.
Oh and one more thing, they have a dude who sits in the stands and whistles the whole game. So enjoy that this weekend.
This weekend’s series is going to be huge for the Kentucky Program. The BatCats have a chance to win a series over an SEC East opponent that they haven’t won a series against since 2009. The series starts tomorrow night at 6:30 ET followed by Saturday at 2 and Sunday at 1.
Check out this week’s KSR Baseball Podcast on iTunes, Podbay, or the KSR app for a full preview of the weekend.