Kentucky will host Louisville at Cliff Hagan Stadium in a meeting between the nation’s ninth-ranked team and a team that fell out of the top 25 in this week’s rankings. First pitch was originally scheduled for 6 pm Tuesday night, but it has been bumped up two hours to 4 pm due to thunderstorms heading toward Lexington. (So if you’re planning to go, go now.)
When asked about his team’s bitter rival, UK head coach Nick Mingione said, “They’re a good team and a good program. It’s another good test. The biggest thing is Sam Bordner (UofL’s closer). He’s got eight saves. They’ve played a lot of close games. They throw the ball well, as usual. They’re playing a lot of new position players. Another really good team.”
Another really good team indeed, although the Cards have dropped four of their last six games. Both teams, though, enter Tuesday’s game off road series losses over the weekend, but each had Sunday wins to avoid sweeps.
Let’s talk a little more about what to know going into the game, which will air on SEC Network Plus.
Kentucky will start a freshman on the mound.
The Cats will turn to Daniel Harper, a true freshman out of the Kansas City area. Harper, a right-hander, pitched the best game of his young career a week ago when he shut out Miami in six innings and earned his second career win. Harper is 2-1 in six starts on the year with a 6.38 ERA, but raised the bar on his expectations with his recent breakout performance.
Kentucky has the fourth-best batting average in the entire country.
With a batting average of .322, Kentucky ranks fourth nationwide in that category, behind only Tennessee Tech, UNC Greensboro and New Mexico State.
It’s also the best mark in the SEC, obviously.
Kentucky is third in home runs.
The Cats have hit 48 home runs this season.
Three players have at least nine home runs.
UK is the only team in the country with three players who have nine or more home runs in 2018.
We can go one step further and say Kentucky has two of the top 10 home run-hitters in the country in Kole Cottam and Luke Heyer. Cottam ranks fifth with 12 home runs; Heyer is eighth with 11 bombs. T.J. Collett isn’t too far behind with nine.
Luke Becker has reached base in every game this season.
Here’s a promising stat: Becker, the Cats’ veteran infielder, has reached base safely in all 28 games this season.
UofL is eighth in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings.
Louisville is also among the best in hits allowed per nine innings, ranking 18th with only 7.32.
The Cardinals have won eight of their last nine against the Wildcats.
Louisville has had Kentucky’s number in recent years, including a 3-1 record last season with the two wins that ended UK’s postseason run in the Super Regional.
Louisville has also won four of its last six games at Cliff Hagan Stadium.