It’s almost time for the biggest game of the BatCats’ season. UK and Alabama play in the first game of the evening slate, with a probable start time of 5:30 ET. We’ve got all you need to know for the first round of the SEC Tournament.
Zach Logue is on the mound for UK
Coach Gary Henderson announced in the coach’s teleconference that he would go with sophomore Zach Logue on the hill for UK. Logue was the top midweek starter for the Cats for the second straight season. The Ohio-native was 3-1 with a 2.62 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 16 games (eight starts). Last year, Zack Brown started in the first round against Auburn. It would have worked out for Brown to start again, but his 6.08 ERA and 2-11 record is frightening. Logue has made starts against Louisville, Cincinnati, and Indiana this season. He took a hard loss against Louisville when errors put three unearned runs in his stat line. Logue’s best games came against Murray State and Miami when he struck out seven in each matchup. The start of Logue isn’t terrifying because he has pitched twice against Louisville and made several appearances in SEC games.
Eicholtz named Alabama starter
UK will face Nick Eicholtz for the second time in 2016. The junior threw 7.2 innings in Lexington to save Bama from getting swept in April. The Sunday starter gave his career-best performance against UK, which is probably the reason Coach Mitch Gaspard held him for game one of the SEC Tournament.
UK and Bama face off for the the second time in three years
Two years ago, Alabama and UK played in the eight/nine game in Hoover. UK ran away with a 7-1 win on their way to the semifinals in 2014. This is the third straight year that the Cats have been an eight or nine seed in the SEC Tournament, the other time being against Auburn last year. It makes it difficult to advance past the second round as game one plays into the one seed every year.
This is a play-in game for the NCAA Tournament
Coach Henderson, Aaron Fitt, and several other writers have all concluded that the loser of this game is out of the NCAA Tournament. Neither team has a good RPI, but wins in the SEC Tournament would boost that in a hurry. UK currently sits at 55 in the RPI, and Alabama is at 62. The lowest RPI to receive an at-large bid to a regional was UC Santa Barbara at 56. Both of these teams have 15 SEC wins, which would tie for the most ever by a team that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament. Whoever wins this game will move onto the double elimination portion of the tournament against the top seeded Mississippi State on Wednesday. From the second round until the semifinals, the tournament is double elimination. So there will be multiple chances for UK to boost their RPI if they get past Alabama.
Where to Watch
Every game will be on SEC Network this week. Kentucky will play at 5:30 tonight on the SECN. There will be a live diary 30 minutes before first pitch and tweet updates @TreyHuntsmanKSR.