LEXINGTON — The No. 25 Kentucky baseball team will return to the grind of Southeastern Conference play on Thursday, traveling to face off with Tennessee, with first pitch of the series opener slated for 7:30 p.m. at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The series will resume at 6 p.m. on Friday and conclude at noon on Sunday.
The Thursday game will be televised as the ESPNU Thursday Night SEC Game of the Week, with a pregame show starting at 7 p.m. The game will be called by Dave Neal, Kyle Peterson and Chris Burke. The series finale on Saturday will also be televised live on FSN, with Dave Baker and Larry Conley voicing the action.
Kentucky will turn to the weekend rotation of junior left-handed pitcher A.J. Reed (7-2, 2.31 ERA) on Thursday, sophomore southpaw Dylan Dwyer (5-2, 3.96 ERA) on Friday and junior righty Andrew Nelson (1-4, 4.61 ERA) on Saturday. Tennessee will counter on Thursday with freshman righty Hunter Martin (3-2, 3.05 ERA), senior righty Nick Williams (4-4, 3.80 ERA) – the brother of former UK standout catcher Michael Williams – on Friday, and sophomore southpaw Andy Cox (3-1, 1.96 ERA) on Saturday.
A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed has made 25 consecutive weekend opening starts for the Wildcats, including 11 in 2014. A 6-foot-4, 240-pounder, Reed has worked 74 innings, allowing 70 hits and 19 walks, striking out 49. In his three-year career, Reed has a 14-13 record and a 3.04 ERA, the fourth-best total in UK history. Reed is coming off his second loss of the year on Friday vs. No. 12 Ole Miss. Reed worked his shortest outing since 2012, lasting three innings, allowing eight hits and seven runs – two earned – walking one and striking out three. In a 2013 start vs. Tennessee, Reed suffered a no-decision in an eventual 5-4 UK win. Reed worked 6-2/3 innings, allowing eight hits and two runs, walking two and striking out six on 104 pitches.
Dwyer, a native of Murray, Ky., will be making his fourth career SEC start on Saturday. Dwyer has appeared in 11 games with eight starts, working 50 innings, allowing 44 hits and 15 walks, striking out 44.
A native of Omaha, Neb., Nelson has made nine starts and appeared in 12 games in 2014, working 52.2 innings, allowing 61 hits and 13 walks, striking out 25.
Kentucky (27-17, 9-12 SEC) is coming off a four-game homestand that saw the Wildcats suffer a series sweep at the hands of No. 12 Ole Miss. UK opened last week with a 15-13 win over Tennessee Tech on Tuesday, in a matchup of two of the top-four scoring teams in the nation. UK got the go-ahead homer from senior Micheal Thomas in the eighth inning and held on for a win in a game that saw a total of 10 homers hit, including seven by TTU.
In 2014, Kentucky has been led at the plate by A.J. Reed, who has hit .374 with 12 doubles, one triple, 19 homers and 59 RBI, owning a .810 slugging and a .495 on-base percentage. First baseman Thomas Bernal has hit .348 with seven doubles, one homer and 24 RBI, with third baseman Max Kuhn hitting .331 with 13 doubles, five homers and 39 RBI.
Tennessee (26-16, 8-13 SEC) is coming off a series loss at No. 6 LSU, but the Vols grabbed their first win over the Tigers since 2009 on a Saturday with homer in the ninth inning.
The Vols have hit .282 as a team, with 68 doubles, 15 triples, 17 homers and 218 RBI, owning a .388 slugging and a .368 on-base percentage, stealing 67-of-90 bases. Defensively, UT has fielded .976, turning 29 double plays and allowing just 20 steals in 38 attempts, the fewest in the SEC. On the mound, UT has a 3.57 ERA in 378.2 innings, with 11 saves, 142 walks and 277 strikeouts.
UT has been led at the plate by freshman Nick Senzel, who has hit .350 with 10 doubles, two triples, one homer and 32 RBI, stealing 12 bases and owning a 28-22 walk-strikeout ratio. Christian Stewart has hit .347 with 14 doubles, five triples, four homers and 31 RBI.
Tennessee leads the all-time series with Kentucky, 162-142, including an 87-65 all-time mark in games played in Knoxville. Tennessee won the last series meeting in 2013, with UK winning the series in 2012 in Knoxville and in 2011 in Lexington. UK has last swept a series at UT in 2008, with UT last sweeping UK in Knoxville in 2004.