Coming off a huge series win at Ole Miss last weekend, Kentucky returns to Cliff Hagan Stadium for an eight-game hoemstand beginning today against the team which opened the season ranked No. 1 in the polls, the Arkansas Razorbacks.
"Any time you have a good weekend, it creates confidence and gets you back to being optimistic about what you're doing," UK coach Gary Henderson said. "Certainly the kids feel good after the (Ole Miss) win and glad to be home for a couple of weekends."
The Wildcats (26-17, 9-12 SEC) plan to shake up their weekend pitching rotation for the first time this season, sending freshman right-hander Kyle Cody to the mound for Game 2 on Saturday, sandwiched by lefties A.J. Reed and Corey Littrell on Friday and Sunday.
Reed (2-5, 2.88 ERA) will be making his 12th weekend-opening start of the year on Friday in a game set for 6:30 p.m. ET. He’s coming off a strong outing against Ole Miss last week, outdueling Rebels ace Bobby Wahl in UK’s 3-2 win.
Cody (3-2, 5.49) will make his first career SEC start in Saturday’s 7 p.m. game, replacing normal Game 2 starter Jerad Grundy, who has gone winless and watched his ERA rise to 5.27 over his last five starts.
"He's missing up in the strike zone," Henderson said of Grundy. "There's no mystery. It's up, it's flat, and he's doing it in very inopportune times... He's not throwing near as many good pitches as he was the first eight weekends."
Littrell (5-3, 3.22) will close the series for the Cats on Sunday at 1 p.m.
The No. 14 Razorbacks counter with some of the best starting pitching in the nation, including right-hander Barrett Astin (3-2, 2.02) on Friday, ace right-hander Ryne Stanek (5-1, 1.60) on Saturday and lefty Randall Fant (4-1, 2.34) on Sunday.
No. 23 Kentucky is led at the plate by Reed, who is hitting .310 with eight doubles, two triples and a team-high 10 home runs and 46 RBI. Freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett is hitting .347 with four doubles, one triple and 11 RBI, but the Cats have not gotten the kind of offensive production they expected from second baseman J.T. Riddle (.276, 1 HR, 19 RBI) or preseason All-America centerfielder Austin Cousino (.256, 6 HR, 25 RBI). They’ll need both to ocme up big against the Razorbacks’ strong pitching.
Arkansas (30-15, 13-7 SEC) is led by sophomore outfielder Brian Anderson, who has hit .316 with nine doubles, two triples, two home runs and 26 RBI. Tyler Spoon is batting .292 with a team-high 39 RBI.
The Razorbacks lead the all-time series with UK 33-22, but the Cats have won two consecutive series, winning in 2011 in Lexington and 2012 in Fayetteville.
All three games will be televised live with the UK IMG Network broadcasting the first two games for FOX Sports South and CWKYT. Sunday’s game will be televised by Cox Sports Television.