Kentucky limped down the stretch of the regular season, dropping 18 of its final 26 games after reaching a No. 7 national ranking, but the Wildcats get new life today in the form of the SEC Tournament.
Eleventh-seeded Kentucky (30-24, 11-19 SEC) will face No. 6 seed Ole Miss at 10:30 a.m. ET in the single-elimination round at Hoover, Ala. The Cats won two out of three against the Rebels in a weekend series last month in Oxford, Miss.
If UK survives the "play-in" round of the tourney, it will advance to play Arkansas in the double-elimination bracket. Many national baseball analysts believe the Cats may need to win four games in Hoover to have a shot at an NCAA bid.
The top four seeds in the SEC Tournament, Vanderbilt, LSU, Arkansas and South Carolina, earned byes.
Kentucky will send senior left-hander Jerad Grundy (6-5, 4.75 ERA) to the mound on Tuesday to face the Rebels for the second time in 2013. Over his last two starts, he has a 1-0 record and a 1.64 ERA, allowing just nine hits and two walks in 11 innings.
It's an interesting decision by UK coach Gary Henderson. Grundy surrendered nine runs on 12 hits in his start earlier this season against Ole Miss. He is 0-2 with a 13.06 ERA in two career starts against the Rebels, but the Cats need him to come up big in this start in order to save their top arms for the rest of the tournament.
Offensively, UK is led by slugging first baseman/pitcher A.J. Reed, who has batted .281 with eight doubles, two triples and 13 home runs as a sophomore. He also has a team-high 52 RBI, which ranks third in the SEC.
The Cats will need more than just Reed, though, to compete against the nation's most rugged competition from the SEC. Junior second baseman J.T. Riddle (.284, 20 RBI) and sophomore centerfielder Austin Cousino (.251, 27 RBI) have not hit as well as they were expected this season, but have shown signs of life in recent games.
Freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett leads UK in batting average with a .352 mark, which ranks 10th in the SEC.
Ole Miss (36-20, 15-15 SEC) is led by Stuart Turner, a strong-armed catcher who excels at shutting down opponents' running games. He has hit .377 with 15 doubles, one triple, five homers and 47 RBI.
Third baseman Andrew Mistone has a .320 average with 10 doubles and 33 RBI, with centerfielder Austin Anderson batting .296 with eight doubles, three homers and 37 RBI.
OPENING GAME INFO:
Kentucky: 30-24, 11-19 SEC
Ole Miss: 36-20, 15-15 SEC
Schedule (times Eastern and subject to change) – Hoover, Ala.
Tuesday, May 21 * vs. No. 6 seed Ole Miss * 10:30 a.m.
Radio: (UK IMG Network with Neil Price)
WLAP 630-AM in Central Kentucky
WKJK 1080-AM in Louisville
Live audio and stats on UKathletics.com