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| Kentucky Baseball Announces 2011 Schedule

After Cat Scratches released the UK men’s basketball schedule the last two seasons with elaborate detail, breaking down each opponent for the fans, the baseball schedule was released in similar fashion last year. Again this year, UK has released its baseball schedule with a team-by-team breakdown of UK’s SEC opponents. Cat Scratches broke down each opponent, including key returning players and losses, a description of the last series and a breakdown on the team.

UK’s schedule is once again one of the best in the nation, just a year after owning the No. 7 hardest schedule in the NCAA, according to the NCAA RPI. UK will face the rugged 10-weekend Southeastern Conference schedule, facing daily challenges in the best conference in college baseball. In addition to league play, UK will face College of Charleston, Rice, Houston, Utah, Middle Tennessee State, Louisville, Western Kentucky and Indiana in non-conference action.

Click on each team name and date in order to bring up the complete team-by-team breakdown.

Tennessee Logo
Tennessee Volunteers (March 18-20 – Lexington, Ky.)

Head Coach: Todd Raleigh

2010 Record/Conference Finish: 30-26, 12-18 SEC/10th overall, fifth in SEC East

Final RPI: No. 45

Final Ranking: not ranked (Baseball America)

Postseason: n/a

Key Returning Position Players: CF Josh Liles (.298, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 19-21 SB), SS Zach Osborne (.285, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 5-7 SB), 2B Khayyan Norfork (.261, 3 HR, 25 RBI, 14-17 SB), OF Matt Ramsey (.323, 6 HR, 19 RBI), OF Charley Thurber (.291, 7 HR, 32 RBI), OF Chris Fritts (.270, 3 HR, 10 RBI)

Key Returning Pitchers: RHSP Steven Gruver (4-4, 6.21 ERA, 12 GS, 58 IP, 16 BB, 45 SO), RHCP Matt Ramsey (4-2, 4.29 ERA, 21 APP, 2 SV, 35.2 IP, 13 BB, 43 SO), RHP Drew Steckenrider (0-1, 5.79 ERA, 10 APP, 3 GS, 14 IP, 10 BB, 16 SO), LHRP D.J. Leffler (0-0, 6.28 ERA, 17 APP, 14.1 IP, 5 BB, 13 SO), LHP Rob Catapano (3-0, 7.11 ERA, 14 APP, 5 GS, 31.2 IP, 10 BB, 24 SO), RHRP Nick Blount (2-2, 8.42 ERA, 21 APP, 1 GS, 31 IP, 16 BB, 17 SO)

Key Position Player Losses: OF PJ Polk (.352, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 25-30 SB), 1B Cody Hawn (.327, 14 HR, 61 RBI), 3B Matt Duffy (.304, 4 HR, 41 RBI), C Blake Forsythe (.286, 15 HR, 57 RBI), OF Cody Stubbs (.241, 3 HR, 13 RBI), IF Cody Grisham (.222, HR, 9 RBI)

Key Pitcher Losses: RHSP Stephen McCray (6-4, 3.04 ERA), RHRP Steve Crnkovich (6-2, 5.58 ERA), LHSP Bryan Morgado (2-7, 7.90 ERA), LHRP Will Locante (1-1, 7.36 ERA)

Series Record: UT leads 136-157; UK leads in Lexington 71-69

Last Meeting: UK pounded out six homers, including two homers from shortstop Taylor Black in the series opener on ESPNU, as UK pounded out 12 hits and 12 runs in a 12-8 win, roughing up UT starter Bryan Morgado and getting a winning starting effort from Logan DarnellNick Kennedy and Mike Kaczmarek closed out the win for UK … On Saturday, UT jumped out to a 5-0 lead, with UK later tying the game at 6-6 before UT plated two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning … UT closer Matt Ramsey was great in relief of ace Stephen McCray, hurling 3.1 shutout innings for the 8-6 win … In the series finale, UT used a great outing from Steven Gruver, who went six innings and allowed only one run, in the first inning … Will Locante and Steve Crnkovich closed out the game for UT on the mound, erasing a great outing from UK freshman starter Jordan Cooper (5 IP, 2 R) and two hits each from Chris Bisson and Gunner Glad.

The Breakdown: This will be the first SEC weekend of the year and both teams will be looking for a good start to league action … UT has a lot of pieces to replace, including the offensive production vacated by Blake Forsythe, Cody Hawn, PJ Polk and others, in addition to pitching staff stalwarts Stephen McCray, Bryan Morgado and Steve Crnkovich … The Vols do have a stud reliever in Matt Ramsey but the Vols will need to put together a weekend pitching rotation that will surely include Steven Gruver … Offensively, the Vols will need increased production from Ramsey and CF Josh Liles, and middle infielders SS Zach Osborne and 2B Khayyan Norfork … The Vols will have to rely on newcomers to fill several spots in the lineup and to carry the load for the pitching staff.

Tennessee Logo
Alabama Crimson Tide (March 25-27 – Tuscaloosa, Ala.)

Head Coach: Mitch Gaspard

2010 Record/Conference Finish: 42-25, 15-15 SEC/seventh overall, fourth in SEC West

Final RPI: No. 11

Final Ranking: No. 16 (Baseball America)

Postseason: SEC Tournament runner-up/NCAA Clemson Super Regional runner-up

Key Returning Position Players: CF Taylor Dugas (.395, 2 HR, 37 RBI, 19-24 SB), OF Jon Kelton (.286, 2 HR, 33 RBI, 6-11 SB), OF Andrew Miller (.247, HR, 27 RBI), OF David Kindred (.314, 3 HR, 18 RBI), 1B Brett Whitaker (.263, HR, 3 RBI), C Brett Booth (.255, 2 HR, 15 RBI), OF Brandt Hendricks (.250, 3 RBI)

Key Returning Pitchers: RHP Nathan Kilcrease (8-3, 2.85 ERA, 34 APP, 6 GS, 4 SV, 98.0 IP, 82 SO), RHP Tucker Hawley (2-1, 4.20 ERA, 16 APP, 5 GS, 1 SV, 40.2 IP, 31 SO), RHP Brett Whitaker (2-3, 4.65 ERA), LHP Jonathan Smart (2-1, 5.56 ERA), LHP Taylor Wolfe (3-2, 6.13 ERA), LHP Adam Morgan (7-5, 6.18 ERA, 18 GS, 90.1 IP, 72 SO)

Key Position Player Losses: SS Josh Rutledge (.360, 10 HR, 69 RBI, 15-18 SB), 1B Clay Jones (.313, 17 HR, 66 RBI), 2B Ross Wilson (.277, 9 HR, 47 RBI, 10-12 SB), 3B Jake Smith (.260, 15 HR, 57 RBI), C Brock Bennett (.283, 2 HR, 17 RBI)

Key Pitcher Losses: RHSP Jimmy Nelson (9-3, 4.01 ERA), RHP Jason Townsend (2-1, 5.77 ERA), RHCP Jake Smith (1-2, 0.89 ERA, 6 SV)

Series Record: Alabama leads series, 54-33; In Tuscaloosa, Alabama leads 25-14

Last Meeting: Last year, UK posted a big series win over the Crimson Tide on April 9-11 in Lexington … UK won game one 7-6, thanks to a four-run rally in the bottom of the eighth that erased a one-run UA lead … UK got three hits each from Chad Wright and Keenan Wiley in the opener, with Nick Kennedy picking up the win and Matt Little notching the save after replacing Kennedy in the ninth inning with the bases loaded and no outs … In game two, UK used homers from Taylor Black and Lance Ray in the 8-2 win, with Ray getting the surprise start after Wright was too ill to play … Taylor Rogers was dominating in the win Saturday, going 7.2 innings, allowing only five hits and two runs … In Sunday’s game, UK started Alex Meyer, who went five shutout innings to start the game, before loading the bases with one out in the sixth inning and UK owning a 9-0 lead … Meyer, who was pitching with a mis-diagnosed mononucleosis, exited the game and Bama started a furious rally, scoring 11 unanswered runs to post an 11-9 win, highlighted by Bama’s Jake Smith’s grand slam.

The Breakdown: While Alabama has some key ingredients to replace, its late-season push into the SEC Tournament should be signs that the Crimson Tide will be a legitimate contender in 2011 … Workhorse ace Jimmy Nelson is off to pro ball, but the Tide are bolstered by the return to Kilcrease, a weapon as a weekend starter or late-inning reliever … Offensively, Dugas will continue to assert himself as one of the top leadoff hitters in the nation, with tremendous strike-zone discipline and an uncanny ability to get on base … Bama will need to find some position starters, replacing what looks like its entire infield, but pitching should be a strength, with Kilcrease, Hawley and Morgan.

South Carolina Logo
South Carolina Gamecocks (April 1-3 – Columbia, S.C.)

Head Coach: Ray Tanner

2010 Record/Conference Finish: 54-16, 21-9 SEC/second, second in SEC East

Final RPI: No. 7

Final Ranking: No. 1 (Baseball America)

Postseason: NCAA Champions

Key Returning Position Players: OF Jackie Bradley Jr. (.368, 13 HR, 60 RBI), 1B Christian Walker (.327, 9 HR, 51 RBI), OF Adam Matthews (.307, 7 HR, 31 RBI), 3B Adrian Morales (.273, 9 HR, 56 RBI), 2B Scott Wingo (.247, 9 HR, 31 RBI), OF Evan Marzilli (.385, 3 HR, 12 RBI)

Key Returning Pitchers: LHP Michael Roth (2-1, 1.34 ERA, 3 SV, 40.1 IP, 35 SO), RHP Matt Price (5-1, 2.26 ERA, 10 SV, 55.2 IP, 83 SO), RHP Jose Mata (7-1, 2.40 ERA, 45 IP, 37 SO), LHP Nolan Belcher (3-1, 2.43 ERA)

Key Position Player Losses: C Brady Thomas (.331, 8 HR, 30 RBI), OF Whit Merrifield (.321, 13 HR, 42 RBI), C Kyle Enders (.281, 3 HR, 32 RBI), 1B Nick Ebert (.272, 7 HR, 31 RBI), SS Bobby Haney (.263, 3 HR, 24 RBI), 1B Jeffery Jones (.300, 8 HR, 29 RBI)

Key Pitcher Losses: RHP Blake Cooper (13-2, 2.76 ERA, 137 IP, 126 SO), Sam Dyson (6-5, 4.28 ERA, 103 IP, 101 SO), RHP Jay Brown (3-0, 4.44 ERA, 50.2 IP, 34 SO)

Series Record: South Carolina leads, 38-29; In Columbia, S.C., USC leads, 20-10

Last Meeting: UK hosted eventual NCAA Champion South Carolina on the third-to-last weekend of the year, with UK owning a 7-14 record in SEC play and on the verge of drifting out of contention for postseason play … Even though fourth-ranked South Carolina was entering the series with a 35-9, 16-5 record, UK had to win the series to remain in contention … After South Carolina rode a strong outing from Blake Cooper to a 13-9 win in the series opener on Friday night, UK’s season was on the brink … UK turned to freshman right-hander Jordan Cooper in the must-win Saturday game and Cooper dazzled, earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors after going 6.2 innings with one run allowed, with UK using a two-RBI double from Braden Kapteyn for a 2-1 win to even the series … In the rubber match, UK returned ace right-hander Alex Meyer after a battle with mononucleosis and Meyer was a force, going seven innings and allowing only three unearned runs in a 9-3 series-clinching win … UK got behind after the three unearned runs scored off Meyer in the top of the first, but the Wildcats plated single runs in the first, second, fourth, fifth and seventh, then exploded for a four-run eighth inning to seal the series win over No. 4 South Carolina.

The Breakdown: The defending NCAA Champions will once again be really good, despite losing some key pieces of its weekend rotation … The big question out of the fall is whether ace relievers Michael Roth and Matt Price will shift to the rotation, with Roth dazzling as a starter in the CWS and Price securing his spot as the top reliever in the Omaha run … One of the keys to South Carolina’s run last year was a diversity of arms in the bullpen, with Roth and Mata just a pair of the unique matchups Ray Tanner can run out of the bullpen … The Gamecocks will need to replace a few big bats, including Whit Merrifield, Brady Thomas, Nick Ebert and Jeffery Jones, but after a breakout CWS, Jackie Bradley Jr., is poised to become one of the top prospects in the college game and young talents like Evan Marzilli and Christian Walker will insure that there is not a drop off for the talent-laden Gamecocks.

Auburn Logo
Auburn Tigers (April 8-10 – Lexington, Ky.)

Head Coach: John Pawlowski

2010 Record/Conference Finish: 43-21, 20-10 SEC/third overall, first in SEC West

Final RPI: No. 19

Final Ranking: No. 19 (Baseball America)

Postseason: NCAA Auburn Regional runner-up

Key Returning Position Players: 3B Dan Gamache (.365, 8 HR, 37 RBI), OF Justin Fradejas (.358, 3 HR, 33 RBI), C/OF Tony Caldwell (.349, 10 HR, 41 RBI), SS Casey McElroy (.325, 9 HR, 43 RBI), UT Justin Bryant (.323, 5 HR, 32 RBI), 2B Justin Hargett (.316, 2 HR, 32 RBI), 1B/DH Kevin Patterson (.315, 16 HR, 33 RBI), OF Creede Simpson (.308, 5 HR, 31 RBI), 3B Wes Gilmer (.341, 2 HR, 13 RBI)

Key Returning Pitchers: RHP Slade Smith (4-0, 3.65 ERA), LHP Cory Luckie (6-4, 5.91 ERA), LHP Sean Ray (2-3, 3.72 ERA), RHP Bradley Hendrix (4-2, 5.35 ERA), RHP Zach Blatt (1-0, 5.40 ERA), RHP Jon Luke Jacobs (0-3, 7.22 ERA)

Key Position Player Losses: 1B Hunter Morris (SEC POY, 3.86, 23 HR, 76 RBI), CF Trent Mummey (.366, 17 HR, 54 RBI), C Ryan Jenkins (.365, 7 HR, 38 RBI), OF Brian Fletcher (.357, 22 HR, 75 RBI, 14-21 SB)

Key Pitcher Losses: RHP Austin Hubbard (6-2, 2.44 ERA, 10 SV), LHP Grant Dayton (8-3, 4.36 ERA), RHP Cole Nelson (6-3, 5.64 ERA), RHP Michael Hurst (2-1, 4.20 ERA), RHP Dexter Price (3-0 4.39 ERA)

Series Record: Auburn leads 70-40; In Lexington, Auburn leads 30-20

Last Meeting: There are several series that stick out as “what might have been” last year, and the Auburn series is one of those … UK came out in the series opener and posted a 13-6 loss to the Tigers, with Cory Luckie and Austin Hubbard handcuffing UK’s offensive attack … After the Saturday game was rained out in the top of the first inning, a twinbill was slated for Sunday … UK came out and posted a dramatic 8-7 win in the four-hour slugfest on Sunday, with the game being tied or the lead changing hands 10 times in the game … UK prevailed 8-7, scoring three runs in the top of the eighth inning to erase a 7-5 Auburn lead … UK closer Matt Little pitched four sterling innings for the win, allowing only two unearned runs … In the series finale, a seven-inning game on Sunday, UK fell behind 4-0 after allowing the Tigers to plate four runs in the bottom of the second … UK started to rally behind Lance Ray, with UK plating one run in the fourth and one run in the top of the sixth to tie the game at 7-7 entering the final inning of play … UK rallied for the would-be game-winning run in the top of the inning, giving freshman starter Taylor Rogers a one-run lead heading to the bottom of the inning, after Chris Bisson doubled to lead off and stole third, scoring on a sacrifice fly … With UK’s bullpen exhausted after being used extensively in the first game of the twinbill, UK kept Rogers in the game and after a bat-handle single to lead the bottom of the final inning off and a sacrifice bunt, Auburn tied up the game … With runners on first and second and two outs in the bottom of the inning, SEC Player of the Year Hunter Morris connected on a walk-off single to give Auburn the series win.

The Breakdown: Auburn had a team that flat-out produced offensively a year ago, with some of the best sluggers in the nation rocketing balls all over the yard on the Plains … Without Morris, Mummey and Fletcher, Auburn will not have the same look as last year, but bats like Patterson, Fradejas, McElroy and Caldwell will help pick up the slack … If Patterson wins a everyday job, he could produce offensive numbers like Morris did last year and Fradejas will be a one of the top-of-the-order weapons in college baseball … On the mound, Auburn pieced it together last year, using workhorses Hubbard and Dayton to win the SEC West … They will need to replace those arms and others, but return several talents, including matchup nightmare Ray, Luckie, Hendrix and Jacobs, with Jacobs looking to return to his freshman-year form.

Ole Miss Logo
Ole Miss Rebels (April 15-17 – Oxford, Miss.)

Head Coach: Mike Bianco

2010 Record/Conference Finish: 39-24, 16-14 SEC/sixth overall, third in SEC West

Final RPI: No. 27

Final Ranking: not ranked (Baseball America)

Postseason: NCAA Virginia Regional

Key Returning Position Players: 1B Matt Smith (.348, 12 HR, 54 RBI), 1B Matt Snyder (.347, 12 HR, 40 RBI), OF Tanner Mathis (.330, 13 RBI), C Taylor Hightower (.285, 17 RBI), 2B Alex Yarbrough (.283, 4 HR, 41 RBI), OF Miles Hamblin (.226, 7 HR, 41 RBI)

Key Returning Pitchers: RHP Brett Huber (2-0, 3.54 ERA, 12 SV), LHP Matt Crouse (5-1, 3.74 ERA 1 SV), RHP Trent Rothlin (3-4, 4.62 ERA), LHP Matt Tracy (4-3, 5.85 ERA), RHP Eric Callender (4-1, 6.19 ERA), RHP David Gorforth, 1-6, 9.43 ERA, 3 SV)

Key Position Player Losses: OF Taylor Hashman (.314, 10 HR, 46 RBI), 2B Tim Ferguson (.294, 9 HR, 36 RBI), 3B Zach Miller (.287, 2 HR, 48 RBI), SS Kevin Mort (.284, 2 HR, 23 RBI), OF David Phillips (.238, 7 HR, 28 RBI)

Key Pitcher Losses: LHP Drew Pomeranz (SEC POY, 9-2, 2.24 ERA), RHP Aaron Barrett (7-5, 4.34 ERA), RHP Rory McKean (4-2, 6.39 ERA)

Series Record: Ole Miss leads, 38-26; In Oxford, Ole Miss leads, 22-8

Last Meeting: UK opened SEC play with Ole Miss in mid March and the Rebels entered the series on a roll, owning a No. 19 ranking and a 14-4 record … The Rebels rode a dominating outing from SEC Pitcher of the Year Drew Pomeranz for a 9-0 win in the opener, with Pomeranz going six one-hit innings in the win, striking out nine … In game two, UK fell behind 7-2 entering the bottom of the eighth inning but a four-run rally fell just short and freshman Brett Huber emerged as Ole Miss’ closer with his first career save … In the series finale, UK’s offense erupted off Sunday Ole Miss starter Matt Tracy, with Alex Meyer picking up a win in a quality start and Braden Kapteyn slugging two homers and driving in six RBI.

The Breakdown: : When looking at the Ole Miss stats from last year, it is obvious they didn’t lose too much besides the SEC Pitcher of the Year, Pomeranz and weekend rotation stalwart Barrett … Catalysts Ferguson, Hashman and Miller were veteran leaders for the Rebels and Mort solidified the defense at SS the last two years … On paper, it looks like Snyder and Smith will anchor the offense, with Hightower living up to his reputation as one of the top high school catchers in the nation … On the bump, reviews out of the fall pin Goforth as a player who may be living up to his potential as a flame-throwing right hander … If Goforth, Huber and Crouse can lead the pitching rotation in 2011, Ole Miss will once again be in contention for the league crown.

Arkansas Logo
Arkansas Razorbacks (April 22-24 – Lexington, Ky.)

Head Coach: Dave Van Horn

2010 Record/Conference Finish: 43-21, 18-12 SEC/fourth overall, second in SEC West

Final RPI: No. 14

Final Ranking: No. 13 (Baseball America)

Postseason: NCAA Arizona State Super Regional

Key Returning Position Players: OF Collin Kuhn (.336, 16 HR, 52 RBI, 17-19 SB), 2B Bo Bigham (.316, 3 HR, 30 RBI, 14-17 SB), C James McCann (.286, 9 HR, 34 RBI), SS Tim Carver (.267, 4 HR, 36 RBI, 9-9 SB), OF Matt Vinson (.214, 3 HR, 15 RBI), OF Jarrod McKinney (.190, HR, 5 RBI)

Key Returning Pitchers: RHP D.J. Baxendale (0-2, 3.58 ERA, 7 SV), LHP Geoffrey Davenport (2-2, 3.63 ERA)

Key Position Player Losses: 3B Zack Cox (.429, 9 HR, 48 RBI), CF Brett Eibner (.333, 22 HR, 71 RBI), DH Monk Creder (.284, 4 HR, 45 RBI), 1B Andy Wilkins (.281, 15 HR, 69 RBI), OF Travis Sample (.321, 3 HR, 21 RBI)

Key Pitcher Losses: LHP Drew Smyly (9-1, 2.80 ERA), RHP Mike Bolsinger (6-5, 4.81 ERA), RHP T.J. Forrest (8-1, 3.38 ERA), RHP Jeremy Heatley (5-0, 4.01 ERA), RHP Brett Eibner (3-5, 4.34 ERA)

Series Record: Arkansas leads, 31-18

Last Meeting: Mentioned already how the series at Auburn in 2010 was a big moment in the year, well the series at Arkansas may have had an even bigger impact on the season … UK went to Arkansas after six SEC games, owning a 1-5 record and desperately needing league wins … The Wildcats responded in the series opener, teeing off on Arkansas senior Mike Bolsinger with eight runs in the first three innings … UK held on for the win, after Logan Darnell was pulled in the fourth inning, with Nick Kennedy tossing 4.1 excellent innings in relief for the win, in a game where rain fell throughout most of the night … Braden Kapteyn provided much of the offensive spark, going 4-for-5 with three RBI, including a line-drive homer just inside the opposite-field foul pole … In game two, Arkansas turned to its stud lefty, Drew Smyly, who shut down UK in a 10-1 win, with Taylor Rogers getting chansed after four innings and Jordan Cooper pitching admirably in relief, allowing only one earned run in the final four frames … Sunday is when things really got interesting, as the two teams squared off in an epic battle that saw the Razorbacks claim a walk-off win with a two-out, two-strike grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning, 17-16 … UK jumped all over Brett Eibner in the second inning for a quick 5-0 lead, before Arkansas answered with eight runs in the bottom of the second to chase Alex Meyer from the game … Arkansas added to its lead and held a 13-9 lead entering the top of the eighth … UK wouldn’t quit, plating an eye-popping seven runs in the top of the eighth inning, highlighted by a three-run homer from Keenan Wiley, to take a three-run lead into the bottom of the ninth inning … UK had closer Matt Little on the mound and he ran into trouble, putting two runners on base when slugger Andy Wilkins was used as a pinch hitter in the No. 9 spot in the order … Wilkins, who had pulled his hamstring a day earlier and was announced to the media as being out for two weeks with injury, stepped up and drew a walk to load the bases for Collin Kuhn, who worked the count to two strikes and stuck his bat out for a walk-off grand slam, sneaking inside the foul pole down the wind-blown leftfield line … Easy to look back now, but if UK gets one more strike in that game, they assuredly make the NCAA Tournament and ride a wave of momentum into the second half of the season.

The Breakdown: Arkansas lost as much as anyone in the league, but with 10,000-15,000 fans attending every game, there is no excuse for not reloading with a new class … Kuhn, McCann and Bigham will lead the offense, with McKinney and Vinson capable to stepping into the next step in their careers, with the departure of sluggers Eibner, Cox and Wilkins … On the mound, Arkansas will look quite different, as Eibner, Smyly and Bolsinger were veteran leaders for the Razorbacks … One would think Dave Van Horn and Todd Butler have restocked the talent in Fayetteville after last year, so as usual, Arkansas will be in contention for the SEC West.

LSU Logo
LSU Tigers (April 28-30 – Baton Rouge, La.)

Head Coach: Paul Maineri

2010 Record/Conference Finish: 41-22, 14-16 SEC/eighth overall, fifth in SEC West

Final RPI: No. 22

Final Ranking: not ranked (Baseball America)

Postseason: NCAA UCLA Regional

Key Returning Position Players: OF Mikie Mahtook (.335, 14 HR, 50 RBI, 22-32 SB), 2B Tyler Hanover (.332, 2 HR, 35 RBI), SS Austin Nola (.320, 5 HR, 52 RBI), OF Mason Katz (.318, 5 RBI), INF/OF Alex Edward (.314, 2 HR, 15 RBI), OF Trey Watkins (.268, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 14-19 SB)

Key Returning Pitchers: RHP Daniel Bradshaw (5-1, 5.01 ERA), RHP Ben Alsup (5-1, 3.88 ERA), LHP Jordan Rittiner (4-4, 4.37 ERA), LHP Chris Cotton (2-0, 5.32 ERA), RHP Matty Ott (2-4, 6.38 ERA, 11 SV), RHP Joey Bourgeois (4-1, 6.68 ERA)

Key Position Player Losses: C Micah Gibbs (.388, 10 HR, 60 RBI), 1B Blake Dean (.341, 12 HR, 70 RBI), OF Leon Landry (.338, 6 HR, 45 RBI), DH Matt Gaudet (.283, 19 HR, 67 RBI), OF Johnny Dishon (.213, 4 HR, 9 RBI)

Key Pitcher Losses: RHP Austin Ross (5-4, 5.22 ERA), RHP Paul Bertuccini (1-0, 2.56 ERA), LHP Chris Matulis (5-3, 5.33 ERA, RHP Anthony Ranaudo (5-3, 7.32 ERA), RHP Mitch Mormann (3-0, 5.97 ERA)

Series Record: LSU leads 39-23-1; In Baton Rouge, LSU leads, 20-7-1

Last Meeting: Entering the next-to-last weekend of SEC play, UK had to take care of the defending NCAA Champion LSU at home to remain in contention for postseason play … UK did just that, sweeping LSU in dramatic fashion … Trailing in the bottom of the ninth inning in the series opener, Lance Ray struck for a walk-off three-run homer for the series-opening win … In game two, UK used Jordan Cooper’s stellar outing to post a 9-4 win to clinch the series, getting 17 hits and homers from Chris Bisson, Taylor Black and Ray … In the finale, UK entered the bottom of the eighth inning trailing 4-2, before senior catcher Marcus Nidiffer – making his final plate appearance of his five-year homer career – belted a go-ahead grand slam off All-American closer Matty Ott for the win, with Logan Darnell coming off injury to pitch the final frame.

The Breakdown: In the middle of the season last year, LSU ran into the tough luck that UK was faced with much of the year, losing heartbreaking contests late in games and suffering a slew of bad breaks … They snapped out of it in time for the SEC Tournament, a spot in the tournament that opened up after UK lost one more game then it needed to in Athens … LSU will need to replace Ranaudo, Ross and the underrated Bertuccini on the mound and offensive leaders Gibbs, Dean, Landry and Gaudet … Its hard to not get the best recruits in the nation at LSU, so the Tigers will be restocked, including future ace Kevin Gausman on the mound … A healthy Watkins should take the next step and join Mahtook in a talented outfield … Once again, LSU will have the talent to compete for the SEC and national title.

Vanderbilt Logo
Vanderbilt Commodores (May 6-8 – Lexington, Ky.)

Head Coach: Tim Corbin

2010 Record/Conference Finish: 46-20, 16-12 SEC/fifth overall, third in SEC East

Final RPI: No. 10

Final Ranking: No. 14 (Baseball America)

Postseason: NCAA Florida State Super Regional runner-up

Key Returning Position Players: 2B Anthony Gomez (.379, 2 HR, 30 RBI), 3B Jason Esposito (.359, 12 HR, 64 RBI, 31-35 SB), 1B Curt Casali (.309, 8 HR, 42 RBI), 1B/OF Aaron Westlake (.308, 14 HR, 61 RBI), OF Connor Harrell (.300, 3 HR, 39 RBI, OF Joe Loftus (.277, 8 HR, 39 RBI), C Drew Fann (.358, 7 RBI), OF Mike Yastrzemski (.260, 3 HR, 18 RBI), 2B Riley Reynolds (.209, 7 RBI)

Key Returning Pitchers: RHP Sonny Gray (10-5, 3.48 ERA), RHP Taylor Hill (6-5, 4.46 ERA), RHP Jack Armstrong (7-4, 4.71 ERA), LHP Grayson Garvin (1-1, 1.25 ERA), LHP Corey Williams (1-0, 2.65 ERA), RHP Will Clinard (4-0, 2.68 ERA), LHP Sam Selman (0-0, 9.00 ERA), LHP Navery Moore (2-0, 9.24 ERA)

Key Position Player Losses: SS Brian Harris (.286, 5 HR, 34 RBI), C Andrew Giobbi (.284, 7 HR, 57 RBI), OF Bryan Jones (.370, 1 HR, 22 RBI)

Key Pitcher Losses: RHP Chase Reid (4-2, 3.46 ERA, 3 SV), LHP Richie Goodenow (3-1, 2.23 ERA), RHP Russell Brewer (2-2, 3.07 ERA, 6 SV), RHP Drew Haynes (6-0, 3.91 ERA)

Series Record: UK leads series, 139-129-5; In Lexington, UK leads, 70-47-1

Last Meeting: Vanderbilt had UK’s number in this series, as the Dores rode Sonny Gray and dynamic lefty Corey Williams to a 7-0 win in the series opener … With rain coming on Sunday, the teams agreed to play two games on Saturday … In the first contest, UK starter Taylor Rogers allowed two runs in the first inning – one earned – and pitched lights out the remainder of the game, taking a hard-luck 2-1 loss, with UK’s best chance to score coming late in the game as Chad Wright led off with a triple, putting UK in position to tie … In the series finale, UK held an 8-6 lead entering the bottom of the ninth inning … Vandy rallied, plating three runs to walk off with the win, chasing UK closer Matt Little, with Nick Kennedy saddled with the hard-luck loss after coming in with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Breakdown: This looks like the year for Vanderbilt, as the Dores appear to be stocked with Omaha talent … Vandy will have one of the best rotations in the nation, with Gray, Armstrong and Hill … Coach Tim Corbin recruits the best and the back of the staff last year was loaded with amazing talents that could have a drastic affect on the pitching staff, including Garvin, Moore, Selman and Williams … There is probably not a team in the nation that boasts the kind of pitching depth Vanderbilt does and it is hard to think that VU’s coaching staff is not one of the top three in the nation, with Josh Holliday and Derek Johnson joining Corbin on a dynamic staff … Johnson may be the hottest commodity among college baseball assistants, leading an always lights-out pitching unit … In the field, Westlake, Gomez, Reynolds, Harrell, Casali will provide the offensive punch, with Westlake poised for a breakout spring after a solid fall in the two-game series at Texas … My guess, Vanderbilt is in Omaha at the end of the year and among the top three teams in the SEC standings.

Georgia Logo
Georgia Bulldogs (May 13-15 – Lexington, Ky.)

Head Coach: David Perno

2010 Record/Conference Finish: 16-37, 5-23 SEC/12th overall, sixth in SEC East

Final RPI: No. 118

Final Ranking: not ranked (Baseball America)

Postseason: n/a

Key Returning Position Players: OF Zach Cone (.363, 10 HR, 53 RBI, 13-13 SB), C Christian Glisson (.342, 3 HR, 17 RBI), SS Kyle Farmer (.340, 3 HR, 25 RBI), OF Johnathan Taylor (.335, 29 RBI, 12-20 SB), 2B Levi Hyams (.333, 4 HR, 32 RBI), OF Peter Verdin (.307, 7 HR, 27 RBI, 15-17 SB), 1B Robert Shipman (.263, 4 HR, 25 RBI), 3B Colby May (.176, 5 HR, 19 RBI), C Brett DeLoach (.277, 2 HR, 15 RBI),

Key Returning Pitchers: RHP Michael Palazzone (4-6, 8.66 ERA), RHP Cooper Moseley (0-5, 6.59 ERA, 4 SV), RHP Cecil Tanner (1-2, 12.41 ERA)

Key Pitcher Losses: RHP Justin Grimm (3-7, 5.49 ERA), RHP Jeff Walters (2-6, 7.90 ERA), RHP Steve Esmonde (2-1, 6.44 ERA), LHP Justin Earls (2-0, 7.05 ERA), LHP Alex McRee (0-1, 7.25 ERA)

Series Record: Georgia leads, 124-84-1; In Lexington, Georgia leads 46-39-1

Last Meeting: UK went to Athens on the final weekend of the year with its fate in its hands, needing to win two of three to clinch a postseason berth … While Georgia was in the midst of an unprecedentedly bad season, the Bulldogs still had a bevy of talent, including future high-round picks in its rotation … In their final career college games, UK ran into the buzz saw of Justin Grimm and Jeff Walters, who combined to handcuff UK’s offense for wins in the first two games to win the series … In the finale, UK had to win to have any hope remaining of making the postseason … In the back-and-forth game, UK entered the top of the ninth inning with it tied 11-11 and Georgia flame throwing closer Cooper Moseley on the mound … UK used Gunner Glad’s three-run homer to seal the win, but the offensive highlight was UK freshman outfielder/football wide receiver Brian Adams going off in a 4-for-5, six-RBI game, including a grand slam and a triple.

The Breakdown: Georgia had a rough year last year, despite being one of the more talented teams in the conference … With the Hope Scholarship and the baseball talent in Georgia, it is hard to believe UGA would ever not win 40-50 games and after their 16-win season in 2010, one would expect the Bulldogs to regain position among the NCAA’s elite … If UGA can figure out its pitching this year, the offense will be just fine, with Cone appearing to be one of the more electric talents in the college game and Farmer, Hyams, May, Verdin and Taylor veteran offensive producers … If Palazzone lives up to his freshman, high school potential, Georgia could be right back in the hunt … Georgia is going to score runs for its offense, the question is who takes the mound for the Bulldogs?

Florida Logo
Florida Gators (May 19-21 – Gainesville, Fla.)

Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan

2010 Record/Conference Finish: 47-17, 22-8 SEC/first overall, first in SEC East

Final RPI: No. 4

Final Ranking: No. 7 (Baseball America)

Postseason: College World Series

Key Returning Position Players: 3B/DH/C Austin Maddox (.333, 17 HR, 72 RBI), 1B Preston Tucker (.331, 11 HR, 49 RBI), SS Nolan Fontana (.287, 3 HR, 23 RBI), C Mike Zunino (.267, 9 HR, 41 RBI), 2B Josh Adams (.224, 9 HR, 42 RBI), DH Brian Johnson (.405, 4 HR, 21 RBI), C Ben McMahan (.325, 2 HR, 11 RBI), OF Kamm Washington (.308, HR, 6 RBI, 8-9 SB), OF Tyler Thompson (.301, 6 HR, 28 RBI), OF Daniel Pigott (.268, HR, 22 RBI), 3B Jerico Weitzel (.262, HR, 4 RBI), Bryson Smith (.255, 3 HR, 22 RBI), INF Cody Dent (.233, 2 RBI)

Key Returning Pitchers: RHP Hudson Randall (8-4, 3.24 ERA), LHP Alex Panteliodis (11-3, 3.51 ERA), LHP Brian Johnson (6-4, 4.03 ERA), RHP Greg Larson (3-1, 5.70 ERA), RHP Anthony DeSclafani (2-3, 7.08 ERA), RHP Steven Rodriguez (2-0, 2.57 ERA), RHP Tommy Toledo (3-2, 4.39 ERA), LHP Nick Maronde (2-0, 6.15 ERA), LHP Justin Poovey (1-0, 7.20 ERA)

Key Position Player Losses: CF Matt den Dekker (.352, 13 HR, 49 RBI), OF Jonathan Pigott (.260, 3 HR, 13 RBI), C Hampton Tignor (.125, 3 RBI)

Key Pitcher Losses: LHP Kevin Chapman (3-0, 1.65 ERA, 11 SV), RHP Jeff Barfield (4-0, 4.48 ERA)

Series Record: Florida leads, 127-55-1; In Gainesville, Fla., Florida leads 60-16

Last Meeting: Florida, arguably the most talented team in the nation, came to Lexington in mid April and posted a series win over the Wildcats … In game one, Florida posted a 10-8 win, getting five RBI combined from Nolan Fontana and Austin Maddox … In game two, Florida won 6-3, despite a strong start from Taylor Rogers … In the finale, UK had to turn to freshman Walter Wijas as the surprise starter with Alex Meyer out with illness … Wijas was solid, going into the fourth inning without allowing a hit … UK held on for a 6-5 win, behind Matt Little’s sixth save of the year.

The Breakdown: There is no doubt among baseball fans and experts in college this year, Florida is the most talented team in the country … They are offensively good, with a deep roster that should absolutely be playing on the final weekend of the year for the national championship … There are too many stud returnees to list here, so suffice it to say, Florida should win 55 games this year and have a slew of All-Americans … On the mound, the Gators will have 5-6 starters that could be a Friday-night ace for any team in the nation and a deep corp of arms that could be in the rotation anywhere, including Lexington native Nick Maronde, a potential first rounder, who has seen sporadic action during his career, simply due to the obscene depth of the Gators … Hard to believe that they don’t win 55 games and go to Omaha as the two-time defending SEC Champions.



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