Cats move forward despite slow opening weekend

The No. 29 UK baseball team is not worried about the uncharted territory it’s currently exploring: opening the season with two quick losses.

Last weekend, the Cats (2-2) won a pair and dropped a pair at the Caravelle Resort Invitational in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Both of the Cats’ losses came to Coastal Carolina, the No. 18 team in the country according to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.

However, when the Cats started the previous two years with 19-game winning streaks, expectations begin to rise, but UK players said this is a new team with new expectations.

“We’re not worried about (the losses),” sophomore shortstop Chris Wade said. “This year, more so than the past couple years, we’re playing better competition. Coastal Carolina went to NCAA tournament Super Regionals last year. We’ll learn from that, and come (conference) play, we’ll be more prepared.”

Since the Caravelle Resort Invitational, UK head coach Gary Henderson said the team has responded well and had a good, high-energy practice Tuesday after a day off Monday.

The Cats are preparing to start their second four-game series in as many weeks when they take on Western Michigan on Friday. Unlike the Cats, Western Michigan fields an older club, Henderson said. The good news for the Cats is they believe the things they need to work on are all things under their own control.

“We have the talent, in my opinion, to compete with anybody in the country,” Wade said. “We basically beat ourselves (last weekend). Coastal Carolina is a really good team, but a lot of things they got, we gave them.”

The four-game set against Western Michigan will be UK’s debut series at Cliff Hagan Stadium this season. In the past four years, the Cats have controlled their home diamond, winning 103 of the 131 games played.

Not only will it be the first game for Henderson at home as head coach, but it will be the first game at home for the nine true freshmen on the roster.

One of the more impressive performances by the freshmen in last weekend’s tournament came from right-handed pitcher Sean Bouthilette. On Feb. 20 against James Madison University, Bouthilette earned his first career win, throwing five innings, striking out three and only allowing two runs.

The Cats would love to get more performances like that out of their freshmen, Wade said.

“They’re really talented and have the right mindset,” Wade said. “Henderson has been great with them, but I feel like we need to take them under our wing a little bit and show them how it’s done.”

Despite being just a sophomore, Wade believes he can help in pointing the freshmen in the right direction because he played in every game last year.

He also feels he can channel a famous cliché to help get the Cats back on the right path.

“It’s a one-game-at-a-time mentality,” Wade said. “We’re not going to say we’re going to win every game. We need to do the things we worked on in practice and we need to implement them in the games.”