UK baseball looking to keep things rolling against Ole Miss

Head Coach Nick Mingione talks to his team during a WKU mound meeting during a game against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Carter Gossett | Staff

Chris Angolia

In its first year under new head coach Nick Mingione, UK baseball is off to a start that has been rather surprising given the programs turnover, but this surprise is one that Cats fans can live with.

UK has now won 16 of its last 18 games after its victory Tuesday over Western Kentucky. That includes eight straight road victories, and has swept its last three weekend series with the most recent one coming in College Station as the Cats swept a ranked Texas A&M team to open SEC play.

With a 16-6 record including a 3-0 conference record, UK has vaulted into the polls and is ranked as high as No. 19 by

Coming into the season, very few people expected the Cats to play at such a high level especially when it comes to the pitching staff that lost all three weekend starters from 2016. The trio of Sean Hjelle, Zach Logue and Justin Lewis have combined for nine wins and have an average ERA of 3.49 in their weekend starts so far this year.

While the pitching has done a good job of giving the Cats stability on the mound and is ranked within the top-20 nationally in ERA, it has been the offense that has taken centerstage during UK’s fast start.

UK as a team is currently ranked fifth in the nation with its .328 team batting average through its 22 games this season. Not only is the team raking offensively, but they are doing so without arguably their best hitter, as preseason All-American Evan White has been battling injury and has only played in nine games this season. 

Without White, the Cats have had no problem picking up the slack as Luke Becker, Marcus Carson, and Zach Reks are all hitting over .370 so far this year. And as far as run production goes, eight UK hitters have 12 or more runs batted in on the season with conference play just beginning.

If UK can sustain this production from both its pitching and offense through the gauntlet that is the SEC, the Cats will most likely have themselves in a good position for the postseason under their new head coach.

What’s ahead:

Fresh into the rankings, UK will be tested right off the bat in its first weekend series since entering the top-25 as it hosts No. 14 Ole Miss for a three-game series that begins Thursday night.

Much like the Cats, the Rebels began the season unranked but have won big series against ranked clubs East Carolina and Vanderbilt, on the backs of their pitching staff, to get themselves into the rankings. The Rebels pitching is slightly better than UK’s statistically, ranking 11th in team ERA with an ERA of 2.68.

It will be no easy task, but a series victory against the Rebels would give the Cats a 5-1 conference record and a spot amongst the top in the conference just two weeks into SEC play.