UK baseball prepares for bounceback series against Texas A&M


Kentucky Wildcats utility Kirk Liebert (8) sprints towards first base during the UK vs. Morehead State baseball game on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 7-5. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Cole Parke

Kentucky baseball looks to bounce back from a series loss against former No. 1 Ole Miss on Thursday, taking on Texas A&M in a best of three series and UK’s first non-ranked SEC series of the season.

While the Wildcats have several notable disappointing losses against the likes of Ohio, Eastern Kentucky and Western Kentucky, the team has fared relatively well in conference play and against ranked opponents, holding a 5-7 record in such games.

Beating current No. 23 TCU and then No. 14 Georgia 2-1 in a series provides optimism for Kentucky’s chances against the Aggies, with even the 2-1 series loss to Ole Miss laying the groundwork for how UK could secure its second conference series win.

Looking at the Ole Miss series that just concluded, the Wildcats held the Rebels to just two runs per game in the first two games of the series, with roughly 4.6 runs per game in the series as a whole after faltering and giving up 10 runs in game three.

This is even more noteworthy because the Wildcats do not have a Friday starter, having lost Cole Stupp for the season after he suffered a forearm injury in game one against Georgia.

Opting for a “pitching by committee” style on the mound, UK marched five different pitchers up onto the bump, each pitching around two innings each.

Though the Wildcats lost game one 2-1, the pitching was certainly not at fault in that game, something that has hardly been the case for many of UK’s losses.

While the sample size is small, the success of the format only allowing two Rebel runs to start the series offers hope that UK may be just fine in game one against the Aggies.

Also worth noting for the game one committee, UK’s Tuesday game against No. 4 Louisville was canceled due to rain, leaving normal Tuesday starter Seth Logue rested and a potential option if the need arises.

It’s unlikely that Logue will see time on the mound, having struggled in recent weeks, including a loss to Eastern Kentucky and having a start to make on the coming Tuesday against Bellarmine. However, the possibility can not be completely ruled out if trouble arises for the Wildcats in game one.

Looking beyond the first game, UK has sturdy Saturday and Sunday pitchers who are available on Friday and Saturday, with the Cats looking to clinch the series in games two and three, if not sweep the series entirely, if Thursday is another successful trial of the new style.

On Friday, UK will likely Darren Williams, who recently pitched 6.1 innings in the Wildcats’ lone win over the Rebels, which just so happened to secure the 2,000th program win for the team.

Williams left his prior start seemingly with some kind of pain, but later indicated on social media that he is good to go and won’t miss time for the Wildcats.

Williams boasts a staggering 0.93 ERA, pitching at least three innings in all but three of his nine games on the mound.

With Friday all but locked down if Williams continues to pitch to his ability, focus turns to Saturday for a series win if the Thursday crew is unable to secure the win in game one.

Kentucky’s usual Sunday starter, Tyler Bosma, is also a strong arm on the mound, even if the Wildcats’ last Sunday game was one to forget.

Bosma currently boasts a 3.29 ERA, going at least five innings deep in all but two of his six starts on the mound, getting his ERA as low as 1.80 in UK’s first series against Jacksonville State.

Even with the higher ERA than Williams before him, Bosma boasts a 4-2 win-loss record, losing only in the sweep against No. 2 Arkansas and former No. 1 Ole Miss.

While the 10-run loss to the Rebels in Bosma’s last start may instill doubt in the veteran arm, only two of those runs came courtesy of Bosma, with the rest coming from the bullpen arms who replaced him.

With the series looking promising on the mound, Kentucky’s bats are no slouch either,  and barring a performance similar to game one of the Ole Miss series, should stand as a very positive factor in UK’s chances of victory.

Kentucky has been known for several of its hitters this season, including the likes of Chase Estep who, prior to the Ole Miss series, was batting over .400 on the season and currently checks in with a .384 average.

Recently, junior Jase Felker has stepped up to the challenge, recording a hit in nine of his last 10 games, owning a .472 batting average on the season, including a five-hit game in the Georgia series.

Beyond just the impressive numbers, hitters such as Jacob Plastiak, Alonzo Rubalcaba, Hunter Jump and Daniel Harris IV are also more than capable of sending a ball in play, with all also proving to be capable of sending one over the outfield wall as well when presented with the opportunity.

Overall, the Aggies are far from an easy opponent, nor is any team in the SEC for that matter. But A&M is the easiest conference opponent UK has faced thus far, with the Cats having a real possibility to sweep the series based on what it has shown to be capable of against tougher opponents in the past.

Game one of the series is currently scheduled to take place on Thursday, April 7, with first pitch being expected around 9 p.m. EST.