UK Baseball opens season against Wofford on Friday

Chris Angolia

UK Baseball is set to kick off its season on Friday when it travels to Spartanburg, South Carolina, to face off against the Wofford Terriers.

Last season the Terriers won 39 games for the first time in school history and finished third in the Southern Conference.

Wofford was picked to finish third in the SoCon preseason poll behind Samford and Mercer. Senior Matthew Milburn leads a talented pitching staff. After winning 10 games as a junior, Milburn was named as the Preseason Pitcher of the Year in the SoCon. Left-handed starting pitcher Adam Scott and senior closer Will Stillman were also named as Preseason All-SoCon.

However, on offense the Terriers lost four of their top five hitters from a season ago. Catcher Carson Waln returns to anchor the backstop for Wofford. As a sophomore, Carson was third on the team with a .335 batting average. He had 55 hits and 32 runs batted in a year ago.

For UK, junior Zack Brown will get the start Friday night. Brown is coming into 2016 as the Cats’ Friday night starter after playing that same role in 2015. He had a team leading 3.48 earned run average and finished 6-6, while tossing three complete games in the process.

Head coach Gary Henderson must replace Ka’ai Tom and Kyle Barrett, two players who both contributed greatly over their times at UK, putting up stellar numbers. Tom and Barrett were the Cats’ leading hitters in 2015, leading a void both offensively and defensively after being drafted in 2015.

Those two will be replaced by guys who have had some experience, but have never been consistent starters. Those who have emerged are juniors Marcus Carson, Storm Wilson and freshman Tristan Pompey. Henderson is confident that Carson, Wilson and Pompey will be able to fill that void.

“Feel really fortunate, with Kai and Kyle moving on from last year’s group that we’ve got a stable of guys that will be able to do a very good job not only defensively, but offensively for us in the outfield,” Henderson said.

Junior JaVon Shelby will also be making his first career start at third base for the Cats. Shelby spent the last two seasons at second base, but the lack of depth at third base led to the move to the hot corner.

Shelby will be anchoring the Cats lineup along with sophomore first baseman Evan White. White was named to the Freshman All-SEC team last season after batting .318 with 12 doubles and two home runs.

Brown, along with Shelby and White, will hope to lead the 25th-ranked Cats to a victory in the season opener.