UK baseball carries hot bat into South Carolina series


Sophomore outfielder Ka’ai Tom fields a hit during the game between the University of Kentucky baseball team vs. University of Missouri in Lexington , Ky.,on Sunday, April 13, 2014. Photo by Michael Reaves

By Derek Terry

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UK baseball (13-3) will open up conference play this weekend when it travels to Columbia, S.C., to take on the No. 7 Gamecocks.

The Cats are riding an 11-game winning streak going into the weekend. Junior left fielder Ka’ai Tom has seen the ball exceptionally well lately, hitting for the cycle in Tuesday’s 9-1 win over Cincinnati. He was the first Cat to hit for the cycle since 1994.

Freshman Riley Mahan has also stepped up for UK recently, making four consecutive starts at third base after regular-starter Evan White missed three games due to an injury. White has since returned to the lineup and played as the designated hitter against Cincinnati.

Head coach Gary Henderson said Mahan is starting to settle into the lineup.

“He has been doing a very nice job,” Henderson said. “The at bats are dramatically more comfortable for him and more aggressive than they were the first few weeks. The last two weeks have been very good for Riley.”

The starting pitching has also been solid for the Cats. Juniors Kyle Cody and Dustin Beggs, along with sophomore Zack Brown, all pitched at least seven innings in last weekend’s series against Northern Kentucky.

Henderson said he is pleased with Brown’s strength in recent games.

“He’s doing a nice job,” Henderson said. “He’s getting better every time out. His last start was a great day for him in terms of sustaining concentration and being able to find a different approach after going through the lineup three times.”

While Henderson said that UK doesn’t have weekend starters in place yet, it is expected that the trio will compete for the roles.

The Gamecocks (14-3) enter the weekend as winners of their last seven games. Senior first baseman Kyle Martin leads the team in hitting with a .368 batting average and has 21 hits, three doubles and three home runs on the year.

Junior left-hander Jack Wynkoop is among the top pitchers in the conference. He has a 2.00 earned run average and a 3-1 record through four starts this season.

First pitch is set for 7 p.m. on Friday at Carolina Stadium.