Baseball Cats face No. 14 Arkansas in three-game set



By Alex Forkner | @AlexFork3

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After an inauspicious month of action, No. 23 UK baseball returns to Cliff Hagan Stadium on Friday to begin a three-game series with No. 14 Arkansas.

In April, the Cats struggled to a 5-11 record, losing seven straight games and three straight SEC series at one point. Last week, UK’s woes reached a pinnacle when the Cats lost an 18-inning marathon at Western Kentucky.

“Those are good memories,” said UK head coach Gary Henderson, sarcastically referring to his team’s past four weeks.

But this past weekend, UK (26-17, 9-12 SEC) was able to shake off its demons and take two of three games at No. 16 Ole Miss, the Cats’ first SEC series win since defeating Georgia in late March.

“Anytime you have a good weekend it creates confidence and gets you back to being optimistic about what you’re doing,” Henderson said. “We’re always optimistic, but certainly the kids feel good after the win. Glad to be home for a couple weekends.”

The three-game series against Arkansas (30-15, 13-7 SEC) begins an eight game homestand for UK.

The Cats are 16-7 and at home this season, but haven’t won in Lexington since topping Tennessee, 5-4, on April 12.

The Razorbacks were 9-7 in April, including a win against the No. 2 Louisiana State University Tigers, who swept UK earlier in the month.

Henderson anticipates a tough effort from the Razorbacks’ pitching staff, which has posted a 1.98 ERA in conference games and a 1.78 overall ERA this season.

“Well, Arkansas can really pitch,” he said. “They’re very deep. They can match you up. They’ve got good starting pitching.”

Taking the mound for Arkansas on Friday will be junior pitcher Barrett Astin (3-2, 2.02 ERA).

In his Friday start against Georgia last weekend, Astin pitched eight shutout innings en route to an 8-0 Arkansas win, earning Astin SEC Pitcher of the Week honors.

Sophomore left-handed pitcher A.J. Reed will get the start for UK on Friday. Reed has cultivated an impressive 2.88 ERA, but sports a 2-5 record on the year.

The Cats have struggled at the plate of late, eclipsing six runs only three times in the past 16 games.

Ten of those past 16 games have been decided by three runs or less, including seven by one run. Henderson expects this weekend’s matchup will result in more of the same.

“It will be another one of those weekends, you would anticipate — you’ve got no crystal ball, but you would anticipate — it’s another weekend of close games; 3-2, 5-4, 2-1 — those types of games,” Henderson said. “We’ve played plenty of them, but that’s exactly what I would think that we’re looking at.”

First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Cliff Hagan Stadium.