UK learns lesson in losses at LSU



By Nick Gray | @KYKernelGray

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This weekend in Baton Rouge, La., UK baseball had a learning experience.

The Cats learned LSU is a really good baseball team.

The Tigers swept UK by a combined score of 33-5. The Cats led once the entire series, a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Sunday before LSU scored five runs in the bottom frame.

LSU has lost twice all year, sporting a 30-2 record (tying a school-record for the best start in program history) and an 11-game winning streak where the winning margin has been fewer than five runs twice.

The Tigers moved into the No. 1 ranking in the Collegiate Baseball top 30 poll after the sweep of UK and boast the two top hitters in the SEC, Alex Bregman (.441) and Mason Katz (.436). Bregman leads the conference in hits, runs scored and triples. Katz leads the conference in home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and total bases.

When they are added with a staff that allows a 2.44 earned run average and has 21 errors, LSU will be tough to beat when they play their average game. UK played against LSU at their best.

The Cats also learned the difference between a top-three ranked team and a team ranked in the top 10.

Before Friday, the pitching matchups looked even on paper, with all six starting pitchers sporting an earned run average under 3.00. The Tigers’ hitting barrage all weekend forced the worst starts of the year from sophomore left-handed pitcher A.J. Reed, senior-left handed pitcher Jerad Grundy and junior left-handed pitcher Corey Littrell.

But the Cats have learned they are not a baseball team that will play this badly against top competition.

UK defeated Louisville, 5-4, last Tuesday in 10 innings in what was the Cats’ best win to date. Freshman right-handed pitcher Kyle Cody pitched his best game of the year in his biggest test in front of a sold-out crowd.

And the Cats have won series at Florida and against Mississippi State. The resume looks good through 31 games.

Though the LSU series stands as the first series loss of 2013, UK still owns three SEC series wins and has an opportunity to collect more wins, starting this weekend vs. Tennessee at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Out of the six SEC weekend series left on the Cats’ schedule, three are against teams with losing conference records.

The two highest ranked teams left on the schedule (No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 10 Arkansas) will visit Lexington.

UK is still talented enough to achieve every goal it wants this season. Head coach Gary Henderson and company should throw away any tape of last weekend.

Those sort of series happen in the SEC. There are too many good teams that can get scalding hot at the right time.

The Cats knew the SEC is the toughest conference in college baseball.

Last weekend, they learned just how tough the SEC can be.

UK hosts Austin Peay Tuesday at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Cody will get the start for the Cats, the fifth in his young career. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.