UK baseball notes: Cats get another crack at Cohen's Bulldogs

mmaloney@herald-leader.comMay 23, 2012 

NCAA Mississippi St Florida Baseball

Mississippi State coach John Cohen talks to reporters following his team's 4-3 win over Florida during an NCAA college baseball tournament Super Regional game in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, June 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)

PHIL SANDLIN — ASSOCIATED PRESS

HOOVER, Ala. — After a day off, fourth-seeded Kentucky will take on No. 7 seed Mississippi State in a Thursday winners' bracket game of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament.

The Wildcats (42-15) were swept by MSU in three games last weekend at Starkville.

"Any time you're playing somebody you played the previous weekend, there's a chance to benefit from that," UK Coach Gary Henderson said. "Having said that, we just lost a weekend, so you've got to bounce back from that. Hopefully you learn from your shortcomings or your mistakes."

Henderson said he'll probably start junior left-hander Jerad Grundy (4-3, 4.15).

UK opened the SEC tourney Tuesday with a 2-0 win over Ole Miss.

Mississippi State (36-21), coached by former UK boss John Cohen, beat sixth-seeded Arkansas 9-1 Tuesday, then upset top-seeded LSU 3-2 Wednesday.

The Bulldogs went with ace right-hander Chris Stratton against LSU. The likely starter against UK will be junior righty Kendall Graveman (4-3, 2.79).

"We owe them," said Luke Maile, who leads UK in homers, RBI, walks and game-winning RBI. "They took it to us for three games down at their place and they just outplayed us all three games. So it'd be really exciting to have another chance, and try and beat a really good ball club because they do a lot of things well. But I think if we play well, we can make some noise."

■ As it did for two days before the tourney, UK practiced at Birmingham-Southern College on Wednesday.

Birmingham-Southern is coached by Jan Weisberg, a former UK player and assistant coach, and the former coach at Transylvania.

In his third season with Birmingham, Weisberg guided the Panthers to a 38-9 record and an NCAA Division III Regional finals.

"Great day; our guys practiced well," Henderson said after Wednesday's workout. "Good concentration. Good energy. We've practiced very well here three days."

■ Having used mid-week starter A.J. Reed against Ole Miss, with usual Friday starter Taylor Rogers throwing 36 pitches in relief, Henderson has a well-rested pitching staff. Plus, the Tuesday victory earned UK a day off.

"It gives us a little bit of rest and, hopefully, that's a really good thing for us as we move forward," Henderson said. "But you've still got to go out there and perform well. So it's a good thing that we were able to have A.J. throw 52⁄3 (innings). Not only did it give the starters an extra day and keep us from playing (Wednesday), but it gave Trevor and Tim and Sam and Alex a day — actually two — where they didn't have to throw. So it's a big lift for us. What we've got to do now is take advantage of it."

Trevor Gott, Tim Peterson, Sam Mahar and Alex Phillips are UK's top-of-the-line relief pitchers.

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