UK baseball upbeat about post-season chances despite getting swept by No. 1 Vanderbilt

mmaloney@herald-leader.comMay 12, 2013 

  • Tuesday

    Indiana at Kentucky

    When: 6:30 p.m. TV: FS South

All is not lost.

That's the message that Kentucky's baseball team is going with after Vanderbilt capped a three-game sweep Sunday, upending the Wildcats 10-5 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

While the top-ranked Commodores (45-6, 24-2 Southeastern Conference) clinched the SEC title, UK continued to slide.

The Wildcats (28-22, 10-17) have lost 15 of their last 18 games in SEC play.

With their chances of returning to the NCAA post-season in jeopardy, the Cats are playing it cool.

"We're still in control of everything that we want to do," Coach Gary Henderson said. "It's just a matter of going out and playing well and getting some wins. ... We've got plenty of opportunity left in front of us to play well, get to Birmingham and then get to a regional."

UK closes its home season Tuesday against Indiana, then wraps up SEC regular-season play at Missouri with a three-game set starting Thursday.

Then it will be on to Birmingham (Hoover, Ala., actually) for the SEC tourney.

"I think we can control our own destiny," said Austin Cousino, who had three of UK's 10 hits Sunday. "Indiana's a top-25 ranked team ... We go to Missouri and play well, go to Hoover and try to get hot like we did last year down there, I think everything will take care of itself."

Vanderbilt Coach Tim Corbin was asked if UK is NCAA worthy.

"I think so," he said. "They're going through the wars of what we've been through before as a team in their position. But they certainly have good enough pitching.

"A.J. (Reed) is very scary. He can produce a lot of runs with one swing. Cousino is an accomplished guy and he's certainly better than what his numbers are. (Zac) Zellers. I like their team a lot. For us to come in here and to be able to win three games is an accomplishment."

Vandy rapped 13 hits, including three by No. 8 hitter Spencer Navin and two each by the first three in the order — Tony Kemp, Xavier Turner and Mike Yastrzemski.

The Commodores made the most of their chances, scoring three of their first five runs with sacrifice flies. Vandy didn't strand a runner until the seventh inning.

Conrad Gregor provided what would be the winning runs with a two-run homer in the sixth inning.

"We're pretty versatile. We do a good job of running the bases when we have to and we've got guys who put together workmanlike at-bats," Corbin said. "We've got some strong guys who can leave the yard, and then we have some guys like Tony and a few others who just hit the ball between the outfielders."

Kemp finished with nine hits in the series.

UK battled back from a 5-2 deficit to tie.

Max Kuhn clubbed a two-run homer to left in the fourth inning, and Reed crushed a solo shot to right in the fifth.

Along the way, UK offensive coordinator Brian Green was ejected when he argued a play at first base that ended the third inning.

Greg Fettes lined a would-be single to right field, but was thrown out by Yastrzemski on a bang-bang play.

Vandy reliever Steven Rice (3-0) held UK to two singles over the last 42⁄3 innings.

"It's one goal, but we certainly have a lot more other things that we want to accomplish as well," Corbin said of the SEC title. "But it's a great feat to play as consistent as we have up to this point. It really speaks to the maturity of the kids more than anything else."

Corey Littrell (5-5), who worked 62⁄3 innings, thinks UK can mature just in time for an NCAA run.

"I feel good," he said. "Yeah, we got swept this weekend. But we hit the ball well and that was kind of the part we were struggling with a little bit.

"Now I've got to do a better job personally on the mound on Sunday when I pitch. I think there's no doubt that we can do whatever we want to. We have all our goals still ahead of us. ... We still have another season to start once the regular season's over with."


Tuesday

Indiana at Kentucky

When: 6:30 p.m. TV: FS South

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @markmaloneyhl. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.

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