Veteran UK baseball team ready to get outside and show what it can do

mmaloney@herald-leader.comFebruary 10, 2014 

  • Season opener

    Kentucky vs. Virginia

    When: Noon Friday

    What: Season opener

    Where: Wilmington, N.C.

  • 2014 Kentucky roster

    No. Name Pos. B/T Ht. Wt. Cl. Hometown

    35 Zach Arnold C R/R 6-2 180 So. Frankfort, Ky.

    4 Kyle Barrett OF L/R 5-11 180 So. Douglasville, Ga.

    31 Bryce Bastien OF L/L 5-9 175 So. Columbia, Ill.

    46 Thomas Bernal IF/C R/R 6-0 210 Jr. Paso Robles, Calif.

    33 Zack Brown RHP R/R 6-2 190 Fr. Seymour, Ind.

    15 Marcus Carson OF L/L 5-8 165 Fr. London, Ky.

    23 Kyle Cody RHP R/R 6-7 245 So. Chippewa Falls, Wis.

    10 Ryne Combs LHP L/L 6-0 190 So. Lexington, Ky.

    19 Austin Cousino OF L/L 5-10 185 Jr. Dublin, Ohio

    26 Dominic D'Souza RHP R/R 6-2 190 Jr. Stockton, Calif.

    24 Dylan Dwyer LHP L/L 6-1 180 So. Murray, Ky.

    40 Greg Fettes C R/R 6-2 225 So. Madison Heights, Mich.

    44 Dorian Hairston OF R/R 5-11 200 So. Lexington, Ky.

    7 Connor Heady IF R/R 6-0 170 Fr. Prospect, Ky.

    34 Spencer Jack RHP R/R 6-3 215 Jr. Los Angeles, Calif.

    9 Max Kuhn IF R/R 5-11 205 Jr. Zionsville, Ind.

    30 Sam Mahar LHP R/L 6-1 175 So. Kenosha, Wis.

    47 Tyler Marshall IF L/R 6-1 185 Fr. Louisville, Ky.

    17 Taylor Martin RHP R/R 6-4 205 So. Lexington, Ky.

    12 Andrew Nelson RHP R/R 6-3 210 Jr. Omaha, Neb.

    41 Blake Oyler RHP R/R 6-0 165 So. Louisville, Ky.

    49 Logan Parrett RHP R/R 6-1 170 Fr. Versailles, Ky.

    37 Austin Perry RHP R/R 6-2 190 Fr. Shelbyville, Ky.

    18 A.J. Reed LHP/1B L/L 6-4 240 Jr. Terre Haute, Ind.

    6 Matt Reida IF L/R 5-11 185 Sr. Russiaville, Ind.

    28 Logan Salow LHP L/L 6-2 180 Fr. Ashland, Ky.

    5 JaVon Shelby IF/OF R/R 6-2 188 Fr. Lexington, Ky.

    14 Chandler Shepherd RHP R/R 6-2 185 Jr. Louisa, Ky.

    11 Matt Snyder LHP L/L 6-4 190 So. Albany, N.Y.

    16 Troy Squires IF/C L/R 5-11 180 Fr. Elizabethtown, Ky.

    29 Zach Strecker RHP R/R 6-4 220 So. Louisville, Ky.

    42 Micheal Thomas C R/R 5-11 210 Sr. Elizabethtown, Ky.

    2 Tyler Tipton IF R/R 6-0 190 Jr. Shelbyville, Ky.

    25 Ka'ai Tom OF L/R 5-9 180 So. Kaneohe, Hawaii

    8 Storm Wilson OF L/R 5-11 190 Fr. Science Hill, Ky.

    21 Robert Zeigler RHP R/R 6-3 215 Fr. Defiance, Ohio

    Head coach: Gary Henderson. Assistant coaches: Brad Bohannon,

    Brian Green. Volunteer assistant: Keith Vorhoff. Director of operations: Jack Hoehl

Just the thought was enough to warm hearts on another snow-day Monday.

Kentucky opens its baseball season Friday. Not in Lexington, of course.

The Wildcats, coming off a 30-25 season, will travel to Wilmington, N.C., to face the No. 1 team in Baseball America's pre-season rankings, Virginia.

UK will play host UNC-Wilmington on Saturday and VMI on Sunday, then travel to South Carolina Upstate on Monday.

The Cats' home opener is scheduled for Feb. 25 against Wright State.

Coach Gary Henderson likes what he's seen from UK thus far.

"The maturity of our group is at a different level than it was at any time last spring, so that's really a positive," he said. "The team culture is good to this point. Obviously, I'm well aware we haven't played a game yet, but I'm proud of what the kids have done."

Henderson's weekend pitching rotation will be made up of junior lefty A.J. Reed, junior right-hander Chandler Shepherd and sophomore righty Kyle Cody.

"We're going to have three starting pitchers that are good, if not very good, on any given date," Henderson said. "We'll be able to match up with starting pitching every weekend."

The big question for now is the bullpen. Ten new faces, plus two who missed last season due to injury, join returnees Zach Strecker, Dylan Dwyer and Ryne Combs.

"I've got to get a bullpen developed," Henderson said.

Fifth-year senior Micheal Thomas will be the No. 1 catcher.

"We all definitely want to play well," said Thomas, who will be backed up by Greg Fettes and Zach Arnold. "We want to try to come back off the year that we ended up with last year and at least improve, on to a new season. I think we've put in the work in the off-season and we have high goals for ourselves."

The left side of the infield is set with Max Kuhn at third base and Matt Reida back at shortstop.

Reed, a two-way player, will share time at first base with Thomas Bernal. Thomas and Fettes also can play first.

Freshmen Connor Heady and JaVon Shelby are the top candidates at second base.

"Both really talented players," Henderson said. "They're going to be really, really good players by the time they leave UK. A little bit different style of player, but both very confident, very athletic, they both run well, they both have well-above-average arm strength."

Austin Cousino returns in center field, and Kyle Barrett will be in one of the corner outfield spots.

The other outfield position could go to any one of six players, including Shelby if he's not at second base. The others are Dorian Hairston, Marcus Carson, Storm Wilson, Bryce Bastien and Ka'ai Tom.

Of course, snow has kept UK indoors more than Henderson would have liked, so some major adjustments are in store.

"I think the thing that you'll constantly battle early on when you haven't had the field time is giving away extra bases," he said. "You're not quite as sharp defensively as you'd like. You can take all the ground balls you want inside Nutter (Field House) and it's not the same as a live ball coming off the bat, so you know that for your infielders.

"The running game is something that we work extremely hard on here, but still that's a transitional piece from practice to games that pitchers have got to be comfortable and then aggressive with. And then that confrontation that you have between the pitcher and the hitter is something that's not the same in practice as it is in a game."

Friday, though, the Cats will have a game — weather permitting.

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

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