HOOVER, Ala. — Corey Littrell has had plenty of time to think since he last pitched.
The Kentucky left-hander had his shortest effort and only loss of the season last Saturday in an 8-1 loss at Mississippi State.
The sophomore from Louisville lasted only 41⁄3 innings, giving up a season-high seven runs (five earned) in a game that UK could have claimed the Southeastern Conference championship.
"Corey looked outstanding for three innings, and then the game sped up on him and he gave up some free bases," Coach Gary Henderson said Friday. "He got a little bit emotional, he got a little frustrated and he made the game harder than it needed to be for himself. So what he's got to be able to do is maintain his poise and create quality pitches one pitch at a time."
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With the Wildcats (43-15) within two wins of the SEC Tournament championship, Littrell (8-1) will get the start Saturday against Mississippi State.
"I'm excited. I can't wait to pitch tomorrow," he said after Friday's practice at Birmingham-Southern College. "I've got a little bad taste in my mouth. But other than that I'm just excited to pitch in this park. It's been fun this whole week watching all the teams and us play, and it's been exciting. I just can't wait to get on the mound tomorrow."
Regions Park is where fly balls go to die. Straightaway center field is 405 feet from the plate; it's 340 down the foul lines.
"It's a great pitcher's park," Littrell said. "It's big and the air's dense, so the ball's not flying too well, so that's fun for me."
■ Henderson said the big ballpark was not among his concerns when the Cats arrived in Hoover.
"What I was concerned about early on was going out and playing like our hair's on fire, and like we're going to take something; not hoping it's given to us," Henderson said after Thursday's 5-1 win over Mississippi State. "That's what I was really hoping that we could get accomplished ... and have a real aggressive outlook and approach."
■ UK catcher/first baseman Luke Maile is in the running for two national player-of-the-year awards — the Dick Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes Award.
Maile says his concern is for Wildcat wins, but he agrees that individual recognition is "certainly an honor."
"I'm not going to just dismiss these really nice awards they have, and being under consideration for some of them I'm definitely excited about that. But I think you can have the same numbers and be on a losing team and they're not going to notice you. So the winning kind of breeds the recognition."
■ After UK beat his Mississippi State team Thursday, former Cats coach John Cohen cited Maile as an example of why his young Bulldogs will improve.
"I think all those guys are going to be better players. But I want them to be better players now, just like every other coach in the country," Cohen said. "Once they see it, they get through the league one time — which all of them have — I think all those guys are going to get better and better. ...
"Look at Luke Maile, the first baseman for Kentucky. Just kind of viewing him from afar. I had the opportunity to recruit him when I was at Kentucky. Just to see how far he's come in three years. The guy is a great player. But it didn't happen initially. He's a great player, but he's gotten a little bit better over time, and now he's one of the best in the league."
■ Brad Wilkerson, who was Kentucky's Mr. Baseball in 1994 for Apollo High School, is among four former standouts being honored Saturday in the inaugural SEC Baseball Legends program. Each year, four SEC baseball legends will be recognized.
Wilkerson was a three-time All-American for Florida before going on to play in the major leagues and win an Olympic gold medal.