The University of Kentucky baseball team was ranked No. 8 in the nation Thursday in the 2013 Collegiate Baseball Newspaper top-40 poll.
The ranking is the highest ever in a pre-season poll for a Kentucky baseball team.
Kentucky is coming off the best season in the history of the program, winning a school-record 45 games in 2012.
While the ranking represents a noteworthy honor for Kentucky, the poll also reveals a daunting challenge: Four Southeastern Conference teams are ranked ahead of the Cats.
Never miss a local story.
The pre-season top 40 includes 10 of the league's 14 teams. In addition to Kentucky at No. 8, there's No. 1 Arkansas, No. 3 Vanderbilt, No. 4 Louisiana State, No. 7 South Carolina, No. 13 Mississippi State, No. 24 Florida, No. 25 Mississippi, No. 26 Texas A&M and No. 29 Georgia.
The unranked four — Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee and Missouri — were all among the other teams receiving votes.
UK returns one of the most talent-laden rosters in college baseball in 2013, including pre-season All-Americans in center fielder Austin Cousino, left-handed starting pitcher Corey Littrell and two-way standout A.J. Reed. UK returns seven of its nine starters in the field, including middle-infield duo J.T. Riddle and Matt Reida and starting outfielders Cousino, Lucas Witt and Zac Zellers.
On the mound, Littrell and senior left-hander Jerad Grundy give UK two of its three-man weekend rotation from a year ago. UK's bullpen returns record-setting closer Trevor Gott.
Kentucky opens its 2013 season Feb. 15 in Spartanburg, S.C., taking on UNC Asheville at Wofford.
UK will play 26 games in 2013 against teams ranked among Collegiate Baseball's top 30.
Louisville was ranked No. 22 by Collegiate Baseball.