Kentucky's baseball team opens play in the Southeastern Conference Tournament with a elimination game at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday against Auburn in Hoover, Ala. Its NCAA Tournament hopes are almost certainly on the line.
"I think we're like the majority of the clubs that will be playing (Tuesday)," UK Coach Gary Henderson said. "We need to win."
The winner of the elimination game on Tuesday will advance to the double-elimination format and will face off with top-ranked LSU on Wednesday.
Kentucky (30-24, 14-15 SEC) finished eighth in the league after earning a series win at Missouri. They also won another pair of SEC series on the road against LSU and Florida.
"Anytime you win a series on the road in our league, especially against somebody in the upper part of it, I think you get confident, because it's hard," Henderson said. "I think any coach in the league will tell you it's hard to win on the road. To be able to get two (at LSU), and two at Florida and obviously we got two on the weekend at Missouri, that's something we haven't done over the years. And not a lot of teams are able to do that. But you leave confident."
Sophomore right-hander Zack Brown will get the start for the Cats against Auburn. He's 6-5 with a 3.31 ERA this season.
Tuesday's other single-elimination games feature Mississippi facing Alabama, Arkansas battling Tennessee and South Carolina playing Missouri.
LSU is seeking its third straight tournament title and sixth in the last eight years. LSU leads the SEC in batting average (.322), runs scored (395), stolen bases (104) and ERA (2.91).
LSU Coach Paul Mainieri said he tries to look at the SEC Tournament as a reward for his team after the grind of the regular season.
"If you feel like you're already going to be in the NCAA Tournament, there's not the pressure that some of the schools are going to have this week probably, that they have to win or their season is over," Mainieri said. "That feeling hasn't been with us. We already know we're in the NCAA Tournament. We can just relax and go out and enjoy the competition and enjoy the experience of playing there."
If last year's SEC Tournament offers any indication, this week's results don't necessarily have much bearing on how SEC teams will fare the rest of the postseason.
LSU and Florida met in last year's SEC Tournament final and both ended up losing in regional competition.
Vanderbilt went 1-2 in the SEC Tournament and was outscored 18-3 in its two losses, yet the Commodores went on to win the national title.
Shelby on All-SEC first team
UK sophomore second baseman JaVon Shelby was named to the All-SEC first team. The former Tates Creek star has batted .318 with nine home runs, 12 doubles, two triples and 44 RBI.
Kyle Barrett, a junior centerfielder, made the second team. First baseman Evan White was named to the all-freshman and defensive squads.
■ Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi was the SEC's player of the year and Vanderbilt's Carson Fulmer was named the pitcher of the year.
Benintendi leads the nation in slugging percentage (.771) and tops the SEC in batting average (.415) and homers (17). Fulmer leads the SEC in wins (11), ERA (1.51) and strikeouts (132).