Few baseball teams in the nation are as hot as the University of Kentucky right now.
The Wildcats are winning the big weekend series, the mid-week non-conference games, the home games and the road games.
All that winning is starting to add up to something significant.
The Wildcats were ranked No. 25 in this week’s USA Today coaches’ poll and No. 19 by D1Baseball.com.
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Kentucky completed a season sweep of Western Kentucky with a hard-fought 4-3 victory in Bowling Green on Tuesday night and takes an eight-game winning streak into its first Southeastern Conference home series of the season, which begins Thursday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The Wildcats (16-6, 3-0 SEC) have won 14 of their last 15 and 16 of 18 after an 0-4 start to Nick Mingione’s first season as head coach. Their success has come despite a hamstring injury that has sidelined preseason All-America first baseman Evan White for the last eight games.
Ole Miss, ranked No. 14 in both previously mentioned polls, is 14-7 overall and 2-1 in the SEC. The Rebels lost 2-1 at Memphis on Tuesday night after taking two of three from Vanderbilt last weekend.
A compelling dynamic surrounds Kentucky’s series with Ole Miss. The Wildcats are the SEC’s top hitting team (.328 batting average). Ole Miss counters with the league’s best pitching staff (2.68 ERA, SEC-leading 226 strikeouts).
Kentucky is also proven on the mound, right behind Ole Miss with a 2.79 staff ERA.
The Wildcats needed all hands on deck to hold off Western Kentucky on Tuesday night.
Zack Thompson (2-1) pitched five innings, allowing four hits and two runs before Chris Machamer, Zach Pop and Logan Salow came on to finish the job.
Kentucky defeated Western Kentucky 17-2 in the teams’ first meeting this season on March 1, but the Cats’ bats didn’t have the same timely pop on Tuesday. UK left 13 runners on base, including leaving the bases loaded in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.
Marcus Carson’s two-run home run in the third inning off the scoreboard in right field at Bowling Green Ballpark helped stake Kentucky to a 4-0 lead.
WKU (7-15) clawed back with two runs off Thompson in the fourth and another off Machamer in the eighth. Pop prevented any further damage in the eighth, then Salow struck out two Hilltoppers in a perfect ninth to pick up his fourth save. Salow has struck out seven of the last 10 batters he’s faced.
“I think we played one of our best games tonight, honestly,” said WKU designated hitter Kaleb Duckworth, who had two hits. “We were squaring balls up tonight and our pitchers threw really well. You can’t win every time you play your good game, but if we can play like this against the No. 19 team in the country we should be able to turn this thing around.”
Ole Miss at Kentucky
When: 7 p.m.
TV: SEC Network
Radio: WLAP-AM 630
Records: Ole Miss 14-7 (2-1 SEC), Kentucky 16-6 (3-0)