UK Baseball

UK baseball preview: Facts and figures

Rankings

SEC: League coaches pick UK to place sixth (last) in the Eastern Division. Baseball America and Rivals.com each predict the Cats will finish fourth in the division.

Nation: Collegiate Baseball Magazine ranks the Wildcats 19th. The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association picks UK 23rd, the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll at No. 26. Baseball America doesn't rank UK, but sees it as among eight SEC teams that will earn NCAA berths.

Recruiting: Baseball America ranks UK, with five high school All-Americans among its 11 newcomers, as having the fourth-best recruiting class in the country.

Recognition

■ LHP Chris Rusin is on the Brooks Wallace National Player of the Year Watch List and is a Rivals.com pre-season All-SEC pick.

■ Baseball America rates Rusin as the 20th-best senior prospect in the country; RHP Alex Meyer as "Top Newcomer" in the SEC and No. 2 among national freshmen prospects; and SS Andy Burns No. 10 in the SEC and 29 nationally among freshmen prospects.

■ SS Chris Wade earned Freshman All-America honors last season, while 3B Chris McClendon made the SEC All-Tournament team.

Possible lineup(and backups)

1B: William Campbell, Braden Kapteyn, Spencer Korus or Gunner Glad

2B: Chris Bisson, Andy Burns, Neiko Johnson or Glad

SS: Chris Wade (Burns)

3B: Chris McClendon (Kapteyn)

C: Marcus Nidiffer (Michael Williams)

RF: Bryan Rose or Chad Wright

CF: Keenan Wiley (Navarro Hall)

LF: Troy Frazier or Cory Farris

DH: Farris or Glad

Armed and dangerous

Starting pitchers — LH Chris Rusin and LH James Paxton. Other candidates: RH Clint Tilford, RH Alex Meyer, LH Logan Darnell, RH Sean Bouthilette and LH Mike Kaczmarek

Bullpen — RH Nick Kennedy, RH Braden Kapteyn, RH Tyler Henry, RH Duran Ferguson and RH Chase Greene. Darnell, if not in the starting rotation, could close.

Schedule breakdown

Non-conference highlights: UK steps up in competition from the get-go, as Coastal Carolina is coming off an NCAA super regional appearance, James Madison off of an NCAA regional and Troy, the pre-season favorite in the Sun Belt Conference, off of a 36-win season. Eastern Kentucky Louisville, Morehead State and Western Kentucky provide some in-state competition. Indiana visits on March 11.

Toughest series: UK opens league play March 13-15 at College World Series finalist LSU, the first SEC series to be played in the 8,700-plus-seat Alex Box Stadium.

Must-see home series: April 10-12, when the Wildcats take on defending SEC champion and NCAA runner-up Georgia.

On the air

Radio: Neil Price or Dick Gabriel will call all Kentucky games on WLAP-AM 630 or WGVN-AM 1580.

TV: Five home games will be televised on the Big Blue Sports Network, with Dick Gabriel (play-by-play) and Doug Flynn (color):

■ April 11 vs. Georgia, 7 p.m.

■ April 12 vs. Georgia, 1 p.m.

■ May 9 vs. Auburn, 7 p.m.

■ May 10 vs. Auburn, 1 p.m.

■ May 12 vs. Morehead State, 6 p.m.

Three additional UK games are scheduled for TV:

■ May 2, Tennessee at UK, 4 p.m., will be the Fox Sports Net SEC Game of the Week.

■ May 14: UK at Florida, 6:30 p.m. will be televised by Sun Sports.

■ May 16: UK at Florida, 1 p.m., will be televised by Sun Sports.

Mark Maloney

No-go to pros

Current Wildcats selected in last June's major league draft: RHP Alex Meyer (Red Sox, 20th round); LHP Chris Rusin (Athletics, 23rd); IF Andy Burns (Rockies, 25th); RHP Braden Kapteyn (Giants, 39th); OF/C Cory Farris (White Sox, 43rd).

Go-go Cats

Top base-stealers from last season are 3B Chris McClendon and CF Keenan Wiley (seven each), followed by SS Chris Wade (six) and OF Bryan Rose (five). Cory Farris had a stretch of 60 successful steals at Boone County High, going 90-for-93 overall. Pitchers also will have to look out for Chris Bisson, Andy Burns, Neiko Johnson, Navarro Hall and Chad Wright.

Not powerless

1B/OF William Campbell, a 6-foot-5, 265-pounder, crunched 25 homers last season for Bellevue (Wash.) Community College. C Marcus Nidiffer, who hit five homers over 47 games for UK last season, led the Valley League with 13 homers in 42 games last summer and earned All-Star MVP honors. OF Troy Frazier hit three homers in a part-time role last year. Since then he has beefed up by 10 pounds, cranked out eight homers in the Northwoods League and missed winning the all-star Home Run Derby by one. OF/C Cory Farris, who benched 315 pounds and squatted 430 in his first UK weight-lifting test, hit 34 career homers for Boone County. Webbed warriors

CF Keenan Wiley handled 92 chances last season, mostly in left field, finishing with as many assists as errors (3 each) and a .967 fielding percentage. C Marcus Nidiffer had a .993 fielding percentage last season and threw out 15 of 29 runners on attempted steals, fourth-best in the SEC. SS Chris Wade (.944) and 3B Chris McClendon (.921) ensure solid defense on the left side of the infield.

Senior moments

Four seniors return: RHP Jonathan Huff, IF Spencer Korus, 3B Chris McClendon and LHP Chris Rusin.

Diaper dandies

The Cats have five freshmen/redshirt freshmen who were high school All-Americans: IF Andy Burns, OF/C Cory Farris, IF/RHP Braden Kapteyn, RHP Alex Meyer and C Michael Williams,

Say what?

Pronunciation guide: Chris Bisson (BEES-own); Sean Bouthilette (BOOTH-a-LET); Mike Kaczmarek (KAZ-mare-ECK); Braden Kapteyn (CAP-tine); Spencer Korus (CORE-us); Marcus Nidiffer (NIGH-diff-er); Chris Rusin (RUSS-in); Brian Suerdick (SER-dick).

Mark Maloney

(Home games in all caps; all times p.m.)

Feb. 20Troy2

Feb. 21James Madison12

at Coastal Carolina 3:30

Feb. 22at Coastal Carolina 12

Feb. 27Western Michigan4

Feb. 28Western Michigan12

Western Michigan2

March 1Western Michigan1

March 3Wright State4

March 4Eastern Kentucky4

March 6Indiana State4

March 7Indiana State1

March 8Indiana State1

March 11Indiana4

March 13at LSU 8

March 14at LSU 4

March 15at LSU 2

March 16at Nicholls State 7

March 17at New Orleans 7:30

March 20Vanderbilt6:30

March 21Vanderbilt1

March 22Vanderbilt1

March 24at West Virginia 6

March 25Cincinnati6:30

March 27South Carolina6:30

March 28South Carolina1

March 29South Carolina1

March 31Marshall6:30

April 3at Ole Miss 7:30

April 4at Ole Miss 5

April 5at Ole Miss 2:30

April 7at Western Kentucky 7

April 8Western Kentucky6:30

April 10Georgia6:30

April 11Georgia7

April 12Georgia1

April 14at Louisville 6

April 17at Mississippi State 7:30

April 18at Mississippi State 3

April 19at Mississippi State 2:30

April 21Lipscomb6:30

April 22Evansville6:30

April 24at Alabama 7:30

April 25at Alabama 3

April 26at Alabama 3

April 28Louisville6:30

May 1Tennessee6:30

May 2Tennessee4

May 3Tennessee1

May 8Auburn6:30

May 9Auburn7

May 10Auburn1

May 12Morehead State6

May 14at Florida 6:30

May 15at Florida 6:30

May 16at Florida 1

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