LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky baseball team returns home on Tuesday to face the archrival Louisville Cardinals in the latest edition of the intrastate rivalry.
Last season, the Cats and Cards met four times, twice in the regular season and two more times in the NCAA Baseball Super Regional. U of L won all three games in the Derby City, while Kentucky claimed an 11-7 win in Lexington in a wild game that featured a Wildcat triple play.
Kentucky head coach Nick Mingione knows that the game between the two rivals means a lot to the Commonwealth.
“I’ve always said any time they’re doing good and we’re doing good, it’s really good for our state,” Mingione said. “Because you’re going to see the attendance and the crowds and people getting involved.”
Junior Kole Cottam also knows the significance of Tuesday’s matchup.
“It’s been a really big game for some time now,” Cottam said. “It’s two really good teams fighting it out, so it should be fun. It’s going to be a good atmosphere tomorrow.”
As for Kentucky senior catcher Troy Squires, who grew up about an hour from Louisville, the game is important.
“It means a little something,” Squires said. “You don’t really need an excuse to get ready to play this game.”
No. 9 Kentucky (19-9) dropped two of three games at Alabama over the weekend, losing 4-2 on both Friday and Saturday before claiming a 5-2 win in the series finale on Sunday. Senior third baseman Luke Heyer leads the team with a .376 batting average, while adding 11 home runs and an SEC-leading 34 runs batted in. Cottam is second on the team with a .358 average and leads the team, and the SEC, with 12 home runs.
The 22nd-ranked Cards are 19-8 this season and are coming off a series where they lost the first two games at Florida State before claiming the series finale on Sunday. Sophomore first baseman Logan Wyatt leads the team with a .351 batting average, while sophomore outfielder Drew Campbell is hitting .338. Junior second baseman Devin Mann is one of five Cardinals with two home runs, which is tied for the team lead.
“They’re a good team and a good program,” Mingione said of Louisville. “It’s another good test. The biggest thing is (U of L closer) Sam Bordner. He’s got eight saves. They’ve played a lot of close games. They throw the ball well, as usual. They’re playing a lot of new position players. Another really good team.”
For Kentucky, it’s just the latest in a string of nationally-ranked opponents during the 2018 season.
“It’s exciting because everyone chose to come to Kentucky, one of the reasons why is, you want to play against tough competition,” Mingione said. “When you look at our schedule, so far we’ve played three teams in the Top 10. We’ve played nine games against teams that have been ranked the Top 10.”
In Tuesday’s contest, Kentucky will likely start freshman Daniel Harper, who is coming off his best outing of the season. Harper earned his second win of the season on Tuesday when he pitched six shutout innings to beat Miami (Ohio) 11-7. Louisville has not announced its starter, but the Cards could go with Bryan Hoeing, who is 3-1 in 2018 with a 5.18 ERA. Hoenig pitched two innings in Saturday’s 8-7 loss at Florida State, giving up two earned runs while striking out four.
Tuesday’s game time has been moved forward to 4 p.m. ET due to expected bad weather in the Lexington area later on Tuesday night.
No. 22 LOUISVILLE (19-8) at No. 9 KENTUCKY (19-9)
Date/Time: Tuesday, April 3 (4 p.m.)
Location (Facility): Lexington, Ky. (Cliff Hagan Stadium)
Series History: Kentucky leads 70-44-1
Previous Meeting: Teams split 2017 regular season games; Louisville won NCAA Super Regional
Radio: 630 AM WLAP Lexington; WKJK Louisville (Darren Headrick); ukathletics.com