The “breakfast game,” to open the six-day event pits two familiar opponents in 11th-seed Kentucky (30-24 overall, 11-19 SEC) against 6th-seed Ole Miss (36-20, 15-15).
The winner advances to face 3rd-seed Arkansas while the loser’s tournament is done.
First pitch is set for 9:30 a.m. with the game being televised on FSN.
The two squads are quite familiar with one another. Kentucky took two of three during the 2012 and ’13 regular seasons and actually opened last year’s SEC Tournament by blanking the Rebels 2-0.
Here’s a look back at the season series between the two schools:
No. 18 Rebels host slumping Wildcats
Rally ‘Cats: Kentucky takes Game 1 3-2
No. 18 Rebels even series
Rally ‘Cats do it again, take series at No. 18 Ole Miss
No. 18 OM aids Wildcats with wild throws
And from last year’s SEC Tournament:
Kentucky blanks Ole Miss to open SEC Tournament
ON THE MOUND: Late last night Ole Miss officially released the name of today’s starter: Mike Mayers (4-5, 3.21 ERA).
The right-handed junior has struck out 66 against 30 walks in 81.1 innings this season and has held opponents to a .229 batting average.
Mayers is coming off of a 7-1 loss at No. 2 LSU in which he surrendered five runs on seven hits in six innings. The bright spot, however, was he struck out seven against just one walk. The start prior to that, Mayers had one of his best starts of the year against in-state rival Mississippi State. Against the Bulldogs, Mayers pitched seven shutout innings “in relief” of Bobby Wahl after rain pushed Game 1 back to Saturday after one inning. Mayers struck out five Bulldogs against two walks and two hits.
The Wildcats will send left-hander Jerad Grundy (6-5, 4.75) to face the Rebs. Grundy has played very well as of late, going 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA in two midweek starts against Indiana and Wright State. Against the Rebels, Grundy was clobbered for nine runs in 5.2 innings in Ole Miss’ 11-5 victory.
“Grundy is a great kid and a very good competitor but he ran into a rough four-game stretch so we took him off the Saturday games and put him on the Tuesday games and he was able to relax and get back to his old self that he’d been for a year and a half,” UK coach Gary Henderson said during Monday’s SEC coaches teleconference. “What we’ve seen from him is the ability to throw strikes at the knees, command his two secondary pitches, work ahead in the count, the absolute basics in order to be successful.
“He has pitched much, much better his last two or three times out than he did the previous four so we’re obviously hoping he can go out tomorrow and do the basics, get ahead in the count, throw strikes and mix his pitches.”
WAHL’S WAIT: While Rebel skipper Mike Bianco didn’t tip his hand during the teleconference as to who he was throwing, he did make it clear Wahl won’t be starting anytime soon.
“There’s no way he’ll start Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, but there’s a possibility we could use him out of the bullpen at some point,” Bianco said. “We’ll check with him today when we get out on the field and see how he feels. He’s day-to-day in his work load. We want to pitch him and obviously need to pitch him but we need to be careful that he’s really feeling good by the time the regional rolls around.”
NEEDING A RUN: From taking a quick glance at various national NCAA Tournament projections (pick your favorite, mine are HERE, HERE and HERE), it appears the Wildcats (30-24 overall, 11-19 SEC) need to make a big-time run to extend their season beyond Hoover, Ala.Henderson said his team is well aware of where they’re projected.“When you show up and you’re 11-19, I think it’s pretty clear to everybody whether or not you have to win it or you have to win four or whatever it may be. It’s pretty clear so I’m not sure I have to manage a lot of that. I’m think it’s pretty clear to our guys,” he said. “We’ll go about it the same way we always do. We need to win tomorrow morning and then we can worry about what we’re doing on Wednesday. … If it comes down to biting off four wins or five wins or whatever it is, I won’t do that. We need to play well, we need to pitch well; all the coaching cliches are absolutely true. We need to do those tomorrow morning or else we won’t worry about it. I’d say we need to have a significant run.”
KENTUCKY WILDCATS (30-24 overall)
RF Kyle Barrett (.352 BA/.411 OBP/.394 SLG)
LF Zac Zellers (.239/.358/.304)
1B A.J. Reed (.281/.381/.524)
CF Austin Cousino (.251/.381/.406)
2B J.T. Riddle (.284/.368/.351)
3B Max Kuhn (.247/.373/.381)
SS Matt Reida (.236/.335/.286)
DH Paul McConkey (.237/.317/.333)
C Michael Thomas (.246/.362/.336)
LHP Jerad Grundy (6-5, 4.75)
OLE MISS REBELS (36-20)
LF Tanner Mathis (.272/.408/.302)
SS Austin Anderson (.296/.374/.397)
C Stuart Turner (.377/.448/.538)
3B Andrew Mistone (.320/.395/.379)
CF Auston Bousfield (.271/.363/.367)
RF Preston Overbey (.283/.328/.422)
1B Sikes Orvis (.244/.337/.331)
DH Will Allen (.236/.271/.325)
2B Christian Helsel (.206/.292/.238)
RHP Mike Mayers (4-5, 3.21)
OLE MISS 1, Kentucky 0 (Bottom 1): The Rebels got off to a good start. After UK’s Kyle Barrett led off the game with a single up the middle, but a double play and pop out got Mike Mayers and the Rebels out of the frame. Back-to-back singles by Austin Anderson and Stuart Turner, followed by a sacrifice fly to right by Andrew Mistone, put Ole Miss ahead 1-0.
OLE MISS 2, Kentucky 0 (Bottom 3): Christian Helsel led off the fourth with a double off the left field wall — his third extra-base hit of the season and first hit since May 10 against Mississippi State — and came around to score on Anderson’s double to right.
Ole Miss 2, KENTUCKY 1 (Top 4): UK took advantage of an Ole Miss blunder to get on the board. With runners on the corners, Auston Cousino took off for second base. Turner’s throw sailed past Anderson, who was diving up the middle, allowing Zac Zellers to easily score from second.
OLE MISS 4 Kentucky 1 (Bottom 6): Mistone struck a one-out double over the third base bag and scored when Auston Bousfield hit a bloop single into no man’s land between Kentucky’s first baseman and right fielder. Ole Miss later extended its lead to 4-1 on an RBI-single by Will Allen that scored Bousfield.
FINAL SCORE: Ole Miss 4, Arkansas 1
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: After entering the game with two on in the seventh, Jeremy Massie surrendered an infield single to load the bases but induced a pop out and ground out to get the Rebels out of the jam. The lefty pitched another inning before turning the game over to Tanner Bailey in the ninth. Bailey pitched a scoreless final frame to pick up his fourth save of the season and secure the Rebels’ victory. With the win, Ole Miss advances to play third-seeded Arkansas at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Kentucky’s tournament, and likely season, are over.
BY THE NUMBERS: Mayers improved to 5-5 after allowing one unearned run on six hits and one walk in 6.1 innings. Jerad Grundy fell to 6-6 after surrendering four runs in 5.2 … Anderson and Turner each had two hits for Ole Miss. Matt Reida and Zack Storm had two hits for the ‘Cats. Bianco said during his post-game press conference that he’s unsure who will start the next two games. A lot will depend on players health and setting things up for next week’s NCAA Tournament.
PARTING VIEWS: Below are post-game videos with Bianco, Mayers, Massie, as well as Kentucky’s Gary Henderson on the second:
For more from today’s game, checkout Wednesday’s print edition of the Oxford EAGLE.
(May 21, 2013)