#12 Kentucky Baseball Preview

Kentucky Wildcats

Overall Rank: #12
Conference Rank: #5 SEC
Kentucky College Baseball Top 44 Team Preview

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The Kentucky baseball program rose to unprecedented heights in 2012 as it spent three weeks ranked as the number one team in the country. The Wildcats were also dominant at home going 29-5 and were primed for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, the Wildcats were sent on the road to Gary, Indiana to the Purdue Regional where they lost a heartbreaking epic game in the opener 7-5 in 21 innings to Kent State and were unable to recover. The majority of the 2012 team returns looking to build on the experiences and tough lessons learned in 2012 and is primed for a run to Omaha.

2012: 45-18, 18-12
2012 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Gary Henderson

Field Players:
A very balanced offensive squad returns for Kentucky.  Outfielder Austin Cousino had a superb freshman season as he hit .316 with nine homeruns and 38 runs batted in. First baseman A.J. Reed is another all-conference returner who hit .304 in and drove in 43 runs.  These guys will anchor a lineup that should be a threat to score over 400 runs in 2013. The biggest thing to address is scoring runs in the late innings as they were outscored in the 8th and 9th inning in 2012 by the opposition.

The starting rotation will be led by Corey Littrell. Littrell was 8-2 with a 2.66 earned run average in 2012. Littrell is not someone who will completely over power you as he did allow 97 hits in 2012 but he balances that out with great control. He only walked 23 batters last season and was an all-SEC selection as a freshman. The upside for Littrell is very high and he will only get stronger as the ace of the staff. Jerad Grundy will fill one of the other weekend slots and his experience will make Kentucky very dangerous on the mound. Trevor Gott returns to close games in 2013. Gott was 3-0 with a 2.16 earned run average and struck out 38 in 25 innings of work.

Who to Watch:
Casey Schroeder is an incoming catcher who was drafted in the 21st round by the St. Louis Cardinals.  Schroeder has good size at 6-2, 190 pounds and should compete for playing time early. On the mound, Chase Mullins is a big 6-9, 250 pound left handed pitcher who should be a midweek starter this season or be a very valuable, hard throwing lefty out of the bullpen as he already throws in the low 90s with his fastball.  Mullins was a 24th round draft pick by the Texas Rangers. Kyle Cody is a big imposing right hander out of Wisconsin.  The 6-6, 215 pounder was an All-Central Region 2nd team pick by Rawlings in 2012 and drafted by the Phillies in the 33rd round. Other freshmen to watch include Matt Pope, a right handed pitcher out of Tennessee drafted by the Pirates in the 38th round and Zack Arnold, a 27th round draft pick by the New York Mets as a catcher

Final Projection:
The Wildcats should get out to a fast start in the non-conference slate. In the opening weekend of conference play on March 15-17, there will be a potential epic showdown in Gainesville against Florida. This will be a great litmus test to see if Coach Henderson’s talented club has learned from the 2012 postseason.  Other key road series will be at LSU and South Carolina. Kentucky does get Vanderbilt and Arkansas coming to Lexington. If SEC Freshman of the Year Austin Cousino can maintain his level of play and Corey Littrell and A. J. Reed play to their all-conference levels of a year ago and with the additional year of experience, Kentucky should be one of the top sixteen seeds in the postseason.  And if they can somehow find a way to get a host bid, it should set them up for a deep run into the NCAA Tournament.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Austin Cousino, OF, 241
Hits: Austin Cousino, OF, 78
Home Runs: Austin Cousino, OF, 9
RBIs: A.J. Reed, IF, 43
Runs: Austin Cousino, OF, 59
Stolen Bases: Austin Cousino, OF, 13

Wins: Cory Littrell, P, 8
Innings Pitched: Cory Littrell, P, 91.1
Strikeouts: Cory Littrell, P, 87
Saves: Trevor Gott, P, 9


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