Now or Never: Kentucky opens SEC Tournament with NCAA hopes in balance
LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Athletics) – The Kentucky baseball team will make one final impression on its NCAA Tournament Regional hopes this week at the Southeastern Conference Tournament where it opens play against sixth-seeded Florida on Tuesday morning.
First pitch is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET and the game will air on the SEC Network and the WatchESPN app. The UK Sports Network will broadcast the game via radio on 630 AM (WLAP) Lexington and on UKAthletics.com, with Darren Headrick on the call. Tom Hart, Ben McDonald and Chris Burke will have the call for the SEC Network.
The early start shouldn’t temper what could be a spicy game after the two teams played a hotly contested series in Lexington earlier this month. The Wildcats won the opener and were one strike away from claiming the series in game two before the Gators rallied to win. A day later, Florida took the series with a victory in the deciding game. Throughout the series there were words and glares exchanged and controversy appeared in all three contests.
The Cats arrive in Hoover, Alabama squarely on the NCAA bubble likely needing at least two wins to have a realistic shot at earning an at-large bid. They gained momentum in the regular season finale when Coltyn Kessler blasted a three-run, game-winning home run in the ninth inning with the Cats down to their final strike at No. 2 Vanderbilt. Two batters later Jake Plastiak added a two-run homer and Sean Harney closed the 7-5 victory for his sixth save of the season.
Harney will get the start on Tuesday against Florida ace Tommy Mace. Harney is just the third pitcher in UK history to record at least five saves and start five or more games in the same season, joining Kyle Cody (2014) and Adam Shadburne (1996). He has struck out 55 in 42.0 innings and has posted a 3-1 record with a 3.86 earned run average.
The winner of Tuesday’s game advances to face third-seeded Mississippi State on Wednesday morning as the double-elimination portion of the tournament begins.
#11-seed Kentucky (29-22, 12-18) vs. #6-seed FLORIDA (35-19, 17-13)
Where: Hoover Metropolitan Stadium (Hoover, Ala.)
TV: SEC Network; Radio: UK Sports Network (630 AM WLAP, Lexington)