April 11, 2013
There's no need for Gary Henderson and the UK baseball team to despair while coming off a sweep at LSU last weekend. The Tigers are a juggernaut at 32-2, while Kentucky (23-9, 6-6 SEC) is still in third place in the East.
They'll get a chance to improve that record in a three-game series in Lexington this weekend against a struggling Tennessee team (14-17, 3-9 SEC). After being outscored 31-6 in Baton Rouge, UK bounced back to beat Austin Peay 6-3 earlier this week in Lexington. The Cats are hoping it's that momentum they'll carry against the Vols. First pitch is at 6:30 on Friday, followed by games at 2 and 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Here's what head coach Gary Henderson had to say about the series earlier today:
What does this weekend series mean, Coach?
"It's a chance to get back home and play in front of the home crowd and get back in the win column. An opportunity to get back to playing the way we've played the majority of the year."
How big was it to get that midweek win?
"I thought it was really important. Austin Peay is a good team, have a really good chance of winning the OVC. They have really good players and a good track record. For us to play well, pitch well, especially defensively play well, was a really good sign I think. I thought we came back and played with a lot of confidence."
How concerned were you they lost confidence after the LSU series?
"As concerned as common sense would dictate. Not overly concerned, but anytime you have a disappointing weekend like that and you don't play well over an extended period of time -- that wasn't a one-inning blip, we just didn't play well -- I was pretty confident we'd come back and play well but you have to see it. Just because you think something's going to happen doesn't make it so. Really happy to see as well as we played on Tuesday."
Do you want Austin Cousino to approach things differently batting third?
"No, I would like him to continue with the same things he's been doing, have the same approach. He's been really good in league. I thought the first three or four weeks of the year he pressed a little bit and chased a little bit. I think over the last four weeks he's done a much better job of swinging at strikes and taking balls."
Is that move permanent?
"Oh, I don't think anything is permanent. That's where we are now, but the baseball lineup is constantly in flux."
How good is Tennessee?
"Tennessee presents the challenge of the running game, a pressure offense. They try to rattle you a little bit. Our guys have been good with that type of approach because it's similar to ours, and David and I go back 25 years to Cerritos Community College. We go back a long time. There's a little bit of west coast in both of the programs. Zack Godley is a very good starting pitcher, he's going to go Sunday for them. Nick Williams is a solid starting pitcher and he'll go Saturday. They present the challenges of being an SEC team that's got two solid starting pitchers, and they're in a corner. They'll show up and they'll be aggressive and they'll fight, and we need to respond accordingly."
How concerning is it that so many of your veterans have produced so many fly balls?
"Well, it was quite a concern after Saturday's game, and we've done a much better job in the last two. But those things happen. They don't just happen here, they happen everywhere, every level of baseball, every team. We got in a little bit of a rut where we're chasing balls up, getting underneath them, hitting a lot of soft pop flys. When that happens, you have to go to work. We got in the cage on Sunday and the last two games have been better in terms of approach. We need to stay with that. It's not a home run game anymore, it's a different game. It just is. We need to approach it where we really kind of emphasize, utilize our skills. We're a line drive, doubles hitting club and that's how we need to approach it."
How has your bullpen developed?
"I think it's developed well. We're like everybody else. We've got strengths and weaknesses. Obviously, we've got to get six out of those starters to get to Chander (Shepherd) and Zach (Strecker), the two left-handers, then Walt (Wijas) and Trevor (Gott). If we do that, we're pretty solid. Nobody is unbeatable, but we have a solid group down there if we can get six. Now, if we have to go get somebody in the fourth or fifth inning, that stretches us a little bit and we're a little young in those roles, but in a tight game in the sixth or seventh inning, we're in good shape."
Georgia needed a big weekend in here and you guys won two from them. Tennessee is in a similar boat. What do you think you guys learned there that can help this weekend?
"I think you learned a couple of things. One is that you've got to respect everybody and I think we do that. Anybody in this league is good enough to beat anybody, and that's proven every weekend. Home or road, I think that the fact that we've lost our first two games against Mississippi State and Georgia and come back to win the series is a good indication of where our kids are mentally. In the middle of those weekends, I thought we did a good job on the Saturday and Sunday games. Beyond that, I think they'll be well aware of what the weekend means."