May 09, 2012
We spoke to UK baseball coach Gary Henderson yesterday as the Wildcats enter the stretch run of the season. The baseball team (37-11, 15-9 SEC) is heading to Bloomington tonight to play Indiana before hosting a three-game series against Alabama this weekend. They wrap the regular season up next week on the road at Mississippi State.
UK hadn't lost an SEC series all year until two weeks ago when they dropped two of three at Vanderbilt, but they lost another series last weekend at home against Florida. They did get the win in the series finale on Saturday to help put them back on track, but they're hoping to build on that going forward.
With two series' left, has there been any more discussion of winning an SEC championship?
"No, nothing more. We talked a little more about how all of our goals are still attainable and playing well tomorrow. But that's about as long as the conversation was."
Are you almost glad that you're having this slump now as opposed to in a couple weeks?
"You have those thoughts, get it out of your system and move past it. Certainly I don't think anybody is ever glad to go through a slump or a period of failure, but it's part of the game so we have the thought to get it behind us, move forward and get back to where we were a month ago. We certainly have those thoughts."
You gave Brian Adams and Paul McConkey starts over the weekend. Do you think there's a spark to be found on the bench?
"I think you hope so. Those two kids did a great job. Paul got a couple of hits, Brian did a nice job and got a hit. So that's what you hope. Obviously, you hope that when A.J. (Reed) gets back in there he does what he did on Saturday. That's relax a little bit, run one off the board and get back to swinging it the way that he can."
Did winning that game on Saturday the way you did really help you all with confidence and getting back on track?
"I think anytime you lose three or four in a row and you have an opportunity to win a game where you do win a game, yeah, you relieve a little pressure. You certainly don't talk about that with your kids. You lose a ball game and it has a chance to create a little bit of doubt you didn't have after a win and so we're really glad to get the Saturday win. Obviously, when you don't play for another three or four days, it's nice to come off a win and not a loss."
Can you tell any difference with the guys now that finals are over, classes are done?
"I thought we were pretty loose, pretty focused the last two days of practice. Certainly a little bit more bounce in your step than you have in finals week. I think that's normal."
What's your confidence level in your three weekend starters?
"Good right now, yeah. I think that's as good a string of starts as we've run together all season. I think if you look at those last nine starts, we've been very good. Really happy with where they are and hopefully we can keep moving forward with those guys."
Seen anything different out of A.J. since Saturday?
"Since after the game? Sunday was an off day, and the last two days of practice have been really good. He threw exceptionally well in the bullpen yesterday. In fact, as good as he's ever thrown. So I guess yes. He looked great, so when he gets in the ball game whether it's tomorrow or this weekend hopefully he has the same stuff that he had yesterday. It was outstanding."
With the format of the SEC and NCAA tournaments, how important is it to have those three weekend guys and then have depth behind them after that?
"Well, it's as important as it can be. If those three guys don't pitch well in the postseason, there is no more postseason. If you're going to keep going and keep winning and get past Birmingham and get through a regional, those three guys have got to be good. You're not going to win in Birmingham without one of those freshmen doing a really good job. The three weekend guys obviously, but it's not a three-game set. You have to get into game four and game five and in order for that to happen, somebody who doesn't start regularly on the weekend is going to have to start and pitch well. I shared those thoughts with them yesterday."
These last two midweek games, are you hoping to get anything different out of them than you got early this season?
"No, we've been pretty good at them save for the two (against Louisville). Played well, give guys an opportunity to pitch well for guys who don't pitch regularly on the weekend, and get two W's."