PREVIEW: Bat Cats Return to Lexington for Matchup against WKU

On3 imageby:Daniel Hager02/27/24

DanielHagerKSR

After opening the 2024 season with just one home game in their first seven, Kentucky Baseball will play 13 of their next 14 games at Kentucky Proud Park.

That massive home stretch kicks off on Tuesday, when the Bat Cats host Western Kentucky in Lexington.

Tuesday’s matchup between the in-state rivals will mark the eighth consecutive season featuring a Wildcat/Hilltopper matchup, with Kentucky winning eight of the nine games.

Western Kentucky led 4-2 in the seventh inning of last season’s matchup before a Jackson Gray go-ahead grand slam propelled the Cats to a come from behind victory in Bowling Green.

Western Kentucky

Western Kentucky enters Tuesday’s meeting with a 6-2 record, fresh off a series victory over Purdue Fort Wayne.

Junior DH Blake Cavill is off to a blistering start, batting .560 with six doubles and two home runs through his first 25 at-bats of the season. His six doubles are tied for eighth in the country. For his efforts, Cavill was named the Conference USA Hitter of the Week.

The Hilltoppers have five players hitting over .300, with a staggering 10 players notching at least one double in their first eight games. It’s safe to say the WKU offense is clicking on all cylinders early.

Along with their red-hot offense, WKU holds a 3.97 team ERA with 76 strikeouts in 68.0 innings. It’s hard to gauge who will start for the Hilltoppers on Tuesday, as 12 different pitchers saw game action in last Tuesday’s 8-5 victory over Lipscomb.

RHP Drew Whalen got the start, but pitched just the first inning.

Kentucky

The Bat Cats return home after a 2-1 showing in the Karbach Round Rock Classic, featuring a loss to Washington State and wins over Texas State and Kansas. They are 6-1 on the season.

Junior second baseman Émilien Pitre (five hits, two doubles, one home run, four RBI) and grad transfer third baseman Mitchell Daly (four hits, one home run, six RBI) were named to the Karbach Round Rock Classic All-Tournament Team.

Unlike Western, the Kentucky offense is off to a less than stellar start from the plate in 2024. Through seven games, the Bat Cats boast a lowly .250 team BA. Cincinnati grad transfer first baseman Ryan Nicholson has struggled through his first 26 at-bats, netting just five hits to eight strikeouts.

Grad transfer center fielder Ty Crittenberger will be playing against his former team on Tuesday. This marks back-to-back seasons where a Western player has transferred to Kentucky (Jackson Gray in 2023) and played against the Hilltoppers. Last season, Crittenberger went 0-4 in Western’s March 28 matchup with Kentucky.

Crittenberger has garnered just six at-bats this season, but has notched a hit in three with a home run.

Redshirt freshman RHP Drew Lafferty started Kentucky’s lone midweek game of the season, throwing two no-hit innings against Morehead State. He is likely to start against the Hilltoppers on Tuesday.

First pitch is at 4:00 p.m. EST.

ALL-TIME SERIES: Kentucky leads 40-29

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2024-04-22