BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- As part of the unprecedented agreement between ESPN and the Southeastern Conference, the Kentucky baseball team will be featured during the 2011 season in ESPNU’s inaugural Thursday Night SEC Baseball Game of the Week, with UK’s game at LSU set for April 28 at Alex Box Stadium.
Kentucky and LSU – the defending SEC Tournament Champions – will face off in a three-game series in Baton Rouge, running from April 28-30, 2011 at three-year old Alex Box Stadium. The game is part of a seven-week series running from April 7 through May 19, with the Thursday night national game of the week a first for the sport. SEC weekend baseball series are scheduled for Friday-Sunday three-game weekends, but as part of the Thursday Night SEC Baseball Game of the Week, the series selected will play Thursday-Saturday three-game sets.
“ESPNU is thrilled to feature a seven-week SEC Thursday night baseball series,” said Rosalyn Durant, Vice President, ESPNU. “Showcasing the vast talent of SEC baseball is great for the sport, fans, league and ESPNU. We appreciate the partnership with the SEC in creating this consistent Thursday night national package.”
The ESPNU Thursday Night SEC Baseball Game of the Week will feature the Wildcats in the crucial tilt at LSU in 2011, with the Tigers totaling 10,655 fans per game during the 2010 season. The series opener is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 28 and will feature a national broadcast on ESPNU, a network now available in 73 million homes. The series will resume at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday and conclude at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Last year, UK collected its first three-game sweep over the high-powered Tigers in 19 years, picking up three wins over LSU on the next-to-last weekend of the season. In the series, UK used a walk-off homer from Lance Ray in a Friday-night win, a stellar outing from Jordan Cooper in a Saturday win and a go-ahead grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning from catcher Marcus Nidiffer to complete the sweep in a comeback effort on Sunday.
“The Thursday night package of SEC games on ESPNU is a great opportunity for us to showcase the outstanding baseball that is played in our conference,” said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. “The ESPNU package will be able to draw attention to the outstanding game-day atmosphere we have at our baseball stadiums as well as the rich tradition and history of SEC baseball.”
Kentucky’s entire 2011 schedule will be released in the near future, a schedule that will feature a trip – on the third weekend of the regular season – to the prestigious Houston College Classic, hosted by the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park, March 4-6. The Wildcats will play traditional power Rice at 8 p.m. ET on Friday, March 4, facing Houston at 4:30 p.m. ET and Utah at 12 p.m. ET. The Houston College Classic is widely considered the top early season college baseball tournament in the nation.
The Wildcats return a bevy of talent from its 31-win season in 2010, including its entire weekend rotation, made up of a trio of potential first-round MLB Draft talents, in 6-foot-9 junior right-hander Alex Meyer, Cooper, a sophomore righty, and sophomore southpaw Taylor Rogers. UK also returns senior shortstop Taylor Black, who slugged 11 homers in his debut at Kentucky a year ago, becoming the first UK shortstop to hit 10 or more homers since the 1993 season. In addition, juniors Chad Wright and Braden Kapteyn return after earning Cape Cod League All-Star accolades during the summer.
SEC baseball is coming off a successful season that saw South Carolina win the 2010 National Championship Series, Florida advanced to the College World Series and eight SEC teams overall earned a NCAA postseason bid. It marked the sixth time since 2000 and the third consecutive year an SEC team played for the national title.
Additional SEC baseball games will be aired on the ESPN family of networks as well as other networks and will be announced at a later date. No other games will be moved to Thursday other than the games listed below.