By: Burke Granger
While I was in Cincinnati on Friday night getting eyes on Connecticut’s Anthony Kay at the mercy of the elements, Eric Lauer’s draft stock was heating up as he carved up visiting Toledo.
Later needed just 2 hours 3 minutes and 105 pitches to go the distance, pitching a 2-hit shutout. Lauer struck out 10 and walked none to improve to 5-2 on the year, lowering his season ERA to 0.99. Through 54.1 innings, Lauer has 67 strikeouts to go with 19 walks and has held opponents to a .163 batting average.
Don’t get me wrong, Kay was worth the drive. Plus, being a local guy, I should get my opportunity to see Lauer later this spring. In snowy wet conditions against the Cincinnati Bearcats, Kay was also impressive. Working at 90-93 mph with his fastball, and mixing in a healthy dose of changeups, Kay went 6IP, while giving up 4 hits, 2 walks and struck out 6. His lone mistake was a solo blast off the bat of Cincinnati center fielder Treg Haberkorn.
Entering the weekend, Kentucky was riding a streak of three straight series wins since conference play began, knocking off Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee. The Wildcats, who returned their entire weekend rotation from last season have done so despite inconsistent results from their veteran staff.
While Saturday starter Dustin Beggs has been fantastic (7-0, 2.40 ERA), Friday starter Zack Brown has struggled to set the tempo each weekend. Brown entered the year as the most highly regarded draft prospect in the rotation, but entered the weekend with a 1-5 record an ERA over 6.50. Hosting Alabama on Friday, Brown pitched 7 solid innings, scattering 6 hits, 3 runs, while walking just one and striking out three for his second win of the year.
Beggs followed that up with his usual brilliant performance, producing a 7IP, 4H, 1R, 0ER, 1BB, 10K line as the Wildcats clinched the series.
Kyle Cody, an unsigned second round (Twins) 2015 draftee took the loss on Sunday, but was solid in doing so. Working 7.1 innings, Cody allowed just 4 hits and 1 earned run in the loss. Cody walked 2 and struck out 3 in the contest.
Kentucky just missed making a Regional last year, and at 22-9, they’re in good shape this season. If the pitching staff can keep them in games, while JaVon Shelby and Evan White provide the offensive punch, the Wildcats could be dangerous. It won’t get easier however, as they travel to Vanderbilt next weekend.
Florida’s A.J. Puk exited last week’s game after just 11 pitches due to back pain and was a late scratch against Mississippi State on Sunday. As of now, the lefty is tentatively scheduled to start Thursday against Arkansas.
Puk’s teammate Logan Shore (5.2IP, 8H, 2R, 0BB 4K) remains undefeated, improving to 6-0 after beating Mississippi State on Friday.
Dakota Hudson has been one of the better pitchers in the nation this year but he struggled against Florida on Friday (5IP, 8H, 6R, 5ER, 2BB, 3K, (L, 4-2)).
Georgia’s Robert Tyler also struggled. On the road against Texas A&M, the righty lasted just 4 innings, allowing 6 hits, 3 runs and 4 walks, while striking out 3. Tyler falls to 3-2 on the season.
Virginia’s Conner Jones continues to solidify his place among the first round arms. Jones improved to 6-1 after tossing a 1-hit shutout against Boston College. Jones walked 4 and struck out 4.
Oregon won a big series this weekend against #9 California, thanks in part to lefty Matt Krook, who produced a 6.2IP, 2H, 2R, 1ER, 6BB, 9K line. Krook owns a nasty 12.36 K/9 ratio this season but it’s paired with a troubling 6.83 BB/9 ratio.