Fresh off a blasting of then-#7 South Carolina over the weekend, Coach John Cohen's UK baseball Cats (30-10, 11-7 SEC) saw their profile jump up big in the first batch of new college baseball polls.
Baseball America has the streaking Cats at a cool #13, up eight spots from last week. West-leading Alabama (#6, 13-5) leads the way for the SEC (standings), with Arkansas (#11, 10-8) somehow above the Cats at 12.
The USAToday Coaches' Poll gave the Bat Cats less love, moving them up six slots to #19, still well below #12 USC. I'm betting the coaches tend to vote more on name recognition than do media members.
Collegiate Baseball had Kentucky at #18, after leaving them unranked last week. The Gamecocks are right behind at #19.
Kentucky is truly having a breakthrough season in 2006, finally catching up to some of its big name brethren in the nation's toughest conference.
Kentucky has relied this season on a combination of power hitting and deft pitching, with a little clutch luck thrown in.
Kentucky leads the SEC in home runs (62), RBIs (315) and runs scored (348).
The Cats have two hitters in the SEC's top 10 (Antone DeJesus, .352; Ryan Strieby, .351) in average, three in on-base percentage and four in slugging percentage. The runs scored leaderboard has UK hitters at each of the top three spots, not surprising given the sheer n umber of runs the Bat Cats have produced.
Strieby, a junior, is putting together a potential SEC MVP season: .351 (10th), 17 doubles (1st), 54 RBIs (2nd), 12 homers (4th) and 109 total bases (2nd).
Not to be outdone, the pitching staff has also chipped in, to the tune of 5th-best ERA in the league, and a league-low 22 home runs allowed (tied for 1st).
Obviously, statistics and SEC leads are far less enticing than a spot in the College World Series. But these markers of achievement do point towards the Cats' strong chances at reaching the highest level of collegiate baseball, something that hasn't been done in my lifetime.