Gary Henderson has made an interesting decision to use sophomore Kyle Cody in game one in lieu of junior A.J. Reed. Upon closer examination though, the decision makes a lot of sense. A.J. and Kyle are both going to pitch in the regional regardless of the outcome of Friday's game, so starting Cody today means A.J. is in line to go against Louisville if Kentucky wins (yeah, I'm going to go ahead and assume the Cardinals advance past Kent State). In addition, the Kansas lineup is extremely right-handed: of the 9 Jayhawk hitters who received the most at-bats this season, only 1 is a lefty. In fact, there are only 8 left-handed hitters total on the roster (and no switch hitters), and I think some of those are pitchers. The matchup is set perfectly to allow Henderson to use his best pitcher against the strongest opponent in the regional. I think this is a great move by Henderson and is the right decision, regardless of how the game today goes. This also serves somewhat as a preview for next season, when Cody will undoubtedly move into the Friday starter role after Reed is a first round pick in next week's draft.
Jordan Piche' moved from the closer's role into the rotation after Kansas ace Wes Benjamin went down with Tommy John surgery. He's a righty which is good for Austin Cousino and A.J. Reed. Kentucky should be able to score some runs against Piche'.
As mentioned above, the Kansas lineup is extremely right-handed. In recent games they've only started as many as two left-handed hitters and that shouldn't change today. Their top hitters are RF Dakota Smith (.333 / .393 / .452), LF Michael Suiter (.327 / .417 / .425), 2B Colby Wright (.320 / .408 / .422), and CF Tucker Tharp (.305 / .408 / .467). Tharp is an all-around threat, leading the team with 10 stolen bases and 14 doubles and he is second on the squad with 6 homeruns. The Cats will need to keep him in check today.
I expect Kentucky to go with the same lineup we saw in the SEC Tournament. The one question mark is the status of Thomas Bernal who didn't play in the last game against Florida. Bernal was replaced at first base by Reed and Kyle Barrett filled in at DH. Given that Barrett is another lefthanded hitter, we could see the same setup again today if there are any questions about Bernal's health.
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