What's expected to be a slugfest, Eastern Michigan will have their hands full against the highly-ranked Kentucky Wildcats
After a weekend scoring 38 runs against Tennessee Martin followed by splitting a double header against Austin Peay, the Eastern Michigan Eagles (4-4) will now shift focus on the Kentucky Wildcats (6-2) as they travel to Lexington for a 3-game series.
Skipper Jay Alexander needs to fully prepare his team, as they will face off against a superior Wildcats squad coached by Gary Henderson. Both teams have combined for 142 total runs scored through eight games each.
This series will feature some excellent hitting, led by EMU's Lee Longo, and UK's A.J. Reed.
Longo, the first basemen for the Eagles, is seeing the ball very well right now and is off to a fantastic start. Already named the MAC West Player Of The Week through the first two weeks of the season, Longo is 15-for-34 at the plate (.444 batting average), including seven doubles and a home run. With a .472 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .735, Longo is riding an eight game hitting streak, and will be a difficult out for the Wildcats.
EMU second baseman John Rubino has done a nice job at hitting leadoff. From the plate, Rubino is 15-for-35 (.429 AVG) including five doubles and four stolen bases. With an on-base percentage of .471, he becomes a pest on the base paths. Rubino is raising some eyes around the MAC and this series will give him a chance to showcase his abilities.
Jake Andrews (1-0) has been the best starting pitcher for the Eagles. Sporting a 3.86 ERA with nine strikeouts in two starts Andrews gives Alexander's team the best chance to win.
Reed, the first basemen and starting pitcher for the Wildcats, is off to a hot start. Recently earning Louisville Slugger National Player Of The Week honors, Reed is proving to be the best two-way players in the country. He has been very dominant on the hill with a 2-0 record and an ERA of 1.50. Terrific at the plate as well, batting an impressive .424 AVG with three doubles and leading the Southeastern Conference with six home runs. Reed also has a .487 OBP with a SLG of 1.061, which means he could be in line for huge weekend.
Outfielder Austin Cousino has been a tough out this season. Cousino is 15-for-34 at the plate with a .441 AVG with four doubles and one home run. He is also a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts this season. Cousino was a member of the United States National Team, and will cause fits for Eagles pitching if they don't get ahead in the count consistently.
Kyle Cody (1-0) has also been one of the top pitchers for UK. His 1.93 ERA and four strikeouts have helped the Wildcats maintain its consistency. Cody will have to bring his best stuff this weekend or those numbers will increase significantly.
Keys to the game: For Alexander and the Eagles it's simple. They need to play good defense, and have starting pitching turn things up a notch. The offense is going to score, but they can't get into a shootout with the Wildcats and expect to win. Errors have plagued the Eagles in the early part of the season. In fact, EMU has committed 21 errors in eight games. Especially against a superior Kentucky team, any slip-up could end up costing the Eagles in a big way.
Henderson's focus should be to contain Alexander's lineup and keep runs to a minimum. The Wildcats' bullpen has not exactly lit the nation on fire allowing 17 earned runs in eight games. If the Eagles can get to Reed, and Cody early the Wildcats will struggle to keep the Eagles bats quiet.
Prediction: These teams are very even in comparison. Both offenses score early and often, have great power in the middle of the lineup, consistently get runners on base, and have young pitching staffs. Though they compare evenly on paper the edge will go to the Wildcats this weekend. The Eagles have the potential to steal a game or the series, but the Wildcats have too much pop, and should easily take two of three games.