LEXINGTON, Ky. – For the first time in school history, Western High School graduate Matt Reida and his University of Kentucky baseball team have soared to a No. 1 national ranking, as Collegiate Baseball tabbed the blistering-hot Wildcats as the top-ranked team in the NCAA in its weekly poll, it was announced on Monday afternoon.
UK’s No. 1 national ranking marks a first in program history, as UK had ascended as high as No. 2 in the Collegiate Baseball poll for a week in 2008 and for the last two weeks in 2012. The Collegiate Baseball Newspaper top-30 weekly poll is the oldest in the nation and dates back to 1957.
“It is a honor to be ranked No. 1 but no one gives out regional bids for where you are ranked on April 2,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “We are just three weekends into the toughest 10-week grind in college baseball and our guys have really enjoyed competing. We have a lot of things to improve on and can’t wait to get out to Cliff Hagan on Wednesday for a five-game homestand.”
Reida, Kentucky’s starting shortstop, is batting .265 and has ripped 27 hits for the top-ranked Wildcats. He has five doubles and 12 RBIs during his sophomore season – and he is one of four Wildcats to have played in all 29 games this spring.
UK’s ranking last week by Baseball America (No. 10), also marked its highest ranking in that poll in program annals, with its No. 8 ranking on Monday the new program record. Last week, UK was also ranked No. 7 by USA Today/ESPN and No. 10 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. UK moved up to No. 4 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll on Monday, with the NCBWA poll released late Monday afternoon.
Kentucky (27-2, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) is off to the best start to a season in the over 100-year history of the program, leading the NCAA in wins and sitting alone atop the SEC standings. UK has won all three of its league slate, including road series wins at No. 18 Georgia and Tennessee, in addition to a series sweep over No. 2 South Carolina, the two-time defending NCAA champions, to open SEC play.
UK won its series in Athens, Ga., for the first time since the 2000 season, with its start to conference play ranking second-best in the history of the program. Through their first six tilts with teams ranked in the top 25, the Wildcats own a 5-1 mark. After Sunday’s games, the Wildcats now sit alone atop the SEC standings, just three weeks into the grueling 10-week slate.
UK’s series win at Foley Field and 26-run output over Georgia came against a strong team that entered the series leading the SEC in ERA (2.75), with the Bulldogs facing No. 5 UCLA, Tennessee and Vanderbilt over the last three weekends. After the weekend series, UGA’s team ERA dropped to 3.36 from the league-leading 2.75, eighth in the league. The Wildcats belted six homers in the series and now lead the SEC in average (.325), on-base percentage (.421), runs (228), hits (323), RBI (208), doubles (60) and hit batters (57).
Earlier on Monday, centerfielder Austin Cousino was named SEC Freshman of the Week, after hitting .375 (6-for-16) during a four-game week, with three homers and nine RBI. Cousino has homered in four of his last five games, reaching base safely in 27 of his 28 career games.
The Wildcats will put its school-record 19-game home winning streak on the line against Dayton in a midweek tilt Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET. UK will then host No. 10 Ole Miss in a three-game series, with the Rebels fresh off a series win over consensus No. 1 Florida.
(Compiled by the University of Kentucky and the Sports Journal staff)