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Sports Notes: With new season on horizon, Stoops, Cats starting back with clean slate

UK coach Mark Stoops is eager to get his team back on the field and prepare for the Sept. 5 season-opener against Louisiana-Lafayette (UK Athletics Photo)

UK coach Mark Stoops is eager to get his team back on the field and prepare for the Sept. 5 season-opener against Louisiana-Lafayette (UK Athletics Photo)


The wait is nearly over for Mark Stoops and his Kentucky Wildcats’ football squad.

The UK players report for fall practice on Aug. 6. The annual Media Day spectacle is set for Aug. 7 and Fan Day will be conducted on Aug. 8. Soon thereafter, practice in preparation for the Sept. 5 season-opener against Louisiana-Lafayette will commence and Stoops and the Cats can officially turn the page on the disappointing end to last season and focus on a brand new one. Year Three is almost here.

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Kentucky won’t be dealing with a six-game losing streak that ruined a promising 5-1 start and left Stoops and company saddled with a 5-7 mark and a seat on the sidelines during bowl season. A fresh season and a fresh start. Everybody’s 0-0 now.

Count Stoops among those who are ready to stop talking and get back to work on the field.

“We were joking before we got on camera here that after each one of these events it’s kind of nice because it moves us one step closer to getting on the field,” Stoops said during last week’s Kentucky Football Kickoff Luncheon. “I enjoy this, but there comes a point when the talking season’s got to end and you’ve got to get on the field and get going.”

Stoops is well aware that fans have every expectation that the Wildcats will be much improved in year three of his term and that most will consider anything less that a 6-6 mark and a bowl appearance a step back, a disappointment no matter how slick the New Commonwealth Stadium looks.

Despite the usual bear that is a typical SEC schedule, Stoops thinks his team has the talent and experience to deliver the goods.

We’ve got to be a better football team,” he said. “The broad strokes are there. Now we’ve gotta refine our skills and get more detailed and make plays when games are on the line. They’ve bought into everything we’re selling. They’re working extremely hard. Everybody’s all in and you’re going to see a passionate, fun, exciting group come this fall, I promise you that.”

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The Reds finally parted with ace pitcher Johnny Cueto over the weekend, dispatching the right-hander to Kansas City for three minor league left-handed relievers: Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed.

Finnegan has pitched some for the Royals over the past two years, but all three were assigned to the Reds’ minor league system. It became necessary for the Reds to deal Cueto when it became apparent they wouldn’t be able to afford his new contract when he enters free agency after this season.

There’s always an interesting story when the Reds’ crack management team is involved and the Cueto deal is no exception.

The former 20-game winner was warming up for his Saturday start against Colorado when another pitcher approached the bullpen. When Cueto asked what was going on, he was told he had been traded to Kansas City. Except the deal fell through at the last minute. Cueto was not amused.

Despite the distraction, Cueto made his start and went eight shutout innings, permitting four hits. He struck out five and walked one to earn his fifth win of the year. The trade was finalized on Sunday.

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By the way, Reed pitched for the Lexington Legends in 2014, compiling a 3-9 record with a 5.46 earned run average in 19 starts. In 84 innings pitched, he struck out 58 batters and walked 36. Reed was pitching for Northwest Arkansas, the Royals Double-A team, at the time of the trade.

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Former Kentucky All-American and national Player of the Year A.J. Reed has continued his offensive surge at the Double A level of the Houston Astros’ system.

Playing for Corpus Christi now, Reed has three home runs and 14 runs batted in 13 games since earning a promotion for Single A Advanced Lancaster. For the season, he is tied for the minor league lead with 26 overall home runs and 95 RBI. He’s hitting a cool .326 with Corpus Christi.

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Morehead State’s women’s basketball team has gotten a jump on the season. They’ve been on the court preparing for a trip to the Bahamas this week and a pair of exhibition matchups. Coach Greg Todd’s Eagles will spend six nights in Freeport.

MSU will practice Wednesday and then face the Bahamas All-Stars Thursday at 7 p.m. and the Lady Flames Friday at 7 p.m. Those squads include several Bahamas National Team members. The team is staying at the Memories Grand Bahamas Resort Hotel.

“This should be wonderful trip for all of us,” Todd said. “I have never been to the Bahamas and several of our travel party have not either, so we will enjoy the fellowship and use these games as chance to implement some new schemes and improve our team. The competition should be good, and it will give our team a chance to get up and down the floor together in a game-like setting.”

As part of the “foreign trip” the NCAA allows 10 practices prior to departure.

“We have several new players, so we have used the practice time to introduce new concepts, and it’s been a chance to pull our team closer together,” Todd said.

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Kentucky’s baseball team will participate in the inaugural Tony Gwynn Classic in 2016 at San Diego State. UK coach Gary Henderson is an alum of San Diego State and was a college teammate of Gwynn’s.

“We are honored to participate in the inaugural event and join in the celebration of a great man,” Henderson said of the former Padres’ Hall of Famer. “Besides the opportunity to honor Tony and his ever-lasting impact on baseball and the community of San Diego, the event will showcase of some of the top college baseball programs and players in the nation. It will be a good test for our team, early in non-conference play, to help us prepare for the Southeastern Conference.”

The tournament will feature 12 teams in a championship style format, with Baseball America assisting in the formation of the bracket.

The tournament will be co-hosted by SDSU and San Diego in 2015. Arizona, Bryant, Nebraska, Tulane and UC Santa Barbara will join SDSU, USD and Kentucky in the field.

San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer has declared the week of Feb. 19-28, 2016, to be Tony Gwynn Week in the City of San Diego.

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