Saturday’s game vs. Virginia Tech will be a family reunion for one Kentucky Basketball player. →
By Drew Franklin on ©June 09th, 2017 @ 2:47pm
Game 1 of the Louisville Super Regional hasn’t gone well for your University of Kentucky Wildcats. After going down 2-0 early, the Cats flirted with a comeback in the fifth inning but couldn’t bring in two baserunners with no outs. Then in the bottom of the fifth, Louisville’s Drew Ellis hit a three-run bomb that still hasn’t landed.
Louisville currently leads 5-0 in the top of the eighth inning and it’s not looking good for the Cats.
It’ll take a miraculous turnaround or this one is over.
Who gets the starting nod in Kentucky’s showdown with Louisville in the Super Regional today? Here’s Kentucky’s starting lineup, along with their uniform combination:
The game starts in 20 minutes on ESPN2, or you can listen on 630 WLAP or your streaming devices.
We are one hour from Kentucky’s Super Regional showdown with Louisville, and by early accounts, blue is getting in to Jim Patterson Stadium. As you can see above, UK Athletics captured the crowd waiting to get in with a special SnapChat filter made just for the occasion. Here’s another view from Ben Roberts:
There will definitely be some UK Blue getting in this afternoon… pic.twitter.com/3DpOd2guzw
— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) June 9, 2017
An overhead angle from Keith Taylor:
Fans waiting to get in at Patterson Stadium pic.twitter.com/0nnI7uCV6K
— Keith Taylor (@keithtaylor21) June 9, 2017
And ESPN’s Tom Hart:
— Tom Hart (@tom_hart) June 9, 2017
Watch the good guys get off the bus an hour ago:
— Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) June 9, 2017
And don’t worry — the rally cup hat made it:
— Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) June 9, 2017
Let’s not mess around. There’s one story and one story only right now: Kentucky’s showdown with Louisville in the Super Regional. We’re about three hours from the first pitch, so let’s get to it.
1. You can watch the game on ESPN2
The game is completely sold out (although tickets have been available at weird hours because UofL is shady), but you can see it on ESPN2 at high noon. In the meantime, keep refreshing. Trey Hunstman has had about fifteen cups of coffee and is already waiting outside the ballpark to bring you the latest. This is his Super Bowl.
2. Zack Thompson will be UK’s starting pitcher
The freshman left-hander will get the nod today. He’s got an 80% win-loss percentage in his first year in Lexington, the best on the team this season, and a 3.52 earned run average. He started both games vs. Louisville this season, one win, one loss, and allowed seven earned runs in 7.2 innings while striking out 11 batters and walking nine. Most recently, he led the Cats to the win over Indiana in the Lexington regional last weekend, giving up four earned runs and striking out seven players in seven innings.
Meanwhile, Louisville will start Kade McClure, setting up a Sean Hjelle/Brendan McKay showdown for Saturday.
3. Here’s everything Nick Mingione, Connor Heady, and Riley Mahan had to say yesterday
4. The UofL Foundation audit is out
And, not surprisingly, the foundation found ways to hide millions of dollars of spending. Drew had a good rundown of the juiciest parts of the audit last night, but here’s a very quick summary:
- Tom Jurich was paid $19 million (!!) over seven years
- For some reason, his son (who did not work for the foundation) was paid almost a million
- The foundation paid $300,000 for Captain Suntan’s terrible radio show, which was created to counter KSR
- The UofL IT department erased and repurposed James Ramsey’s hard drive just before the audit
- Ramsey’s former aide Kathleen Smith basically did everything she could to hide their shady dealings
- The foundation spent more than $800,000 on season football and basketball tickets just to turn around and sell them
5. Three Cats will try out for Calipari’s U19 National Team
The final list of players invited to try out for John Calipari’s U19 National Team came out yesterday and three Wildcats are on it: Hamidou Diallo, Kevin Knox, and PJ Washington. Four of Kentucky’s top targets in the 2018 class also made the list: Romeo Langford, Immanuel Quickley, Cameron Reddish and Bol Bol.
The group of 28 will compete against each other at training camp in Colorado Springs June 18-25. From there, a group of 12 will travel to Cairo, Egypt to compete in the FIBA World Cup July 1-9.
6. Calipari’s excited
Cal has waited for years to get into USA Basketball and couldn’t help but share his excitement when the training camp invitations went out yesterday.
“I wanted to take a moment to reiterate how excited I am to be a part of USA Basketball. I’m excited about the opportunity on a lot of fronts. To be able to coach a team that represents the United States is a true blessing. And then to be able to do it with Danny Manning and Tad Boyle, who I coached at Kansas and have great respect for, will be an amazing experience. I can’t wait to have an opportunity to teach and coach some of the best young talent in our country. I want this to be an experience that is impactful for these young players.”
7. Calipari is also excited about the Penguins
Sadly, my Preds crapped the bed last night in Pittsburgh, and John Calipari was in the house to witness it:
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) June 9, 2017
If “amazing” means turning the game off in the third period because you can’t watch any more in fear of puking, then yes, it was amazing, Cal.
Alas, today’s a new day, and the series comes back to Bridgestone Arena for Game 6. There’s no way the Preds will lose at home on what will possibly be the most insane day in Nashville’s history. The gods of Broadway and 2nd Avenue just won’t let it happen.
8. The team’s making themselves at home in the gym
Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo uploaded pictures from the Joe Craft Center late last night and this morning, so they’re making themselves at home, which I’m sure makes the “get in the gym!” part of our fanbase very happy.
9. Ohio State is hiring Chris Holtmann
Holtmann, a Nicholasville, Kentucky native, has coached Butler the past three seasons. He’ll replace Thad Matta, who was fired earlier this week.
10. Ryan and Amanda Lemond are hosting KSR today
Which means it will be awesome. Tune in an hour from now to hear Amanda drop some truth, Ryan drop some uncomfortable bedroom talk, and Drew Franklin play referee.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 08th, 2017 @ 9:30pm
There are several obvious contributing factors to UK Baseball’s historic run to the Super Regional: the relentless enthusiasm of first-year head coach Nick Mingione; talented pitchers like Sean Hjelle and Logan Salow; All-Americans Evan White, Tristan Pompey, and Riley Mahan; and the team’s remarkably quick transition to Mingione’s system. Yet, there is one unsung hero in this bunch that deserves some recognition: Austin Keen’s rally cup hat.
Constructed entirely of paper Powerade cups and tape, Keen’s creation is modeled after a Viking hat. It first drew attention when Kentucky faced elimination vs. Indiana on Sunday of the Lexington Regional. Desperate times called for desperate measures, so Keen, a redshirt freshman pitcher, crafted the hat out of the materials available and it worked. Kentucky went on to beat Indiana and, a few hours later, NC State to advance to the final showdown with the Wolfpack Monday night.
“Of all the guys and everything that happened in our program, who and what from the University of Kentucky got on ESPN?” Nick Mingione joked today. “The cup hat! The guy that poured himself into the team the most. I want you to think about that. It wasn’t the grand slam, it wasn’t the dog pile, it wasn’t any of that. The guy that got on ESPN was the guy that had the cup hat.”
Heading into Monday night’s big game, the hat was bigger and bolder then ever, gaining new accessories like a propeller so that it resembled a giant flying blue and white traffic cone. Its shining moment came at the top of the sixth inning when, with the Cats down one, a foul ball rolled into right field near the dugout and Keen took off a sprint to retrieve it. His hat magically staying in place, Keen flipped the foul ball into the crowd and dutifully sprinted straight back to the dugout.
Mingione has embraced the hat as a metaphor for his team’s selfless, one brick — err, cup — at a time mentality.
“By the way, what was [Keen] doing? He was chasing a foul ball to serve his team. That’s the guy that got on SportsCenter. Oh and by the way, that just happened to bleed over to our team and we just happened to win a championship and do something that’s never been done before. I’m about to share this with our team. That’s how life works. Who’s the guy that everybody wants to pull for? The guy that’s the most selfless person. How do you not want to root for that guy?”
You can’t. It’s impossible. Today, senior Connor Heady and junior Riley Mahan credited the rally cup hat and the rest of the dugout for keeping the team loose during the stressful postseason.
“Fortunately for us this weekend, it was pretty loose,” Heady said. “You guys saw some of the things we had going on in the dugout with the rally cap, the cup hat that Austin Keen made. Just guys wearing sunglasses the whole game in the dugout for the night game, backwards hats. They had it all going on. Our dugout was really loose this weekend and they brought a lot of energy, a lot of positive reinforcement for us that are out there playing the game.”
“When you have stuff like that going on in the dugout, it keeps everybody loose,” Mahan said. “That really helps from both ends and keeps everybody loose and reminds everyone it’s just a game and go out there and control what you can control and have fun playing the game.”
To answer the question you surely have by now, yes, the cup will travel to Louisville for tomorrow’s Super Regional showdown with the Cards.
“It’s ready to go,” Mahan assured reporters today. “I think he might have some more tape on it to make it more stable, but it’s ready to go.”
Want to make your own? Hopefully we won’t need it, but it’s best to be prepared.
How to make your own Rally Cup Hat
- Paper cups (preferably blue, white, and/or black)
- White tape
Step 1: Cut several paper cups down the side and remove bottoms
Step 2: Tape cups together to form initial ring
Step 3: Layer and tape rings until you form a cone
Step 4: Add horns
Step 5: Add other accessories at will
Go ahead, get crazy. It’s Louisville, and the rally cup hat hasn’t failed us yet.
By Nick Roush on ©June 08th, 2017 @ 6:28pm
You probably didn’t get a chance to buy tickets before all of the Louisville fans swiped them up. Don’t worry, you have one more chance.
The UofL Ticket office has released a limited number of all session tickets on the outfield berm for this weekend’s Super Regional. Click here and grab them before more Cardinals can.
Zack Thompson, let’s go.
Thompson struggled in his two regular season starts against Louisville, but the stakes are much higher this time around and he’s a gamer. He’ll be ready.
This also means we get the marquee Hjelle-McKay showdown on Saturday for Game 2. Buy the big bag of popcorn for that one.
Nick Mingione and two of his players held a press conference on Thursday to look ahead to the best-of-three series against Louisville. Mingione spoke for almost 20 minutes, hitting a wide variety of topics about his team and his opponent.
Hear for yourself:
Connor Heady and Riley Mahan also discussed the Super Regional matchup against Louisville:
Baseball America released its three All-America teams and three Kentucky Wildcats received honors.
Up first, first baseman Evan White was named to the second team after hitting .368 in 51 games with 75 hits, 47 runs, a team-high 24 doubles, a triple, nine home runs, 40 RBI and five stolen bases.
Outfielder Tristan Pompey and second baseman Riley Mahan made Baseball America’s third team. Pompey led the conference with a .410 batting average in league games, while also getting the most hits and finishing top three in runs, on base percentage and total bases. Mahan ranked top three in runs (second), doubles (third), triples (first), home runs (first) and slugging percentage (second) during the regular season.
Congrats to all three and to the program.
Now beat Louisville.
By Drew Franklin on ©June 07th, 2017 @ 11:00pm
The University of Louisville will play host to the University of Kentucky in baseball this weekend with a spot in the College World Series on the line. The best-of-three series will be played in front of a sold out crowd on Friday at noon, Saturday at noon, and, if necessary, Sunday at — you guessed it — noon o’clock.
Excitement is running wild in both cities and within the two programs as it is easily the biggest head-to-head series in the rivalry’s storied history. Kentucky, playing in its first ever Super Regional, hopes to upset Louisville to punch its ticket to Omaha; while Louisville, the sixth-ranked team in the country, looks to return to the College World Series for the fourth time under head coach Dan McDonnell.
Now before I go on, I should make it very clear that baseball is not my expertise. I went to a Cincinnati Reds game in like third grade and got tossed out of a handful of Thirsty Thursdays in Lexington in my prime; but outside of that, America’s pastime ain’t my thing. That being said, I put myself on assignment to scout the Cardinals for all of you Kentucky fans out there, and scout the Cardinals I did.
Below you’ll find everything you need to know about the Wildcats’ upcoming opponent and future Louisville Super Regional runner-up…
They dyed their hair blond for the postseason.
Although, pitcher Jake Sparger opted for the red mohawk instead.
If for some reason you didn’t hate Louisville before, you do now.
One of the star players is from Lexington and originally committed to Kentucky out of high school. (So, he is a traitor.)
A top-100 MLB draft prospect, Louisville short stop Devin Hairston almost ended up in blue and white for his college career. He committed to Kentucky as a young star at Tates Creek High School in Lexington to join his older brother, Dorian Hairston, on the Wildcats baseball team. But then something happened and the younger Hairston flipped his commitment to the dark side, and now he is one of the key components and brightest stars on Louisville’s roster.
It’s a really sad story of a young boy losing his way.
They play in Long John Silver’s Stadium.
Technically, it’s Jim Patterson Stadium. But Jim Patterson is known for founding Long John Silver’s, so we’re unofficially changing its name to Long John Silver’s Stadium right now.
Spread the word: $1.99 Fish and Fries before 6 p.m. with a free hush puppy for anyone over 60. Present your ticket stub at any location following the game for free corn on the cob and a 50 percent shot at food poisoning.
(Note: Long John Silver’s was founded in Lexington, yet another example of Louisville relying on its rival city.)
The Louisville pitchers may or may not use pine tar, so I read on Twitter once.
My understanding is pine tar is frowned upon in baseball. And to be fair, I don’t see pine tar in that screenshot. And to be fairer, I don’t know what pine tar looks like. And to be fairer than that, I would use the hell out of pine tar if I pitched.
I’m just passing along another man’s observation from last Sunday and presenting a better look for you pine tar conspiracy theorists out there.
To me it looks like he wiped bare-handed after eating at Long John Silver’s.
Head coach Dan McDonnell licks microphones when he can’t answer a question.
For example: “Hey Coach, are you confident your team will beat Kentucky this weekend?”
See? Told ya.
Meanwhile, pitching coach Roger Williams wants you to f— off.
Louisville, always classy.
Brendan McKay is the best player in college baseball and he may be the best two-way player in history.
Pitcher/first baseman Brendan McKay will go No. 1 or No. 2 overall in the MLB draft and he’ll make more money before he’s 25 than I’ll make in a lifetime, so I have nothing negative to say about his game.
But I have no problem saying his postseason hairdo makes him look like an asshole:
Speaking of bad hair…
The second baseman with cornrows is so, so Louisville.
And you can’t lose to a white guy with cornrows, can you?
By Nick Roush on ©June 07th, 2017 @ 9:30pm
This weekend the Kentucky baseball team needs two wins over the University of Louisville to advance to the program’s first College World Series.
The stakes have never been higher. The first Super Regional appearance by Kentucky also falls on their rivals’ home field. It doesn’t get much bigger than that.
The baseball team was in familiar territory just two years ago. The Bat Cats advanced to the Regional Final from the losers’ bracket, only to fall 4-1 on the Cards’ home field. It’s the only time the Commonwealth’s two teams have ever played each other in postseason baseball.
Postseason basketball is a completely different story. Even though it’s apples and oranges, it provides another opportunity to laugh at Little Brother for losing when it matters most. Since the Cats’ 80-68 overtime loss in “The Dream Game” back in 1983, Louisville has not beaten Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.
1984: Kentucky 72, Louisville 67
The Mideast Regional Final Loss to Louisville in 1983 opened the floodgates for the two teams to finally begin an annual duel. In the first regular season matchup, the Cats took the Cards to the woodshed for a 21-point victory. It was much closer affair in the Sweet 16, but Joe B. Hall’s Cats still got the win.
Jim Master and Dicky Beal led the team in scoring with 15 points apiece. Melvin Turpin had 14 points and 5 rebounds, Sam Bowie had 8 points and 12 boards while Winston Bennett contributed 10 points to help end the Cardinals’ season. Kentucky would defeat Illinois by three in the next game to take Coach Hall back to the Final Four before shooting an abysmal 24 percent against Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown in the National Semifinal.
2012: Kentucky 69, Louisville 61
This weekend Kentucky has nothing to lose, just like Louisville in the 2012 Final Four. Their appearance came as a surprise, while Kentucky dominated the field with the National Player of the Year and the future top two picks in the NBA Draft. Still without a National Championship, John Calipari’s first would have to go through Rick Pitino.
The Louisville baseball team has been extremely successful under Dan McDonnell. They have won five consecutive Regional Championships, but the program has struggled to get over the hump. In three College World Series appearances they are 1-6 with their best finish (5th) coming in 2007. They’ve hosted two straight Super Regionals and lost with elite talent. This year Brendan McKay will be a top two draft pick and he’s already won one National Player of the Year award.
All of the pressure was on Calipari’s Cats. This year all of the pressure is on McDonnell’s Cards.
Calipari’s bonafide superstar put the Cats over the top in 2012. Anthony Davis dominated the Cards with 18 points (7-8 FG), 14 rebounds and 5 blocked shots. Louisville had a 15-3 run in the middle of the second half to tie the game, just enough to make the BBN nervous, but from there the Cats took control and never looked back.
2014: Kentucky 74, Louisville 69
Arguably the Sweetest victory in the Cats’ run to the National Title game, Kentucky came back to eliminate the defending National Champions in Indianapolis. If you thought Aaron Harrison’s heroics were impressive in the Sweet 16, it was only the beginning.
This weekend we’ll see if the underdog Bat Cats have any Aaron Harrison-heroics in College Baseball’s Sweet 16 when they take the Jim Patterson Stadium field with a College World Series berth on the line.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 07th, 2017 @ 9:00am
In a tiny town in the middle of Tuscany lies one of the most colorful characters in the world: Dario Cecchini, the “Mad Butcher of Panzano.” We visited Dario in his legendary butcher shop, Antica Macelleria Cecchini, while touring the Chianti wine region, and being in his presence for just a few minutes was one of the most remarkable experiences of our trip. Dario’s family has been in the butchery business for eight generations, and now, he’s the most famous butcher on the planet. The 59-year-old first burst onto the foodie scene in 2001 when he held a funeral for “bistecca fiorentina” (a style of T-Bone steak famous in Florence) during the Mad Cow disease crisis, the plaque for which still hangs outside his shop:
Since then, the larger-than-life Dario has become a superstar, nicknamed the “Michelangelo of Meat,” and cooks for famous people around the world. We were lucky to catch him in his shop, although rumor has it he may have cut a trip to Los Angeles short so he could grill for the Obama family, who was also touring Tuscany when we were. Entering his shop is a visceral experience. The first thing that hits you is the smell: wonderful, aromatic, meat. The second thing that hits you is the small wine glass thrust into your hand, filled with local Chianti. From there, you’re ushered to a table overflowing with cold cuts, bread, olive oil, and quite possibly the most delicious spread I’ve ever tasted, which makes sense because it turned out be lardo. The party spills into the street, the Italians shouting over AC/DC (the only music Dario will play) while tourists look around and wonder what the heck they walked into. Our group ate a lunch across the street that was catered by the shop, and after eating more than my fair share of pasta all week, my body sang for the freshest thing it had seen in days: vegetables dipped in olive oil, which was mixed with Dario’s “Profumo del Chianti,” an herb salt. You better believe we brought some home with us.
So, should you find yourself anywhere near Florence, Italy, take a tour or drive yourself out to Panzano to meet Dario and try that lardo. And bring some me some more herb salt, please.
Now, on with the show.
1. The Super Regional vs. Louisville is sold out
If you were hoping to cheer the Bat Cats on in their first Super Regional ever, well, prepare to pay a lot on the secondary markets. All three games between Kentucky and Louisville are sold out, and considering the Cards are the host and had a day head start on selling tickets, I have a feeling that crowd will be mostly red. If you were lucky enough to secure a spot in Jim Patterson Stadium, do us all a favor and BE LOUD.
For the rest of us, the games will begin at high noon Friday (ESPN2), Saturday (ESPN), and Sunday (TBA).
2. If you haven’t yet, listen to the KSR Baseball Podcast
Hearing former UK Baseball coach Keith Madison reflect on the program’s historic accomplishment is so good, so good, so good. If you haven’t already subscribed to the KSR podcast feed, here’s how you can.
3. UK Basketball’s complete non-conference schedule was released
- October 13: Big Blue Madness
- October 20: Blue/White Game
- November 10: vs. Utah Valley
- November 12: vs. Vermont
- November 14: vs. Kansas, Champions Classic, Chicago
- November 17: vs. ETSU
- November 20: vs. Troy
- November 22: vs. Fort Wayne
- November 26: vs. UIC
- December 2: vs. Harvard
- December 9: vs. Monmouth, Citi Double Cash Classic, New York
- December 16: vs. Virginia Tech
- December 23: vs. UCLA, CBS Sports Classic, New Orleans
- December 29: vs. Louisville
- January 27: at West Virginia
The SEC schedule will feature nine home games and nine away games, which were announced last week without dates. Kentucky will play Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M and Missouri twice (home and away); play Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss and Mississippi State at home; and play on the road at Arkansas, Auburn, LSU and South Carolina.
4. Players continue to arrive on campus
UK’s summer session begins today, which means the basketball and football teams are back on campus. Here’s Shai Alexander and Jemarl Baker moving in to their new home:
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) June 6, 2017
And PJ Washington hanging with some fans at the airport:
— M. Keith Warren (@keithwarren) June 6, 2017
PJ Washington will be a fan favorite. Mark it down.
5. Dominique Hawkins is working out for the Sacramento Kings today
A day after the Kings hosted De’Aaron Fox, they will see Dominique Hawkins, who will work out alongside Donovan Mitchell (Louisville), Caleb Swanigan (Purdue), Cameron Oliver (Nevada), Erik McCree (Louisiana Tech), and Jabari Bird (Cal). The Kings have the 5th, 10th, and 34th picks in the draft.
Yesterday, Bam Adebayo and Isaiah Briscoe worked out for the Detroit Pistons (12th pick), while Malik Monk visited the Phoenix Suns (4th, 32nd, and 54th picks). De’Aaron Fox will work out for Phoenix later this week, but apparently his workout in Sacramento went so well that the Kings are considering trading their 5th and 10th picks to Philadelphia in order to ensure they get Fox at #3. Oh boy.
6. Alvonte Bell was dismissed from the team
The defensive line suffered a big blow yesterday with the news that senior defensive end Alvonte Bell has been dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules. That one hurts because Bell was a projected started at a spot that sorely needs depth. For more on what Bell’s dismissal means going forward, check out Freddie’s recap of the Governor’s Cup luncheon.
7. Mark Stoops had some interesting comments about Matt Elam
“He and I (Matt Elam) had a sit-down in mid-April about some things he needs to do. And, you know, it’s up to Matt. Matt is a good worker and does good things and everything that’s expected of him when he’s with us. There are sacrifices you have to make when you’re away from college and you’re away from your coaches. That’ll be up to Matt.”
This will be Elam’s senior season, meaning he’s running out of time to make the impression he needs to in order to get an opportunity on the next level.
8. Stoops picked up a kicker named Chance Poore
Get ready for a whole lotta puns because Stoops just landed Chance Poore, the top-ranked kicker in the state of South Carolina. Apparently his chances of landing 40-yarders won’t be poor because he’s been hitting them since age 13. Please let that be the only pun about him I ever write.
Anyways, Chance is the 10th member of UK’s 2018 class. Welcome.
9. Scooter Gennett made history last night
Gennett. The best a man can hit. pic.twitter.com/ekgeeyqMe1
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) June 7, 2017
The Cincinnati Reds second baseman hit four home runs, tying the MLB record, and finished with 10 RBIs, tying a franchise record, in the Reds’ 13-1 rout of the Cardinals last night. He’s only the 17th player to hit four home runs in one game in major league history, quite the feat for a player who was claimed off waivers in late March and only had three home runs this season going into last night.
10. Happy birthday, Fake Barney!
June is a big birthday month at KSR, and today, we celebrate our favorite fake purple dinosaur, Fake Barney. My OTT podcast compadre and his Baby Bop are expecting their first baby in September, and if not for stupid Luke Maye, he would be having a record year. Enjoy the day, Barnes.
Radio in an hour…
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 06th, 2017 @ 11:00pm
In the wee hours of the night, something special went down at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Bolstered by a record crowd of 5,005 screaming fans, the UK Baseball team rallied to beat NC State 10-5 to advance to the Super Regional for the first time in school history. That alone is a remarkable achievement, but when you consider it came after UK lost to NC State on Friday and the Bat Cats had to win three straight games — including back-to-back victories over the Wolfpack — to do it, it’s incredible. Add in that all of this success is coming in Nick Mingione’s first year as a head coach, and you can understand why the team collapsed into a dog pile of emotions after the final out and Mingione was reduced to tears.
On the precipice of the program’s first Super Regional — which will pit them against archrival Louisville, nonetheless — regardless of what happens, what Mingione and the Bat Cats have accomplished this season is one of the biggest success stories in UK Athletics’ history; if they make it to the College World Series, it could be the biggest. Here’s why.
It’s not only Nick Mingione’s first year as UK’s coach, it’s his first year as a head coach period
As Kentucky fans, we’ve been blessed with some charismatic coaches, most notably John Calipari, but what a year for Nick Mingione. Last summer, Mingione accepted the Kentucky job at the age of 37, his first head coaching job ever. After his first press conference, it was easy to see why Mitch Barnhart took a chance on him. It’s impossible not to like Mingione. He’s down to earth, passionate, smart, funny, and reads people extremely well, one reason he probably connected so quickly with his players.
Mingione spent two seasons as an assistant at Kentucky from 2006-07 and has said several times that Lexington is the only SEC town he would bring his wife to during his seven years as an assistant at Mississippi State. Now, in his first season as a head coach, he was named Coach of the Year in the SEC, a huge baseball conference, and is taking his team to the Super Regionals for the first time in program history. No wonder he sounded so giddy on the phone this morning.
No one saw success coming this soon
Given last season’s struggles and the fact that this is Nick Mingione’s first year as a head coach, everyone — understandably — had guarded expectations for this season…except the team. Mingione took over a program that was coming off back-to-back subpar seasons and had only been to the NCAA Tournament three times in the past decade. The Cats were picked in the bottom half of the league in the preseason, started off 2-5, and didn’t break into the national rankings until week five. Now, they’re 43-21, only two wins away from tying the school-record 45 wins in 2012. Mingione found a way to not only connect with his guys early on, but push them to their limits and beyond, which is why he was moved to tears watching them celebrate last night:
It’s captured the excitement of a “basketball school”
UK has broken attendance records all season, and last night, a record 5,005 fans sat through a two-hour and sixteen minute rain delay to cheer on the team to victory, which came sometime around 1:15 a.m. I wasn’t there in person, but everyone who was raves about the experience, many ranking it among their favorites as a UK fan. That says a lot from a school that’s won eight national championships in basketball and is coming off one of the biggest upsets in the football program’s history. People always refer to Kentucky as a basketball school, and it likely always will be, but for the fans who stayed through the rain and well past midnight (including John Calipari), last night was a special moment, exactly the kind a program on the rise needs to break through.
It comes at the perfect time
I’m glad The Cliff got last night because soon, we’ll have another stadium to christen with memories. The Cliff has one more year of use until Kentucky’s new $49 million stadium opens in the fall of 2018, a much-needed upgrade that will put the Bat Cats on par with their SEC peers. In case you missed it all the times they showed it during last night’s broadcast — thanks, SEC Network! — here’s the rendering:
Kentucky’s new stadium combined with their breakout season is music to Mingione’s ears. Known as an ace recruiter, Mingione has already landed several big recruits in his first year in Lexington, and as time goes on, we continue to see why. Who wouldn’t want to play for this guy?
Mingione’s first season rivals John Calipari’s
Hear me out, hear me out. Calipari came to Kentucky as the best recruiter in college basketball; it was not surprising that he brought five-star players — whom he was already recruiting — with him. Playing for a proven coach like Calipari at a powerhouse program like Kentucky is a no-brainer. In college basketball, you only need five good players and, if you’re lucky, a few stars, to make some noise, which Kentucky definitely did in Calipari’s first season. Despite falling short in the Elite Eight, John Wall and Calipari instantly put the Cats back atop college basketball, which is where they’ve stayed ever since.
Contrast that with the UK Baseball team, which had some talent but was coming off years of stalled progress. After Gary Henderson resigned, the players put their faith in an enthusiastic first-year head coach who purposefully kept a grueling season-opening series vs. North Carolina as a litmus test. Bits of success snowballed into boulders of momentum, and now, they’ve accomplished something that no other team in the 121-year history of the program has…and they’re not done yet.
For all the reasons I’ve already listed, UK Baseball’s turnaround in Mingione’s first year as a head coach rivals Calipari’s first year in Lexington; if they make the College World Series, it could even surpass it.
By Harold Leeder on ©June 06th, 2017 @ 10:00pm
Editor’s Note: The following was written by Harold Leeder, editor-in-chief of The New Circle Circular, Lexington’s #1 source of fake news you can’t count on.
The University of Kentucky’s baseball team finished celebrating last night’s win sometime early this morning, but by the afternoon they’d already moved their focus to preparing for the school’s first ever College Baseball Super Regional. As Coach Mingione began evaluating the University of Louisville’s baseball team, looking for ways to squeeze out runs, the managerial staff began their own preparations for the weekend. Armed with only a few sharpies, UK Baseball managers spent today crossing out ‘Louisville’ and changing the brand name on UK’s bats to ‘Lexington Slugger.’
“Everyone around here is pretty hyped up, and we all want to contribute anyway we can,” manager Charles Ball said. “There’s only so much you can do to motivate the team via laundry. We decided we could help motivate the team by altering the equipment to remove the word ‘Louisville,’ so that’s exactly what we did. Once the game itself starts we will have more to worry about, like that one of the player’s rally cap of cups might touch the ceiling.”
An assistant coach for the UK baseball program told us that winning this weekend would not be easy, but he balked at the idea of the team just conceeding defeat. “They’re good, we’re going to have to find some new ways to get runs. If there’s one thing that’s obvious, it’s that a team with that many players with bleached blonde hair knows how to handle rolling bunts.”
By KSR on ©June 06th, 2017 @ 9:00pm
After a long night ended with an historic win at Cliff Hagan Stadium, the man who helped build the place, Coach Keith Madison, reflects on the monumental victory with Trey Huntsman and Nick Roush. The crew discusses the Bat Cats’ Regional Championship victory in detail, previews the Super Regional matchup with Louisville and…
— What Coach Madison was feeling during the victorious dog pile.
— How Mitch Barnhart’s unconditional support has propelled the baseball program.
— The Kentucky crowd was So Good!
— How the wild fourth inning and N.C. State’s trash-talk turned the tide.
— Even though they were in the losers’ bracket, the Mingione’s team remained resilient throughout the weekend.
— A story about a guy who caught for Satchel Paige.
— What UK must do to beat Louisville and does UofL’s turf give them an advantage?
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.