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Kentucky won their first regional opener since 1988 with a 6-4 win over four seeded Ohio on Friday. A strong defensive performance put together with an amazing approach at the plate put Sean Hjelle in a good spot on the mound. Every player in the lineup collected a hit as UK reached base a total of 22 times in the win.
Kentucky’s offense did not wait to settle in against All-MAC Pitcher Michael Klein. With two outs, Zach Reks doubled to right as UK began to rally. Luke Becker and Riley Mahan collected back-to-back RBI singles off Klein in the first to give UK a 2-0 lead thru one. Reks’ double got the offensive motor going for the Cats. The two-strike, two-out double was a jumping point for UK’s attack today. The two-out hit was the first of seven today for the Cats.
The first inning was only the beginning of Kentucky’s impressive attack on Friday. UK really forced Klein to labor in the early innings. Klein threw over 100 pitches in only four innings of work in game one. Mahan shot a single to center to score Evan White and hang the third run on Klein in the fourth. Even with the three runs, it felt like UK could have had more. The Cats left seven runners on base in the first three innings and 15 for the whole game.
Even though UK left so many guys on base, their approach at the plate was much improved since the final two weeks of the season. The Cats walked nine times and collected 13 hits in the win. “It all builds off communication with our team, discussing the strike zone amongst each other, getting a feel for his pitches,” Reks said. “As far as the plan goes, just grind it out and keep on getting the strike zone established.”
The fifth and sixth innings were proof of how smart the Cats were at the plate today. After Tyler Marshall singled to lead off the fifth, he advanced all the way to third on a passed ball and groundout. Tristan Pompey drove him in with two outs on a single to left.
In the sixth, UK worked three walks and two hits off the Ohio Bullpen. Jake Rudinski entered to try and stop the rally early. Rudinski allowed a single and two four-pitch walks before he was pulled. Marshall and Heady were both credited with RBIs as they both walked with the bases loaded to give UK a 6-0 lead thru six.
Kentucky’s offense was forcing the Ohio pitcher to labor on them mound. The Bobcats were doing the exact opposite against Sean Hjelle. Ohio didn’t have a player reach second base until the fifth inning against Hjelle. The righty bounced back after a rough outing in Hoover to lead the Cats on defense. The first six innings were a breeze for Hjelle thanks to the Bobcats approach at the plate. Ohio was jumping on a lot of first pitches and not making good contact. Hjelle’s defense was right behind him to make some incredible plays. Heady made an incredible diving stop and flip to second to save a base hit. White dove at first in the fifth to snag a ball that would have driven in Ohio’s first run of the day.
“My defense has shown up about every start I’ve had” Hjelle said.”It’s really relaxing and comforting knowing that.”
Trailing by six, Ohio looked for some late magic against Hjelle. Spencer Ibarra and Ty Black lead off the inning with singles before Rudy Rott hit a three-run home run over the wall in right. Rott’s bomb ended Hjelle’s day and put some pressure on Chris Machamer out of the bullpen. After walking one, Machamer slammed the door with a pair of flyouts and a strikeout.
Even with Hjelle’s one mistake, his performance to open the tournament was incredible. Hjelle allowed three runs on eight hits in seven innings against Ohio.
In the ninth, UK went to their shut down closer Logan Salow. Devon Garcia drew a walk against Salow and advanced to third with two outs. Black singled Garcia home to bring the tying run to the plate. Salow got an inning-ending ground out to first to send Cliff Hagan up in an ovation.
The crowd today at the Cliff neared 4,000. The BBN came out and supported loud and proud on a hot Friday afternoon. “I want to thank the Big Blue Nation, that was awesome,” Mingione said. “Our guys looked up at all the people and it was just so much blue.”
Kentucky will be back in action tomorrow against either NC State or Indiana at 7 ET.
By Nick Roush on ©June 02nd, 2017 @ 3:31pm
The Wildcats let the Bobcats creep back into the game late, but held on to advance to the second round of the Lexington Regional.
Pitcher Sean Hjelle was fantastic through seven scoreless innings. With a 6-0 advantage, Nick Mingione tried to save his bullpen, but it backfired. Hjelle gave up a three-run bomb to Rudy Rott in the top of the eighth to cut the lead to 6-3. Chris Machamer got the Cats out of the jam. Logan Salow surrendered one run in the ninth but managed to hold on for the victory.
Kentucky will play the winner of N.C. State and Indiana tomorrow night at 7:00. Trey Huntsman has more on the way from The Cliff.
Exciting times are happening at Cliff Hagan Stadium, but it’s 3,000 people seating capacity wasn’t going to work for hosting this weekend’s NCAA Tournament Regional.
In order to make it work, the program has brought in temporary bleachers to increase seating for 4,300 fans. Take a look at the transformation:
— Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) June 1, 2017
A look at the expanded seating down the third-base side and in left field. pic.twitter.com/drr79NHkwu
— Joe Mussatto (@joe_mussatto) June 1, 2017
Construction on Kentucky’s new baseball stadium began in March, and should be completed and ready to go for the 2019 baseball season. Capacity will be boosted to seat 4,000 fans for regular season games and bleachers can be brought in to increase seating to as many as 7,000 for hosting NCAA regionals.
By Haley Simpson on ©June 01st, 2017 @ 7:00pm
Before Kentucky baseball can start their run for Omaha tomorrow at noon, four BatCats were dubbed Collegiate Baseball All-Americans.
Pitcher Sean Hjelle and second baseman Riley Mahan both earned Second-Team nominations, while first baseman Evan White and outfielder Tristan Pompey were Third-Team honorees.
With two weeks left until the draft, Bleacher Report’s MLB mock draft shows White being drafted 12th to the Pittsburgh Pirates. While not projected to go in the first round, Mahan could also be a potential pick this year. Hjelle and Pompey, both sophomores, will be eligible for the draft next year and will be both stand a chance in the league.
Make sure to stick around tomorrow for coverage of the Cat’s first regional game against Ohio. You can follow Trey Hunstman on Twitter at @TreyHuntsmanKSR for live updates and listen to the KSR Baseball Podcast preview the regional tournament.
By Nick Roush on ©June 01st, 2017 @ 6:00pm
You’re never supposed to count your chickens before they hatch, but there’s a scenario brewing that must be addressed.
If Kentucky and Louisville both win this weekend’s Regionals, the Cats and the Cards will face off in a best-of-three series at Jim Patterson Stadium for a chance to play in the College World Series (CWS).
After reaching the CWS two years in a row in 2013 and 2014, the Cards were favorites to win it all the previous two years, only to be upset in heartbreaking fashion at home in the Super Regionals. On the other side of the diamond, Kentucky has never been to a CWS. In fact, they’ve never even been to a Super Regional. If the Cats could advance to the CWS in Mingione’s first season while building a new stadium, it would create unprecedented momentum for the program, all while ending another promising UofL season early in their own ballpark.
That choice is awfully attractive, but so is winning the Governor’s Cup for the second consecutive year against a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback coached by Bobby Petrino. It’s difficult to foresee where the each football program will be at the end of the season, but here’s a best case scenario for each team going into the game:
- Kentucky: The Cats have eight wins and could potentially win the East.
- Louisville: The Cards defeat Clemson and Florida State and are playing for the CFB Playoff.
Even if there is much less at stake for both teams in the final game of the season, an eight-win regular season for Kentucky would be the first for the football program since 1984. I don’t think I have to tell you how insufferable Louisville fans would be if they made the CFB Playoff.
Now you have a hypothetical choice. You only get one. Would you rather eliminate the Louisville baseball team from postseason play and see UK advance to the CWS, or would you rather see the best regular season of Kentucky football since 1984 end with a win over Lamar Jackson and Bobby Petrino?
By Trey Huntsman on ©June 01st, 2017 @ 3:30pm
It’s not news that Kentucky is hosting a regional this weekend. It might be news that the three teams coming to Lexington are not pushovers. All three teams could give Kentucky a run for their money if the Cats aren’t careful. Two of the three teams have legitimate power threats and one has a dominate closer. Here is what to look for when watching the Lexington Regional this weekend.
#2 Seed- Indiana, 33-22-2 (14-9-1, 6th in the Big Ten) RPI:26
Memorable Alumni: Kyle Schwarber, Ted Kluszewski
Marquee Wins: Louisville, Michigan x2, Gonzaga x2, Maryland x2, Xavier x2
Player to watch: Craig Dedelow
The Hoosiers are a familiar opponent of the BatCats. The two teams met on May 9th in Lexington in a game that Kentucky won 5-2. Indiana couldn’t muster much against Zack Thompson as the freshman struck out ten in six innings.
The Hoosiers bring in a decent offense, a good defense and an average pitching staff to the regional. Of IU’s four starting pitchers, no one has an ERA below 3.75. Opponents are hitting .280 against the Hoosiers in 2017, a stat that may haunt IU in Lexington. Cliff Hagan Stadium is not forgiving for those that make mistakes. Jonathan Stiever has made a couple of nice starts on Fridays, but that is about it. Indiana’s pitching staff is their downfall, but their offense has helped keep them around.
Despite only having two players batting over .300, the Hoosiers have found ways to score runs. IU was second in the Big Ten in homers with 67. Craig Dedelow mashed 17 home runs this season and Luke Miller (11) and Matt Lloyd (10) both hit double digit bombs in 2017.
— NC State Baseball (@NCStateBaseball) June 1, 2017
#3 North Carolina State 34-23 (16-14, 7th in the ACC) RPI:30
Memorable Alumni: Trea Turner, Carlos Rodon, Dan Plesac
Marquee Wins: Louisville, Wake Forest, Florida State x2, UNC, Clemson x2
Player to Watch: Brad Debo
N.C. State comes to town as the hardest team to read. They took two of three against Clemson and Florida State, but the Wolfpack also lost six games to teams with an RPI below 100. They beat Brendan McKay but got swept by Boston College.
The one thing we do know about N.C. State is that they finished the season hot. For a time, it looked like they wouldn’t be in the Field of 64. Then the Pack won 14 of their final 17 games to put them right back into the NCAA Tournament.
Big time power threat Joe Dunand (Alex Rodriguez’s nephew) leads the way for the Pack on offense. Dunand’s 16 homers put him on the ACC’s Second Team All-Conference. Brad Debo, a freshman, led the team with a .343 average. N.C. State brings in a rotation of Brian Brown, Sean Adler, and Michael Bienlien that went a combined 12-9 on weekends.
The credibility is there for the Pack, they just need to play up to their ability. That has been an issue for N.C. State in recent years. In 2013, they had two first round picks but couldn’t find their way into the postseason. The Indiana vs. NC State game will be interesting to watch. If N.C. State can get to the Hoosiers’ bullpen early, the Pack should pull the upset on Friday night. Keep in mind, this team hosted a regional last year.
#4 Ohio 31-27 (13-11, 5th in the MAC) RPI: 185
Memorable Alumni: Mike Schmidt
Marquee Wins: Kent State x4
Player to watch: Jake Roehn
First off, yes Mike Schmidt did play for Ohio. Schmidt took the Bobcats to the 1970 College World Series before being drafted by the Phillies. Unfortunately for Ohio, the greatest third baseman of all-time won’t be suiting up this weekend.
Ohio got hot at the right time as they ran through the MAC Tournament and into the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. They bested Kent State four times in the final weeks to steal their bid and finish four games over .500.
Ohio has an elite closer and several other nice pieces of their pen, but their rotation is scattered. Michael Klein was named First Team All-Conference after posting 3.24 ERA in 58.1 innings as a junior. Power hitter Spencer Ibarra and closer Jake Roehn were also named to the First Team.
Ohio plays excellent defense and will not give their opponent anything. The Bobcats finished 12th in the nation in fielding percentage thanks to three members of the All-Defensive Team leading the way. Ohio won’t be an easy opener for Kentucky. They play smart and won’t make many mistakes in the field. Sean Hjelle will need to silence Ohio’s bats long enough for UK to get momentum on offense early.
Nick Mingione will pitch his ace in Game One of the Lexington Regional.
The UK Baseball coach will go with his right-handed SEC Pitcher of the Year tomorrow against Ohio. Friday is Sean Hjelle’s (sounds like “jelly”) normal day in the pitching rotation. “Sean Hjelle has thrown the opening game all season,” Mingione said. “I didn’t want to change that.”
His last outing was a strange one. He got rocked by LSU last Friday at the SEC Tournament. Hjelle surrendered nine earned runs and 11 hits in five innings, yet he threw a career-high ten strikeouts.
Tomorrow he’ll throw out the first pitch against Ohio at noon. Tickets are still available at UKAthletics.com/NCAATickets or you can call 859-257-1818.
By KSR on ©May 31st, 2017 @ 7:00pm
It’s been a big week for The KSR Baseball Podcast. After Trey’s recaps his trip to the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Coach Madison helps him look ahed to the NCAA Tournament as the Cats host just their second Regional in program history. Highlights include:
— Trey’s immediate reactions to the brutal losses in Hoover.
— A comparison to John Wooden’s last game and NCAA Tournament seeding.
— Who do you send to the mound in Game One?
— A preview of each team in the Lexington Regional Tournament.
— The Best Moments from the Season.
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.
By Nick Roush on ©May 31st, 2017 @ 6:30pm
This afternoon two athletes from the University of Kentucky diamond received postseason honors.
UK softball shortstop Katie Reed was named a NFCA Third Team All-American, becoming just the third All-American in school history. Just a sophomore, Reed had a .353 batting average, 26 runs, 71 hits, 10 doubles, three home runs and 21 RBIs on the season. She also had a 16-for-20 stolen base record. On defense she had the highest fielding percentage of any SEC shortstop at .961 and made SportsCenter’s Top 10 twice.
On the baseball field, Evan White was named a Semifinalist for USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award, given each year to the top amateur baseball player in the nation. The junior first baseman is hitting .366 with an impressive .629 slugging percentage. He’s scored 39 runs, driven in 38, hit eight home runs and stolen six bases. At the conclusion of the regular season, White was named Second-Team All-SEC and All-SEC Defensive Team.
White still has work to do this weekend. If he can help the Cats get five more wins, John Calipari will be soon be enjoying a stogie in Omaha.
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) May 31, 2017
By Nick Roush on ©May 31st, 2017 @ 12:00pm
For just the second time in program history, the Kentucky baseball team is hosting a Regional Tournament. Unfortunately, their first game is Friday at noon in the middle of a work day. It may be difficult for many people to get away from work to attend the game. Fear not, coach Nick Mingione has you covered.
After you hand your boss this “Get out of Work FREE” card, get tickets by visiting UKAthletics.com/NCAATickets or call 859-257-1818. Hear more from the head coach at the halfway point of today’s Kentucky Sports Radio podcast.
It’s postseason baseball time in the Bluegrass and you better get your tickets now if you plan to be in the Cliff for this weekend’s games. Tickets are on sale through the UK ticket office with prices ranging from $10 for a single session ticket to $85 for an all-session pass. Those single session tickets go on sale tomorrow.
Here’s the full slate of games for the regional:
Day 1: Friday, June 2
Game 1: No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 4 Ohio (Noon ET)
Game 2: No. 3 NC State vs. No. 2 Indiana (7 PM ET)
Day 2: Saturday, June 3
Game 3: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 (Noon ET)
Game 4: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 (7 PM ET)
Day 3: Sunday, June 4
Game 5: Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4 (1 PM ET)
Game 6: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5 (7 PM ET)
Day 4: Monday, June 5
Game 7: If Necessary, same teams as in Game 6 (7 PM ET)
Also, if you’re a UK student, you can get free tickets by flashing your student ID at the Joe Craft Center ticket office today.
Read more details on UK’s Ticket Office site here.
The number one seeded Kentucky will host Ohio, Indiana, and NC State next weekend at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The Cats fell just short of a national seed and were paired with the Louisville regional. The first game of the weekend will be Kentucky vs Ohio at noon ET on Friday. The two seeded Hoosiers will play NC State at 7 ET later that night.
The Lexington Regional is paired up with Louisville, which means a super regional could be UK vs. Louisville on June 9-12.
We will have a full preview of the teams headed to Lexington later this week. But for the time being, here is the full bracket for the NCAA Tournament.
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) May 29, 2017
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 28th, 2017 @ 8:55pm
Moments ago, the Kentucky baseball team were named as a host of an NCAA Regional this weekend at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
After going 39-20 on the year under first-year head coach Nick Mingione, the Wildcats will host their first regional since 2006, an unprecedented feat.
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) May 29, 2017
Tomorrow at noon, we will find out UK’s opponents for this weekend and whether the Wildcats will be named one of the eight national seeds. If they are named a national seed, Kentucky would be guaranteed to host a super regional at Cliff Hagan Stadium if they win the regional.
Tickets go on sale to the general public tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. ET on www.UKAthletics.com.
Fill the stands, BBN.
By Sam Gormley on ©May 28th, 2017 @ 7:30pm
The NCAA will announce the regional sites for the upcoming NCAA tournament tonight at 8:30. The Cats look to be on the outside looking in to have one of the top 8 national seeds, but do look like a solid candidate to host a regional site game. On Twitter, the UK Baseball team had this to say,
“We are expected to be named one of 16 NCAA Regional host sites tonight. Selection Show tomorrow at noon on ESPN2. Stay tuned… The eight national seeds will be named tomorrow.”
How this works is that the top 16 seeds will host regional games, while the top 8 will get host the Super Regional round. Even getting the chance to host an NCAA Regional is a huge accomplishment for Nick Mingione and UK Baseball.
You can watch the announcement of the top 16 seeds at 8:30 tonight on Facebook Live. Here is a link to their Facebook page. Facebook.com/NCAACWS
REGIONAL SITE ANNOUNCEMENT
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) May 27, 2017
The Kentucky softball team entered the seventh and final inning with a 5-2 lead, three outs away from forcing a decisive game three at Oregon in the Super Regionals. They left the seventh inning on the ring side of the acoreboard.
Oregon scored four runs on four hits in the top half of the inning to end the Wildcats’ season with a 6-5 loss.
Kentucky scored early with two runs in the first inning. Abby Cheek’s homerun in the bottom of the fourth gave the Cats’ all the momentum, but it would not last.
Oregon got on the board in the top of the fifth when Meagan Prince was called for an illegal pitch with the bases loaded. It was the first of many questionable calls from behind home plate. UK Twitter nearly imploded in the seventh when the strike zone got tighter, and tighter, and tighter, until Oregon took the lead.
Despite the tough loss, Coach Lawson’s team deserves to be commended for another excellent season (39-19), one that ended just short of the program’s second College World Series appearance.