Just three weeks remain until another regular season of collegiate baseball comes to an end. The Kentucky Wildcats have had their ups and plenty of downs, but the Cats have dug themselves into quite a hole, and they are desperately trying to climb out of it. This past weekend went a long way to reviving hopes of a deep run in the postseason this June.
After losing 10 of its last 12 games and owning a sub-.500 conference record, Kentucky baseball limped into Oxford, Mississippi to take on a Rebels team ranked No. 16 in the country. The Cats would leave The Hospitality State with a newfound confidence and a spell of good luck on their side, just in the nick of time. The Cats have seen and played with too many good teams to be any lower than they are.
If there is any doubt the Cats have been tested, consider UK is in the middle of a 16-game stretch, where 14 of its opponents are ranked in the top-25. Over the course of the entire season, eight of Kentucky’s 10 SEC weekend series’ have come against ranked teams. Truly astounding how difficult this road has been.
But down in Oxford, Kentucky won the best of three games against Ole Miss, taking games one and three from the Rebels. Thanks to some stellar pitching from junior Corey Littrell, and a handful of timely base knocks throughout. UK was able to put the past to bed and will now continue its grueling stretch of games against ranked opponents this weekend against the preseason top-ranked team.
The Razorbacks of Arkansas come to Lexington, boasting a No. 14 ranking and a solid 13-7 conference record. Much like the Wildcats, however, expectations for the season were much higher and all-in-all, the regular season hasn’t turned out exactly as planned. But there is still time to make noise. This series is crucial for both teams in continuing a regained momentum for the final push. Fortunately for Arkansas, the schedule opens up for six more wins with only two series remaining against Tennessee and Auburn — two bottom-feeders in the conference. While Kentucky still has to face Vanderbilt; a team ranked in the top-two depending on which poll you ask.
If you consider Arkansas can pour all its energy into this weekend without too much concern against the Volunteers or Tigers, and Kentucky may be looking ahead to the Commodores the following weekend, this could spell bad news for the Cats if they aren’t careful. One game at a time is all Kentucky can do at this point. Eleven games remain, and with seven of those against ranked opponents — all of which are in the friendly confines of Cliff Hagan Stadium — there is plenty to be optimistic about, and plenty of room to skyrocket back up into the polls, earning that all important regional host site for a chance at Omaha.
Before the season started it was obvious this team was dead-set on making the College World Series. It’s hard to believe the team has given up on that dream, but the Cats have to go now. There is no time to waste. Now is their chance to demonstrate they have what it takes — and prove all that preseason hype was legit. If not, chalk this season up as a big fat L.