June 5, 2017
Kentucky Advances to Super Regional For First Time
Wildcats win three straight elimination games to take Lexington Regional
By Matt May
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky Baseball team had waited 121 years for this moment, so a couple extra hours didn’t seem to matter all that much.
The top-seeded Wildcats roared from behind to defeat NC State, 10-5, and advance to the first Super Regional in program history. The victory was extra sweet, as the Cats won three consecutive elimination games, including back-to-back nights over the third-seeded Wolfpack.
“They have just done something that has never been done in the history of the baseball program and we’ve been playing baseball over 100 years here,” UK coach Nick Mingione said. “They’re going to be able to tell their kids, their families, their wives and hopefully the baseball thing works out and they will be able to play 10 years in the big leagues. But, if it doesn’t and they go into business – I promise this equips them.
“This goes way deeper than just baseball. This makes them believe that they can do things that have never been done before – and that’s really powerful.”
The regional championship game was delayed two hours and 16 minutes due to a fast moving storm that dumped torrential rain on the field just after the originally scheduled start time. When play resumed a record crowd of 5,005 at Cliff Hagan Stadium was in full throat from first pitch, eventually breaking into song and dance in the later innings.
The Cats (43-21) twice rallied from deficits, scoring three runs in the seventh to take the lead for good on sophomore catcher Kole Cottam’s two-run double high off the right-field wall. UK tacked on three insurance runs in the ninth for good measure as the party began in the dugout and in the stands.
Sophomore right-hander Sean Hjelle closed out the final 3.1 innings for his 11th win of the season, following the yeoman’s work of starter Zach Logue (3.1 innings) and senior lefty Logan Salow (2.1 innings).
The Cats advance to this weekend’s Super Regional at Louisville.
Bot 2nd – Brad Debo doubled, and Brett Kinneman homered. NCST 2, UK 0
Top 4th – Luke Becker walked and advanced to third when Kole Cottam singled to right-center field. Tyler Marshall walked. Marcus Carson doubled down the right-field line, scoring Becker and Cottam and moving Marshall to third. Connor Heady grounded out to the second baseman, but scored Marshall anyway. Evan White singled to second base, scoring Carson from third base. UK 4, NCST 2
Bot 4th – Joe Dunand walked and scored when Will Wilson doubled. Wilson moved to third base on a wild pitch and then scored on a sac fly from Evan Mendoza. UK 4, NCST 4
Bot 5th – Stephen Pitarra walked and scored on a fielding error when Josh McLain doubled to left-center field. NCST 5, UK 4
Top 7th – Tristan Pompey and Evan White walked. Zach Reks laid down a SAC bunt to move the runners. Becker reached on a fielding error, but Pompey scored from third base. Cottam doubled off the wall in right field, which scored White and Becker. UK 7, NCST 5
Top 9th – Becker and Riley Mahan walked. Cottam laid down a SAC bunt to move the runners. Marshall reached on a fielding error, but scored Becker. Carson laid down a bunt for a base hit, scoring Mahan from third base. Heady reached on a fielder’s choice, and Marshall scored on a throwing error from the second baseman. UK 10, NCST 5
The Cats are now 18-17 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky now has 43 wins on the season, the sixth time in school history the Cats have reached 40 wins and first since the 2012 team won 45.
o The 43 victories are the fourth most in school history.
UK finished the season 30-6 at Cliff Hagan Stadium, marking just the fifth time in UK history the Cats have won at least 25 games at home.
o The 30 wins are the second most in a season at Cliff Hagan Stadium, and will end just one shy of the record 31 the 2006 team posted.
o The Cats are 20-1 at home vs. non-SEC foes.
Kentucky will face NC State at 7 p.m. on Monday in a winner-take-all game to advance to the Super Regional in Louisville. The game can be heard on 630 AM and UKathletics.com. TV is to be determined.