2024 Kentucky Baseball Mid-Season Awards

On3 imageby:Daniel Hager04/02/24

DanielHagerKSR

We are officially at the halfway mark of Kentucky Baseball’s 2024 regular season.

The Bat Cats have surpassed all expectations for the second consecutive season, entering April with a 24-4 (8-1) record.

Kentucky is currently ranked No. 17 in the country by D1Baseball, jumping seven spots after its weekend sweep of Ole Miss in Oxford.

Here are KSR’s 2024 Kentucky Baseball Mid-Season Awards.

Most Valuable Player: Nick Lopez

Honorable Mentions: Émilien Pitre, Mason Moore

Nick Lopez is making the most of his one and only season at Kentucky.

Lopez is playing the best ball of his career in Lexington, boasting a .409 batting average with 12 doubles and 21 RBI. Lopez’s .409 batting average ranks third in the SEC, while his 12 doubles are tied for 10th most in the entire country.

He notched five hits in Kentucky’s March 12 victory over Murray State, becoming just the third player in the Nick Mingione era at Kentucky to do so. Lopez is just seven hits away from tying his hit total from all of last season in 24 less games.

Best Arm: Mason Moore

Honorable Mentions: Dominic Niman, Johnny Hummel

Junior right-handed pitcher Mason Moore has surpassed all expectations through his first seven career starts for Kentucky this season.

Moore spent his first two years in Lexington pitching out of the bullpen, but has turned into Kentucky’s premier starter in 2024.

Through 37 2/3 innings pitched, the righty boasts an unblemished 5-0 record with a 2.87 ERA. His ERA is 10th lowest in the SEC.

Best Transfer: Nick Lopez

Honorable Mentions: Johnny Hummel, Mitchell Daly

Nick Lopez announced that he would be transferring from USC to Kentucky on July 24, 2023.

He spent two seasons in Southern California, posting a .278 batting average with 13 home runs and 60 RBI. Kentucky marks the fourth and final stop in Lopez’s college career, as he spent a season each at UIC and Santa Ana C.C. prior to his move to USC.

When asked the biggest difference between USC and Kentucky, Lopez responded, “the energy that the fans bring.”

“Coming here every game Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the fans bring it and it makes the game much more fun,” Lopez said. “Having everybody behind you just feels like a family. That’s the biggest difference to me.”

While at USC, Lopez was not allowed to bat right-handed.

“My coach told me not to,” Lopez chuckled. “Coming here, coach [Nick Ammirati] saw me take a few swings and he said ‘I don’t know why you stopped swinging [righty].’ I said ‘me either'”.

It’s a good thing the grad transfer reverted back to the right side of the plate, as he’s been Kentucky’s most consistent hitter at the halfway point of the regular season.

Best Reliever: Johnny Hummel

Honorable Mentions: Evan Byers, Robert Hogan

Grad transfer right-handed pitcher Johnny Hummel has been lights out in his lone season at Kentucky, allowing just two hits and one earned run in 13 innings pitched out of the pen.

The righty has notched two saves, including getting the Cats out of a ninth inning, one-out, bases loaded jam at Ole Miss to secure the series opening victory.

Not to mention he has the best closer walkout song in ALL of college baseball (more on that later).

Gold Glove: Grant Smith

Honorable Mentions: Nolan McCarthy, James McCoy

Grant Smith‘s stellar play at shortstop has continued in 2024.

Smith, who was a Gold Glove finalist in 2023, looks to be solidly in the conversation once again this season. He’s 20-20 on put-outs with zero errors, along with 12 double plays.

Breakout Player: Patrick Herrera

Honorable Mention: Drew Lafferty

Patrick Herrera was used almost exclusively as a pinch-runner in 2023. This season however, the Northwestern transfer has worked himself into Kentucky’s starting lineup.

At Northwestern, Herrera was named Second Team All-Big Ten as a freshman. He led the Wildcats with a .336 batting average, but decided to head to Lexington after just one season in Evanston.

In 42 at-bats this season, Herrera is batting .310 with 11 RBI. He dominated in the Lipscomb series, going a combined 6-11 at the plate with three doubles.

Herrera has become a great utility option for the Cats, as he’s started multiple games in both left field and right field. When it comes to players who were on the team last year that are having a bigger impact in 2024, there’s no better option than Herrera.

Rookie of the Year: Drew Lafferty

Honorable Mentions: Kyuss Gargett, Austin Fawley

Redshirt freshman right-handed pitcher Drew Lafferty made his first career start in Kentucky’s opening game of the season against USC-Upstate and has impressed in nearly every outing since.

Lafferty has made six midweek starts for Kentucky, boasting a 1-0 record with a 3.06 ERA. The righty has only allowed more than one run in just one start (Murray State).

“[Confidence] is through the roof,” Lafferty said following his start against Eastern Kentucky. “Not too confident, but it’s through the roof. Confidence is a key part of pitching and baseball in general. Without confidence, you’re not going to be that great.”

Best Performance: Nolan McCarthy vs. Ole Miss (3/30/2024)

Honorable Mentions: Dominic Niman vs. Missouri (3/23/2024), Nick Lopez vs. Murray State (3/12/2024)

Redshirt junior outfielder Nolan McCarthy dominated in Kentucky’s 17-9 win over Ole Miss on March 30, blasting two home runs to drive in six total RBI.

His two home runs and six RBI in a single game were both career-highs.

Best Walk Up/Out Song: Johnny Hummel (“Real Gone”)

Honorable Mentions: Trey Pooser (“Keep Their Heads Ringin'”, Kyuss Gargett (“Rhythm of the Night”)

Hummel has gained the nickname “Lightning” due to his walk out song “Real Gone” by Sheryl Crow, which was written and produced for the 2006 Pixar movie Cars.

If that doesn’t get you amped up, I’m not sure what will.

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2024-04-24