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Dreams of Omaha are becoming reality for Kentucky

IMG_8756by:Daniel Hager06/12/24


Kentucky held off Oregon State 3-2 Sunday night to clinch its first ever College World Series appearance in program history.

After years of having Charles Schwab Field plastered on their wall in the Kentucky Proud Park facility, dreams of making to Omaha were slowly starting to become reality for many players.

“It always feels like untouchable because the Road to Omaha is so long,” Devin Burkes said Sunday night. “So we come out every day. Just don’t expire. 12:00 hits, it expires. Come out to practice the next day or if you have an off day, go lift. Just keep going, keep going, keep going. And you finally achieve this and it’s, like, it doesn’t even feel real. Feels like you have unfinished business. Just keep going.”

Nolan McCarthy, who scored the winning run in the seventh inning on his insane slide, was in a different position than Burkes, who was behind the plate for the final out. McCarthy was taken out of the game in the bottom of the seventh due to a tightened hamstring, so he had to watch from the dugout.

Photo by Aaron Perkins | Kentucky Sports Radio

The reality of making it to the sports’ Mecca however was just as sweet for the lifelong Wildcat.

“I was probably 10 to 15 years old in summer ball at a hotel somewhere just watching the College World Series,” McCarthy said. “And it’s just amazing. And it’s been my dream ever since then being able to have this opportunity. It’s just awesome. And going into that ninth inning, I knew Ryan [Hagenow] was crazy. I knew he was crazy. He would get us an out. You’re talking about with breaking pitches, I’m sitting with two guys with some of the best breaking stuff in the country. And Johnny Hummel‘s slider and curveball are unreal. I could taste it too. It was crazy. I was on my knees just waiting for it. And, man, they delivered.”

Right-handers Cam O’Brien and Robert Hogan pitched 5 1/3 innings of relief Sunday night, propelling the Cats to the victory. Even though O’Brien and Hogan have spent just one season in Lexington following transfers from Campbell and Texas A&M, the accomplishment hits just the same.

“I would say being able to go back with guys that I love means a lot,” Hogan said. “And doing something that UK has never done before means even more. Just like it’s almost speechless. I don’t even know how to put it. I don’t know how to put it. That we’re going.”

Hogan was apart of the 2022 Texas A&M team that made it to the College World Series.

“I think that picture over there at TD Ameritrade it’s been my header on Twitter since senior year of high school,” O’Brien said. “It’s been a goal of mine. To be able to go there, it’s going to be awesome but we’re still focused on the game on the field.”

Kentucky is heading to Omaha Wednesday afternoon, but won’t play its first game until Saturday at 1:00 p.m. CT/2:00 p.m. ET. First up for the Cats? The NC State Wolfpack, who took down Georgia in the Athens Super Regional to clinch its fourth ever College World Series appearance.

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