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KACHOW: Johnny Hummel sends Kentucky to Omaha

IMG_8756by:Daniel Hager06/10/24


Kentucky right-hander Johnny Hummel, who had been one of its go to relievers all season long, pitched to just one batter in Kentucky’s first five NCAA Tournament games. One of 156 total batters.

He however notched the most important strikeout in program history.

“Our starters did such a good job the last two weekends,” Mingione said postgame. “Our starters did amazing for the most part. Cam [O’Brien] has been our fireman. He started throwing the ball as good as he’s thrown. And same with [Robert Hogan]. But [Hummel’s] waited his turn. And, boy, was he ready for that.”

Ready for that he was, as Hummel entered a situation that every baseball player growing up has imagined themselves in before.

With runners on first and third, Kentucky clung onto a one-run lead with two outs. Hummel’s first (and only) faced batter was Oregon State’s Micah McDowell, who hit for a .382 batting average with 12 doubles and six home runs this season. Can’t get yourself into a higher leverage situation than that.

Instead of dancing around the batter, Hummel went right at him. Three off speed pitches later, the Cats had punched their ticket to their first ever College World Series appearance.

Photo by Aaron Perkins | Kentucky Sports Radio

“When we were bringing Johnny in, [Austin Cousino] came up to me in the dugout,” Mingione said. “Cousy comes up to me and says, ‘do you remember what you told me about Johnny Hummel when we recruited him?’ And I said,’ yeah, I do’. I said ‘do you remember?’ He’s like, ‘Coach, you told me that that guy for the last year, at the school he was at, he pitched with the game on the line. Every time that opposing coach gave him the ball it was his job to hold it and stop it.”

In three seasons at Erskine, Hummel boasted a 2.00 ERA and 18 saves in 90 innings pitched. The right-hander had been waiting years for this moment.

“I said, ‘yeah, I do remember that’,” Mingione added. “He goes, ‘he’s going to get this done right here. He’s going to get it done’. That’s what Cousy said. And sure enough we did.”

In 28 1/3 innings pitched this season, Hummel boasts a 3.49 ERA with seven saves, including three against top-five teams Tennessee and Arkansas and Oregon State to clinch the Super Regional. With a game on the line, the Charlotte, NC native is on the short list of guys you’d want to pitch in a high leverage situation.

Video by UK Athletics

The College World Series will begin on June 13, but Kentucky likely won’t play until the 15th.

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