Kentucky Baseball committed to "going on the attack in every phase"

On3 imageby:Drew Franklin04/03/24

DrewFranklinKSR

After winning the NCAA’s Lexington Regional in 2023, Kentucky Baseball rode the momentum into a hot start in 2024, winning 24 of the first 28 games on the schedule. Nine games into league play, the Wildcats won all three weekend series in the SEC, including sweeps of Georgia and Ole Miss in Oxford. Kentucky had never swept the Rebels until taking all three games over Easter weekend in Mississippi. The early success has UK in first place in the SEC East by two games and tied with Arkansas for first in the entire conference with an 8-1 SEC record.

Before Kentucky was scheduled to play a midweek rivalry game against Louisville on Tuesday, Nick Mingione guest starred on Kentucky Sports Radio’s morning show. In that conversation, he described how a balanced roster and “an unbelievable dugout” have the Wildcats playing so well as their schedule turns to April.

“I always say the strength of our team is our team,” UK’s head coach told KSR. “Just watch our guys play. We have an unbelievable dugout. They have so much fun. They’re competing. They’re getting after it.”

Photo by Dr. Michael Huang | Kentucky Sports Radio

Kentucky Baseball on the attack

Before last season’s regional championship, Kentucky narrowly missed postseason invites by way of decision. “Two of the last three years, not counting last year, we were one and two wins short of the postseason,” Mingione reminded KSR. “I mean, we were right there. We were knocking down the door and the committee was like, ‘yeah, you needed one or two more wins.'”

After the snubs, Mingione changed how his Wildcats approached the game, opting to go on the attack in a new aggressive style of play.

Mingione told KSR, “We just basically decided that, hey, listen, we don’t–I understand there’s analytics for Major League Baseball–we don’t deal with Major League players. We deal with college athletes. They’re 18 to 23, sometimes 24 years old. And we just made the commitment that we’re going to go on the attack in every phase of everything we do.”

By that, he means Kentucky puts its opponents in situations where they have to make a play, but many times that play is too much to ask of a college baseball player. So, the Wildcats play aggressively, often against the analytics of the MLB, with expectations they can get away with it.

He provided an example: “As soon as we get a guy on first, if the pitcher’s break time is not fast enough, we’re going for it, we’re stealing, we’re going for it, and we’re gonna make you throw us out. And if you do, we’ll tip our cap.”

On the mound, Kentucky’s pitchers are on the attack, too. “We’re going to ram the ball in the strike zone, and if our stuff’s good enough, we’re gonna get them out,” Mingione explained. “And if not, we’ll put somebody else in that can do it.

“We’re gonna have this constant pressure on the opponents. And what we’ve realized is when you do that to college-aged kids, they have a tendency to not make plays.”

Photo by Dr. Michael Huang | Kentucky Sports Radio

Kentucky Proud Park played a role

Mingione also explained how the shiny new ballpark forced Kentucky to make changes, moving from a hitter-friendly home field at Cliff Hagan Stadium to a more spacious Kentucky Proud Park, with noticeable differences in left and right-center field, in 2019.

“Getting used to Kentucky Proud Park has gone into (the new style of play),” he said. “You know, we play in Cliff Hagan Stadium, and it was more of an offensive ballpark. This ballpark is more about run prevention, so we’ve kind of shifted. We’ve gotten the personnel and the right recruits and people, and we’ve really found our identity for this ballpark, and it’s worked.”

Coming up, Kentucky fans should help pack Kentucky Proud Park as the Wildcats host Alabama in a pivotal weekend series to protect the SEC-best 8-1 record.

Kentucky vs. Alabama

Friday, April 5 @ 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 6 @ 2:00 p.m.

Sunday, April 7 @ 12:00 p.m.

Nick Mingione on KSR

Hear the entire conversation with Nick Mingione in the second hour of Tuesday’s podcast.

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2024-04-22