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"We ain't done": College World Series appearance isn't enough for Kentucky

On3 imageby:Tyler Thompson06/10/24

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Kentucky Baseball is headed to the College World Series for the first time ever. If it still doesn’t feel real to you as a fan, try being a member of the team.

After last night’s 3-2 win over Oregon State to claim the Super Regional and a spot in Omaha, Nick Mingione, Nolan McCarthy, Devin Burkes, Robert Hogan, and Cameron O’Brien sat down with reporters to reflect on the historic moment. You’ve likely seen Mingione’s emotional postgame comments, but the players also opened up on what it means to achieve a dream years in the making.

“It’s crazy,” Burkes, who told reporters on Media Day in February that his mom had already booked a hotel room in Omaha. “You always, you know you’re going to get there. You know you’re confident in getting there with your squad. But, man, when it actually happens, it’s like you look around and you’re like, we’re going to Omaha. You know what I’m saying? It’s crazy. It’s crazy.”

McCarthy, who scored the game-winning run in dramatic fashion, flashed back to 2021, his freshman year at Kentucky, which he and Burkes both redshirted. While the team was going on road trips, they stayed back and put in work in the batting cages, dreaming of and preparing for the day they could go to Omaha.

“This is something that Devin and I have been talking about since our freshman year. We were just hitting down here more than anyone else. When they were on the road we were down here talking about Omaha in a couple of years.”

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“The Energy Bus” becomes “The Omaha Bus”

Mingione, known for his motivational sayings, gave his team copies of “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon, also a favorite of former Kentucky Basketball coach John Calipari to help his players reach their potential.

“Coach Ming, I think it was our freshman or sophomore year, we had to read a book called ‘The Energy Bus,'” McCarthy said. “We started calling it ‘The Omaha Bus’ because we were going to get to Omaha.”

The book struck a chord. Instead of giving in and transferring out in search of more playing time, McCarthy and Burkes stayed put and helped Kentucky turn the corner and breakthrough.

“Nolan and Devin, these are redshirts,” Mingione said. “They didn’t make road trips. They just waited their turn. They just waited for their time.

“In a day and age where people just run and leave because they don’t get the playing time that they want, these guys waited their turn. They watched the bus leave week after week. They just stayed here. And all they did was make themselves better and believe in this program and do everything they can to help Kentucky.”

“And this is a perfect example of exactly what’s gone on in our program, a bunch of selfless guys that have just waited their turn and for their opportunity to help Kentucky.”

Ryan Hogan’s second trip to Omaha may be more special than first

On the flip side, the journey is just as special for Hogan and O’Brien, who transferred to Kentucky from Texas A&M and Campbell last year.

“These two guys on the end,” Mingione said, pointing at Hogan and O’Brien. “Literally, when you asked them in the portal, ‘What are you looking for?’ ‘I want a place I can win and develop.’ That’s what they wanted. That’s what they wanted. Now here they are. They’ve won and they’ve developed and they’re better than they’ve ever been.”

Mingione gave special mention to Hogan, who battled through a rough sophomore year at Texas A&M before deciding to transfer to Kentucky.

“Hogey’s story is pretty amazing. If you guys ever get a chance to just find out where he was, just a year ago mentally, not making road trips, not pitching, just down and out…And to do what he’s done here is truly remarkable and it’s a true testament to the type of man that he is.”

Even though Texas A&M went to the College World Series in 2022, Hogan’s freshman season, Hogan said his second trip to Omaha may be even more meaningful.

“I would say being able to go back with guys that I love means a lot. 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.

O’Brien has had a picture of Charles Schwab Field in Omaha as his Twitter header image since his senior year of high school. Now, he’ll get to play there in the College World Series.

“When I was in the transfer portal, a lot of things Coach Ming was telling me, you’re going to come here and do something that’s never been done before,” O’Brien said. “So to sit here and be doing something that’s never been done before is pretty awesome. And we’re definitely not done yet.”

Kentucky ready to tackle “Unfinished Business”

Fans and players alike will always remember the final minutes and seconds in the ninth inning when the dream became reality. Burkes, whose mother has had her room in Omaha booked for months, called the moment “untouchable.”

“I swear I could smell it the last inning,” Burkes said. “When we got two outs, I was, like, ‘Oh my goodness, we’re going! Come on, baby, we’re going!’ It always feels untouchable because the road to Omaha is so long.”

Mingione said he’ll give his players a day to revel in the victory before they turn their sights to Omaha, where they’ll face the winner of NC State/Georgia, game three of which is tonight. Burkes said that the joy of making the College World Series will never expire, but when the clock strikes twelve, he and his teammates will be ready to get back to work to settle more “unfinished business.”

“This don’t expire,” Burkes joked, patting Mingione on the chest. “12:00 o’clock 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. It feels like you have unfinished business, which we do. Just keep going.”

“It’s honestly surreal,” Hogan said. “It’s probably the best thing that any of us could have asked for, being in this position. And so we’re going to go to Omaha and we’re going to do our thing because we ain’t done.”

“Just seeing the way it’s built the last couple of years, it feels like we’ve really kicked the door down now,” McCarthy added. “We have unfinished business. It feels amazing to be the first ones [to go to Omaha].”

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2024-06-23