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Kentucky Baseball shifting into NCAA Tournament mode

IMG_8756by:Daniel Hager05/26/24

DanielHagerKSR

Kentucky Baseball’s run in the 2024 SEC Tournament came to an end Friday night at the hands of No. 10 seed South Carolina, who held off the Cats 6-5.

With a week off until the Lexington Regional gets underway on March 31, Nick Mingione’s team will now shift completely into NCAA Tournament mode.

“One thing I’m looking forward to for the guys is to get some rest,” Mingione said postgame Friday. “This has been a super long season and you’ve seen how many road games we’ve played. We’ve had two flights, every other one I feel is a six-to-eight hour bus trip. I’m looking forward to them being able to spend some quality days in their own bed, that’s always a good thing.”

Photo by Matthew Mueller | UK Athletics

A week of rest for Kentucky’s pitching staff should be a high priority, as it continued to struggle Friday night.

Kentucky’s pitching trio of Mason MooreCameron O’Brien, and Ben Cleaver totaled eight walks and two hit batters in the loss, handing Carolina two free runs via bases loaded walks/hit batters.

“We’ve got to be able to get to the spot where we continue to have our pitcher’s focus on their quality pitches and we are on the attack, and our opponents feel that.”

O’Brien, who walked two South Carolina batters, offered the same sentiment postgame.

“We’re looking to go out and execute quality pitches and we let a few too many get away from us today,” O’Brien said. “We’ve got to hone in on that before the postseason.”

Over its last 15 games heading into NCAA Tournament play, the Kentucky pitching staff boasts an 8.09 team ERA in 129 1/3 innings.

As well as its pitching, the Kentucky offense looked uncharacteristic in the SEC Tournament as well. It notched just one hit against LSU and five hits against South Carolina.

“Offensively, we have to continue to do a good job with two strikes and I think we can do better. In this tournament, we did not do as well as I’d like. Matter of fact, I don’t think we met the standard maybe one time with two strikes. We’ve got to get in there and do a little better job with two strikes, we’ve got to tighten up some of our base running and stealing, and all of our little trick plays and gadgets. We’ve just got to tighten all that up.”

With the SEC Tournament now over, Kentucky’s focus will now fully shift over to the NCAA Tournament. The Cats will know their Regional opponents on Monday and will open play on Friday.

Kentucky is the No. 2 overall seed in D1Baseball’s latest Field of 64 Projections.

To the home stretch we go…

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2024-06-20