As the No. 12 overall seed in the field, Kentucky Baseball will host a four-team NCAA Regional site this coming weekend when NCAA Tournament play begins across the country. The Wildcats are one of eight SEC programs to earn one of the sixteen home-field advantages, meaning half of the nationally-seeded hosts are from the Southeastern Conference. Kentucky had a winning record in that league.
In postseason play, the ‘Cats will welcome West Virginia, Indiana, and Ball State to the Bluegrass for the Lexington Regional, where Kentucky Proud Park will host its first-ever NCAA Tournament action. Only twice before has Kentucky played host to an NCAA Regional, and both came before Kentucky’s new $49 million facility opened in 2019. The tournament made previous stops in Lexington in 2006 and 2017 but never a third until 2023.
Let’s look back at ’06 and ’17 with memories of the past. One went better than the other.
2006 Lexington Regional
CLIFF HAGAN STADIUM
Participants: Kentucky, Coll. of Charleston, Notre Dame, Ball State
In 2006, the University of Kentucky was awarded one of the sixteen host spots following the school’s first and only SEC Championship regular season. John Coen’s Wildcats shocked college baseball by winning the league from a last-place finish the year before, only to drop the ball in the NCAA Regional on their home field.
Of all teams, Ball State spoiled the excitement with a Game 1 upset of the Wildcats in Lexington. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again this Friday.
Then on Sunday of that ’06 weekend, College of Charleston stole Kentucky’s place in the Atlanta Super with a win over the Wildcats, Charleston’s third straight win in Lexington to advance.
Ball State 3, Kentucky 1
Coll. of Charleston 5, Notre Dame 4
Kentucky 10, Notre Dame 4
Coll. of Charlestown 11, Ball State 0
Kentucky 12, Ball State 9
Coll. of Charleston 7, Kentucky 4
2017 Lexington Regional
CLIFF HAGAN STADIUM
Participants: Kentucky, Indiana, NC State, Ohio
The Cliff got another shot at an NCAA Tournament in 2017, and this time, the Wildcats took advantage of the opportunity under first-year head coach Nick Mingione. After Mingione’s Wildcats finished third in the SEC’s regular season, UK returned home to a rowdy Lexington Regional to win four of five, including back-to-back victories over NC State on Sunday and Monday.
With the wins, KENTUCKY advanced to the Super Regional for the only time in school history (where the Wildcats lost to Louisville, but we don’t need to dwell on that chapter of the book).
Kentucky 6, Ohio 4
NC State 7, Indiana 6
Indiana 11, Ohio 2
NC State 5, Kentucky 4
Kentucky 14, Indiana 9
Kentucky 8, NC State 6
Kentucky 10, NC State 5
Relive some of that ’17 Lexington magic as we count down to Friday: