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Kentucky to clash with Florida in MCWS Elimination Game

IMG_8756by:Daniel Hager06/19/24

DanielHagerKSR

Kentucky will face off against Florida in a Men’s College World Series Elimination Game Tuesday night at 6:00 p.m. CT/7:00 p.m. ET. [UPDATE: Due to severe weather, this game has been moved to Wednesday at 10 a.m. CT/11 a.m. ET]

The winner will have to defeat Texas A&M in back-to-back games for a spot in the College World Series Final. The loser will have their season come to an end.

The Cats opened the event with a 5-4 walk-off win over NC State, but were held to just one run in a 5-1 loss to Texas A&M Monday night. Florida came up just short to A&M with a 3-2 loss on Saturday, but bounced back with a 5-4 win over NC State on Monday to keep its season alive.

Kentucky and Florida played earlier this season, where the Cats won their first series over the Gators since 2016. Two of the three games went to extra innings, where Kentucky came out on top both times.

Florida (35-29, 13-17)

After entering May teetering on the edge of an NCAA Tournament berth with a 23-21 record, the Gators went 5-5 in their last five regular season games to just slip into the field. They’ve now won seven of their last nine games in the NCAA Tournament, keeping their season alive game after game.

Tuesday’s elimination game will be nothing new for Florida, as it’s been playing elimination games for a month and a half now.

Phenom DH/1B Jac Caglianone continues to make history before he departs for the MLB, as he belted a three-run home run in the second inning of Florida’s win over NC State to propel the Gators to another game. It was his 74th career home run, which is now tied for the most ever hit in program history (Matt LaPorta).

Jun 17, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA; The Florida Gators celebrate the win against the NC State Wolfpack at Charles Schwab Field Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, “Cags” is hitting for a .413 batting average with 34 home runs and 71 RBI. Outfielder Tyler Shelnut (.266 BA, 19 2B, 16 home runs) also homered in Florida’s Monday win. Outfielder Ty Evans was the only other Florida player hitting over .300 (.316 BA, 10 2B, 13 home runs), but he broke his wrist against Kentucky back in May and hasn’t played since.

Caglianone made headlines following the Kentucky series due to his comments about the Wildcat dugout.

“Just all their nonsense that they do, I mean it’s all what they’re known for…they’re going to try and get in your head, they’re going to try chanting, doing all that nonsense,” Caglianone said. “The fact that it’s allowed blows my mind.”

Left-hander Pierce Coppola will be making his eighth start of the season against the Cats. The 6’8 left-hander, who missed all of 2023 and the first few months of the 2024 season with an injury, boasts a 9.16 ERA in 18 2/3 innings pitched.

He pitched 2 2/3 innings against Kentucky on May 10. The Cats dinged the lefty for four hits, but no runs in that frame.

“They’ve played great of late. When you just think about what they had to do to even make the postseason, you give them so much credit,” Mingione said about the Gators on Monday. “That last weekend what they did in Georgia, and obviously they’ve been playing really good since. And you know what, they took the hard path here. They were on the road for both the Regional and Super. And this league, you know this, but every week and every — every week it seems like teams can change. And this is a team that we’re facing tomorrow that’s been there, done that. They’re well-coached as you know.”

Kentucky (46-15, 22-8)

Kentucky opened the College World Series with an exciting win over NC State, but were held to just four hits and one run by Texas A&M on Monday.

The Wildcat lineup has gone uncharacteristically cold since the start of the Lexington Super Regional. Four of Kentucky’s nine batters (Ryan Waldschmidt, Devin Burkes, James McCoy, Grant Smith) are a combined 2-51 in 51 combined at-bats. Ouch.

This hasn’t haunted the Cats due to their stellar pitching, but after A&M compiled five runs in the fifth inning, it seemed like the deficit was 50 runs.

The bulk of Kentucky’s offense is coming from the middle of the lineup, from 5-6-7 hitters Mitch Daly, Ryan Nicholson, and Nolan McCarthy. This trio is 19-44 and have totaled 19 of Kentucky’s 27 total hits in the last four games.

Ryan Nicholson hits a home run vs. Texas A&M - Mont Dawson, Kentucky Sports Radio
Ryan Nicholson hits a home run vs. Texas A&M – Mont Dawson, Kentucky Sports Radio

Nicholson in particular is having himself a stellar NCAA Tournament, as he’s 12-27 (.444). He’s hit a home run in five of the seven NCAA Tournament games.

Along with lineup decisions, Nick Mingione will have a tough decision to make on who starts the game on the mound for Kentucky. Left-hander Dominic Niman (6.24 ERA in 70 2/3 IP) seems like the choice, but he’s allowed at least four earned runs in four of his last six starts.

A bullpen game, started by a RHP Ryan Hagenow (1.96 ERA in 18 1/3 IP) or RHP Travis Smith (6.38 ERA in 36 2/3 IP), is an option as well.

“The last five national champions lost at least one game,” Mingione said Saturday. “Sometimes playing every day and back-to-back days you can get your momentum going, you can get in the rhythm and flow. If that’s what it takes, you’ve got to do it.”

Follow KSR at the College World Series

KSR the show may not be headed to Omaha this weekend, but the website will be well-represented. KSR baseball beat writer Daniel Hager and videographer Steven Peake hit the road on Friday to capture all the action and excitement for Kentucky’s first College World Series appearance. They’ll be sharing all of their adventures on the site, social media, and special editions of “Bat Cat Beat” and Rapid Reactions on the KSR YouTube Channel, so make sure you’re following and subscribed to keep up with the Cats.

KSR’s trip to Omaha for the College World Series is presented by Summit Insurance Group, a veteran owned, family operated business. We want to introduce you to Steve Terrell, who is here to help and give you a tip.
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2024-07-19