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Kentucky trying to soak up first College World Series while maintaining focus

On3 imageby:Tyler Thompson06/13/24


Kentucky is the only team in the field making its College World Series debut this week, marking a historic moment for the program. The Cats may be Omaha rookies, but they’re doing their best to shake off the nerves before Saturday’s game vs. NC State (1 p.m. CT/2 p.m. ET, ESPN). Taking the turf at Charles Schwab Field today helped.

“We’re all just ready to get playing,” senior infielder Mitchell Daly told reporters at today’s press conference. “I think definitely this first practice knocked the jitters off for a lot of people. I think everybody was just excited to get on the field, feel the dirt, see the scenery around. Everybody is just ready to go.”

That said, Johnny Hummel said the Cats are making a point to soak it all up before getting down to business.

“Our whole entire staff and our whole entire players were super excited to come here,” the graduate right-handed pitcher said. “It felt like a dream come true to all of us. Having this first practice has been a surreal moment for all of us.

“We’ve worked so hard to get to this position, and we’re just ready to go out there, compete, and hopefully bring home a national championship.”

Mingione’s message to the team

While this may be Kentucky’s first trip to Omaha, it’s not Nick Mingione’s. Mingione was on Mississippi State’s staff when the Bulldogs finished as runners-up in the 2013 College World Series. This week, he’s pulled on his own experience and reached out to friends for advice on the best way to keep his team focused.

“I just remember coming here and just thinking about there’s a lot of things going on, and rightfully so. This is the mecca of college baseball. I just remember just even reflecting and talking to some folks that have been here since then just about how to try to stay focused on the task at hand.

“It is a very similar message to our team. You’ll be pulled in a lot of directions, but we have to keep the main thing the main thing. This team has done a great job of that all year, but to be able to stay focused on the task at hand, and that’s to try to bring Kentucky its first-ever college baseball national championship.”

Daly has been to Omaha twice before, in 2021 and 2022 with Texas, his previous school. He said Texas losing in the Super Regional last year made him realize just how special the College World Series is.

“One of the things I kind of just told a lot of the younger guys is to appreciate this because for a lot of them it’s their first college season, and my first time here I was a freshman as well. I really didn’t appreciate how hard it is to get here.

“It took not going for me to really be, like, wow, this is special. That’s just what I’ve tried to tell them is just appreciate the moment, take everything in, and don’t take it for granted.”

Daly said his experience with the CWS at Texas also made him realize that this Kentucky team had what it takes to make it to Omaha.

“I think I told Coach, you know, the day I got here when I looked around the locker room and saw the pieces that we had, I was confident that this was an Omaha-caliber team. The whole team is just a bunch of winners, just a bunch of competitors, guys who do whatever it takes to win. That’s really been our identity all year is just doing whatever it takes to win and being on the attack.

“I wasn’t surprised when we won the Super [Regional] and now that we’re here, and I know that these guys aren’t satisfied.”

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.

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