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Mitch Daly: Kentucky Baseball's most underrated player

IMG_8756by:Daniel Hager05/24/24

DanielHagerKSR

In just one season at Kentucky, Mitch Daly blossomed into one of most underrated players in the SEC.

Sure, we’ve talked all season long about guys such as Ryan Waldschmidt, Nick Lopez, and Émilien Pitre, and rightfully so. However, Kentucky’s starting third baseman usually gets left out of that conversation.

Lopez actually started the season as Kentucky’s starting third baseman. But after he made three errors in Kentucky’s February game against Morehead State, Daly took over the position and never looked back. This was a move made by Nick Mingione that benefited both players greatly.

At the third base position, Daly was named to the SEC All-Defensive Team and Lopez hit .380 en route to a First Team All-SEC selection as Kentucky’s everyday designated hitter.

In his last season of college baseball, Daly experienced a career resurgence in Lexington.

Photo by Caleb Bowlin | UK Athletics

The Madison, Alabama native was named to the All-Big 12 First Team and Big 12 All-Freshman Team in his first season at Texas, where he would play three seasons.

After getting off to such a strong start to his career, Daly was expected to rise as one of the staples of the conference for years to come. However, that just didn’t happen.

In his sophomore and junior seasons in Austin, Daly hit for a .237 BA in 2022 and an even lower .231 BA in 2023. His numbers in almost every statistical category hit a sharp decline, including his fielding numbers. This would lead to Daly announcing he’d be entering the Transfer Portal, where Kentucky would end up taking a chance on him.

This paid off to be one of the best decisions of his career, as Daly returned to his freshman year form in Lexington. In 156 at-bats this season, Daly hit .288 with six home runs, 11 doubles, and a career-high 41 RBI. He’s anchored the five hole in the Wildcat lineup all season long, where he’s thrived sandwiched between base-hit machine Nick Lopez and power-hitter Ryan Nicholson.

Photo by Caleb Bowlin | UK Athletics

He really got going in SEC play, as he hit .298 in 30 games played against conference competition. Daly was just one of six Wildcat hitters who hit over .290 in SEC play, contributing to the SEC’s best team batting average against conference competition (.306).

Nick Mingione often reiterates how important defense is, and Daly stepped up in a big way this season at the hot corner. He recorded 20 errors over his first three seasons at Texas, an average of seven (rounded up) a season. As a senior however, he’s tallied just two errors for a fielding percentage of 0.982.

Daly made multiple defensive gems in Kentucky’s SEC Tournament victory over Arkansas on Thursday, which Mingione touched on postgame.

“The job that Mitch Daly did on multiple jobs to his left, right at him, and coming in,” Mingione said. “There are 16 ground balls you’ve got to master as an infielder and he dominated those three plays.”

Daly will be a key cog in determining whether or not Kentucky will make its first ever College World Series appearance in 2024. He brings experience in that area, as he reached Omaha as a Longhorn in 2021 and 2022.

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2024-06-12