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More from Kentucky's Super Regional win and a memorable KPP After Dark

Drew Franklinby:Drew Franklin06/10/24


Before Kentucky heads to Omaha for the school’s first-ever College World Series appearance and before my much-needed Monday nap, there is more to share from Sunday night at Kentucky Proud Park. The Wildcats completed the sweep of the NCAA Super Regional round in front of a record 5,778 fans, most of whom were out way past their bedtimes to witness history.

As one of those 5,778, here is what I’ll remember most from an experience that ranks high among the top moments and memories as a card-carrying member of Big Blue Nation. There aren’t many times I can recall having as much fun as I did watching Kentucky win the Supers on its home field. So, here’s what went into that memorable night, presented in a scatter-brained, coffee-fueled format full of good times.

More from KPP After Dark, starting with the walk from the Blue lot:

— Before the gates opened, a sea of blue covered the hill outside Kentucky Proud Park. The line began early Sunday afternoon and lined the street in front of the complex two hours before the first pitch. The early arrivers were mainly general admission ticket-holders eager to race inside to secure the first-come, first-serve seats. Anyone who packed a chair needed to be inside at least an hour early to have any shot at finding open real estate.

— Once inside, there was still plenty of time before Ryan Waldschmidt and his popular walk-up song, “Vampire,” led off the game. To keep the excitement going, a live organist entertained the crowd with hits from Bruno Mars and Miley Cyrus, to name a few. KSR’s Daniel Hager caught his “Fishin’ In The Dark.” UK should keep this guy around.

— An explanation of the cowboy hat: my new fuzzy pink bucket hat was delivered on Saturday, but I left it at home in favor of the blue hat I had worn for all three games of the Regional and the first game of the Supers. Being superstitious, I decided Sunday was not the time to try out a new hat when the one I had been wearing had a perfect 4-0 lifetime record. But when I got to the stadium, Josh Teater and his family sat next to me, and they packed enough rally hats to go around. So, at some point, one of the Teater boys’ cowboy hats ended up on top of my 4-0 hat, which took television viewers to break during the seventh inning.

(Photo by Aaron Perkins for KSR)

— A few more celebrity sightings in addition to PGA Tou golfer Josh Teater: UK Football‘s Vince Marrow and Brad White were among the 5,778 baseball fans in the crowd. UK Athletics’ top donor, Joe Craft, also joined the late-night fun.

(Photo by Aaron Perkins for KSR)

— As you can imagine, Kentucky Proud Park went absolutely nuts when Nolan McCarthy beat the tag at home, going full Superman pose for the go-ahead run in the seventh. The roar and the celebration when McCarthy was called safe were as fun as any the BBN has experienced in a long time.

The story behind McCarthy’s Pete Rose slide is fun, too: “Oh my gosh, he just did the Pete Rose dive!”

— Another time KPP woke up the neighbors late Sunday night: Grant Smith’s run-saving snag to get out of the bottom of the seventh.

— One complaint, if I may: the umpire didn’t have his best night behind the plate, in my opinion. There were some boos that I felt were warranted. I felt that way because I was the one booing. Still, all was forgiven when he called the third strike that sent Kentucky to Omaha. He showed good form with a slight left-leg kick to emphasize Johnny Hummel’s game-ending strikeout. Then, KPP went crazy again.

Nick Mingione stood back and watched his team celebrate the win. As the Wildcats dog-piled on the field, Mingione stood with his son, Reeves, watching the celebration from several yards away.

Mingione waited until his team did a lap around the stadium before he greeted them with hugs and continued the on-field celebration.

Oregon State earned a lot of respect from Kentucky when the Beavers sat in their dugout for several minutes after a season-ending loss, waiting for the Wildcats to finish their celebration so the teams could shake hands. Oregon State’s fans were great visitors, too. One couple stopped our group on the way out to wish Kentucky luck at Omaha and to thank Lexington for the hospitality. Good job, BBN.

— Another reason last night was historic: Kentucky’s win put the final nail in the Pac-12’s coffin. The Pac-12’s final game concluded at 12:33 ET, a fitting ending to everyone’s favorite late-night league.

Hats off to the fans. The team saluted the crowd that supported them all season, as seen here in @TerrellTres‘s video from the postgame celebration.

Robert Hogan, who struck out three Oregon State batters to protect Kentucky’s 3-2 lead, said of the crowd, “That was the coolest thing ever. It’s 9:00 p.m., and you’re looking, seeing if people are showing up. 7:25, you see people running to their seats. It’s like, holy cow.”

Nick Mingione wanted an experience for his players and the fans. Sunday night delivered. Now Kentucky is off to Omaha for the first time.

Go Cats.

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