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Ryan Waldschmidt is Kentucky Baseball's X-Factor

IMG_8756by:Daniel Hager05/29/24

DanielHagerKSR

Kentucky Baseball currently sits as the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament after finishing the regular season 39-12 (22-8), clinching a share of its second ever SEC Regular Season Championship.

Junior left fielder Ryan Waldschmidt, who was named an All-SEC Second Teamer, was a major part of that accomplishment.

Waldschmidt broke out as one of the best players in all of college baseball this season, hitting for a .357 average with 16 doubles, 13 home runs, and 42 RBI. He played even better against SEC opponents, as he hit .405 (3rd in SEC) with 12 doubles (T-1st in SEC) and eight home runs (T-17th in SEC) while stealing 19 bases (1st in SEC) against the best competition in the country.

Because of this break out, Waldschmidt has propelled himself to a potential first-round pick in the upcoming MLB Draft. He landed at pick No. 24 in Kiley McDaniel’s Mock Draft on Wednesday.

Of course he’d be Kentucky’s X-Factor. Digging a little deeper however, he really is the coal that fuels the engine.

Photo via UK Athletics

In games that Kentucky won this season where Waldschmidt started and batted leadoff, Waldschmidt went 55-131 (.420) at the plate with 14 doubles, 11 home runs, 37 RBI, and 17 stolen bases.

In games that Kentucky lost this season where Waldschmidt started and batted leadoff, Waldschmidt went 11-52 (.212) with a double, two home runs, five RBI, and five stolen bases.

When Waldy is on, the Cats are on. When he’s off, it seems like the Cats are almost always off. The trickle down effect is real.

“[Waldschmidt] and [Émilien] Pitre both are as good of players as I’ve coached,” Nick Mingione said following Kentucky’s win over Vanderbilt on May 17. “He’s a special player and he’s doing really well right now. He’s right there at the top and sets the table with just a relentless series of good at-bats behind him. Waldy’s a special player.”

Kentucky went 1-2 in the SEC Tournament last week. The Cats lost the two games where Waldschmidt failed to record a hit, but beat Arkansas 9-6 in a game where Waldschmidt hit two home runs and drove in three RBI.

“Anytime you can face top-end arms, it just makes you better,” Waldschmidt said after Kentucky’s SEC Tournament win over Arkansas. “As long as you have the mindset of failure is okay, you’re gonna lose. You’re gonna have bad at-bats, you’re gonna just not win a lot of the time. Failure is the way to learn. If you can learn from it and grow from it, it makes you a lot better when you face someone who might not be as highly considered a top-end arm. It definitely helps when you face [SEC] competition everyday.”

Waldschmidt averaged 1.6 hits per game in those Wildcat wins, and just 0.85 hits in Wildcat losses. When that production is not coming from the top of the lineup, the guys under him don’t seem to be performing as well either, leading to losses.

If Kentucky wants to make a run to its first ever College World Series, Ryan Waldschmidt will have to continue the stellar play we saw from him this season. Waldschmidt was 6-22 (.273) with a double and a home run in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, even earning a spot on the Lexington Regional All-Regional Team.

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2024-06-20