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Ryan Waldschmidt on "broadened horizons" and Buster Douglas after his two-HR day

Drew Franklinby:Drew Franklin05/23/24

DrewFranklinKSR

Ryan Waldschmidt played a critical role in Kentucky‘s win over Arkansas at the SEC Baseball Tournament on Thursday. In his lead-off at-bat, the junior outfielder reached first base on a walk, second on an errant throw, third on a single to right, and a bunt brought him home for Kentucky’s first run of the morning. The squeeze made it 1-0 in the bottom of the first.

Later in the game, Waldschmidt added to the Wildcats’ lead with home runs in the fifth and seventh innings, his 12th and 13th home runs of the season. For the game, “Waldy” went 2 for 4 with two HRs and three RBI as Kentucky stayed alive in Hoover, winning 9-6 to advance to the quarterfinals.

Afterward, he expressed excitement in his postgame interview on the SEC Network+ broadcast. Waldsmchmidt said, “The guys are fired up. We had a tough one yesterday; the bats weren’t really there. Today, we came out this morning facing, you know, one of the best arms in the country and got things going early, and you know, we’re just happy to be here and happy to win this one.”

“I broadened my horizon a bit”

Waldschmidt was named Second Team All-SEC for an outstanding season at the plate in 2024. In the regular season, he hit .370 with 16 doubles, 11 home runs, and 39 RBI. He was even better against SEC competition, ranking third in the conference with a .405 batting average, plus a .510 OBP (fourth in SEC), 1.213 OPS (fifth in SEC), 49 hits (T-second in SEC), and 12 doubles (T-first in SEC).

When asked what changes he made before his breakout year, Waldschmidt revealed that he took a more aggressive approach to hitting.

“Last year, I was a little bit more patient at the plate,” he said. “I liked to see pitches. I liked to just work the count, try and get on base. I think this year, the biggest thing for me was just getting my swing off and trying to get off as many times as possible. And I think I am starting to do that; I’m starting to hit more off-speed early in the count. I’m not missing pitches that are strikes that I would take last year, and I think that’s just the biggest difference to this year.”

He added, “I always like to just wait on a pitch that I knew I could do damage to, and I think I just broadened my horizon a little bit, just knowing what I can do damage to.”

Buster Douglas mentality

After losing 11-0 on Wednesday, Kentucky quickly regrouped overnight before the 9:30 a.m. start. The Wildcats were the aggressor Thursday morning against Arkansas, the No. 2 seed, even when the Razorbacks started a projected top-10 MLB pick who already won a start in Lexington.

Unintimidated, Kentucky jumped on the board early, a day after a near-hitless game in the loss to LSU.

Waldschmidt said, “You know, before the game, we talked in our pregame meeting, and we talked about how we faced Hagen (Smith) earlier in the season, and he struck us out 14 times. Today, we were just trying to simplify it a little bit, try something new and see what happens. And we talked about Buster Douglas and Mike Tyson back in the day, and just doing what it takes to find a way to win.”

A Buster Douglas speech? Playing for Nick Mingione sounds fun. Waldschmidt thinks so. He said of Mingione in the interview, “There is nobody in the country that cares more about you. He wants the best for you. He wants the best for the team. And, I mean, he’s the best coach I think I’ve ever had in my life.”

Hear Waldschmidt’s comments for yourself:

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2024-06-12