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Top 10 Moments from 2024 Kentucky Baseball Season

IMG_8756by:Daniel Hager06/20/24

DanielHagerKSR

The 2024 season will go down as the best in Kentucky Baseball history.

The Cats won a program record 46 games, won a share of their second co-SEC Regular Season Championship, and punched their ticket to the Men’s College World Series for the first time ever.

Not only did Kentucky make it to the MCWS, it won its first game in the event on one of the most memorable moments in Kentucky sports history.

Here are the 10 most memorable moments from a fantastic season of college baseball in Lexington.

Photo by Marissa Gilchrist | UK Athletics

10. Kentucky’s Seven-Run Comeback vs. Auburn (April 13)

We kick off this list with Kentucky’s seven-run comeback to hold off Auburn 13-8 on April 13 for the series victory.

The Tigers took a 7-0 lead after a five-run third inning, putting Kentucky in jeopardy of losing its first SEC series of the season.

Kentucky responded with three runs in the fifth inning, then scored six more runs in the sixth inning to take an improbable 9-6 lead just like that.

After Mason Moore gave up five earned runs in 2 1/3 innings, the Kentucky bullpen held Auburn to just one earned run over the final 6 2/3 innings. Nick Lopez homered twice, and Ryan Nicholson and James McCoy homered once.

This game served an early look at a Kentucky team that thrived in the face of adversity. The Cats were 17-6 in games decided by three runs or less this season.

9. Nolan McCarthy’s Home Run Robbery vs. Arkansas (May 23)

Due to the SEC’s rule where division winners were the top two seeds in the SEC Tournament, Arkansas nabbed the No. 2 seed while Kentucky was the No. 3 seed. Both teams lost their opening games, setting up a 2-3 matchup in the second round.

Kentucky took an early 2-0 lead in the first on a Devin Burkes RBI sac-bunt and a failed pickoff attempt, scoring its first run(s) in the SEC Tournament since 2022. The two-run lead almost didn’t last long however, as Arkansas’ Ben McLaughlin belted a deep ball to the center field fence.

Center fielder Nolan McCarthy however played the ball perfectly and came up with an incredible home-run saving grab to keep the Razorbacks scoreless. Kentucky would go on to win 9-6.

Video via SEC Network

8. Kentucky takes down Louisville 17-13 (April 16)

Kentucky reversed their recent fortunes against the Cardinals with a 17-13 win on April 16, as they had lost eight of the prior 10 meetings. 

The in-state rivals combined for 30 runs on 33 hits in a game that lasted four hours and 15 minutes. 

The Cats finished with 15 hits and tied their season high with 17 runs. Kentucky’s 17 runs scored were its most against Louisville since April 26, 1994 (18).

Ryan Waldschmidt had himself a monstrous day at the plate, as he blasted two home runs and a double. He finished with six RBI, along with two diving grabs in left field.

Photo by Ethan Rand | UK Athletics

7. Ryan Nicholson’s 9th Inning Home Run vs. Florida (May 10)

Kentucky opened its May series against Florida with an absolute barnburner, but were on the verge of losing game one after the Gators pulled ahead by two in the bottom of the eighth.

After totaling two outs to open the top of the ninth, the Cats were down to one final out. Nick Lopez and Mitch Daly kept the game alive by drawing back-to-back walks, bringing up Ryan Nicholson.

Nicholson jumped all over a 2-0 pitch for a three-run home run that propelled the Cats to a late one-run lead. Florida tied it in the bottom of the ninth, but Kentucky won 12-11 in extra-innings.

Kentucky took the series over Florida in Gainesville for its first over the Gators since 2016.

6. Grant Smith’s Highlight Catch vs. Indiana State (June 2)

Kentucky clung to a 3-0 lead in the fifth inning of its Regional game against Indiana State, but the Sycamores had runners on the corners with the game-tying run up to bat.

A blooper was lofted into shallow left field, which would have scored an ISU run had it dropped. However, shortstop Grant Smith had different plans.

Smith tracked the ball all the way down and made a stellar lunging grab to keep the Sycamores scoreless on what was one of the best plays of the season for the Cats.

Video via SEC Network

Kentucky went on to blank Indiana State to clinch its second consecutive Lexington Regional victory.

Smith’s catch was the number one play on SportsCenter’s Top 10 the following morning.

5. Kentucky Proud Park breaks attendance record four times

After opening the 2023 season with mostly empty crowds at Kentucky Proud Park, fans have set many attendance records over the past two seasons due to the play of the team. The top four crowds in park history were set this season.

  1. Oregon State (7,558) 6/9/24
  2. Oregon State (7,441) 6/8/24
  3. Tennessee (7,304) 4/20/24
  4. Tennessee (6,922) 4/19/24

The Cats were 3-1 in those four games.

Photo by Elliott Hess | UK Athletics

4. Kentucky clinches share of second co-SEC Regular Season Title (May 17)

Kentucky Baseball won 22 SEC games this season, the most in program history. The previous record was 20, which was set in 2006.

The Cats split the co-SEC Regular Season Championship with Tennessee, who also won 22 games. Kentucky also could have won outright, but lost its final regular season game to Vanderbilt.

However, as Nick Mingione said following the SEC clinching win, “you’ll forever be SEC champions and nobody will ever be able to take that away from you.”

A crowd of 4,071 Wildcat fans filed into Kentucky Proud Park on May 17 to celebrate clinching a share of the nation’s premiere college baseball conference.

Video via SEC Network

3. Kentucky wins first Super Regional in program history (June 9)

Kentucky won its Lexington Regional for the second consecutive season, setting up its first home Super Regional in history.

The Cats hosted Oregon State, a program that has reached seven College World Series’ in its program history. After winning the opening game 10-0, Kentucky was on the precipice of reaching Omaha for the first time ever.

The second game was much closer, as Kentucky led 3-2 in the ninth inning. After runners reached first and third with two outs, right-hander Johnny Hummel entered and closed out the game for Kentucky’s first ever Super Regional win in front of a record 7,558 fans.

via ESPN

2. Ryan Nicholson’s 9th Inning Home Run vs. NC State (June 15)

The home run before the home run.

After Kentucky fell behind 5-4 following NC State’s go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning in their College World Series opener, it looked like the Wildcats could possibly be playing out of the loser’s bracket.

These thoughts were dashed quickly, as Ryan Nicholson led off the bottom of the ninth with a solo home run down the left field line to tie the game.

You could possibly register Nicholson’s home run as the biggest swing in Kentucky Baseball history, as the No. 1 moment may not have happened without it.

Video via ESPN

1. Mitch Daly’s Walk-Off Home Run vs. NC State (June 15)

You just knew this would be number one.

Following Nicholson’s game-tying home run, Johnny Hummel held the Wolfpack scoreless to bring the Cats back up to bat in the bottom of the ninth.

After Devin Burkes was thrown out stealing with Mitch Daly up to bat, it looked like they’d be going to the 11th inning. Daly however had different plans.

The veteran jumped on a 1-2 pitch for a walk-off home run over the left field fence, the biggest swing in Kentucky Baseball history.

Video via ESPN

What a season it was.

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2024-07-24