LEXINGTON, Ky. – First-year Kentucky head coach Nick Mingione (pictured) has been named Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year by his peers, it was announced by the league on Monday, May 22.
Kentucky enters this week’s SEC Tournament with 38 wins, ranked in the Top 10 and widely projected to host an NCAA Tournament Regional. The wins are the most for the program since the 2012 team won a school-record 45, and the Wildcats’ 19 regular season SEC wins are the second most in school history to the 20 won by the 2006 team, the Cats’ only league title.
It has been a historic season thus far for the Wildcats, who were picked in the bottom half of the league in the preseason, began the season 2-5 and did not enter the national rankings until week 5 of the season. The Cats remained in the top three of the SEC standings all season and still had championship implications in their final regular season game at Florida.
Mingione, who was an assistant at UK under John Cohen before spending the past eight years with him at Mississippi State, set new high-water marks for a first-year UK coach. The 38 overall wins are nine more than Keith Madison had in 1979 and the 19 SEC wins are six more than Madison had that season, both of which were the previous program records.
The Cats have 17 wins over ranked opponents, the second most in school history and their .839 winning percentage at Cliff Hagan Stadium this season also was the second highest winning percentage in a single season in home games (.853, 2012). UK also completed just the second unbeaten non-conference home schedule in school history.
Sean Hjelle Named SEC Pitcher of the Year; Pompey, Salow First-Team All-SEC
Sean Hjelle was named SEC Pitcher of the Year to highlight a bushel of honors the Kentucky baseball team earned in a vote of league coaches, the conference announced Monday.
Joining Hjelle on the First-Team All-SEC are senior reliever Logan Salow and sophomore outfielder Tristan Pompey. Hjelle and Salow become the first UK pitchers to earn First-Team honors since Chris Rusin in 2008 and only the third and fourth since 1979, joining Rusin and Scott Downs (1997).
The Cats, who finished with the second most SEC wins in program history, also placed junior infielder Riley Mahan, junior catcher Troy Squires and junior first baseman Evan White on Second-Team All-SEC. White was voted All-SEC Defensive Team for the third consecutive season.
Junior left-handed pitcher Zach Logue was voted SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year, posting a 3.96 grade point average in chemical engineering.
Hjelle, a sophomore right-hander from White Bear Lake, Minn., is the first UK player to win SEC Pitcher of the Year after going 9-2 with a 3.17 earned run average in 14 starts as the Wildcats’ Friday night starter. He was dominant in SEC play, going 7-1 with a 1.90 ERA, outdueling the likes of Brigham Hill (Texas A&M), Patrick Raby (Vanderbilt), Konnor Pilkington (Miss. State), Tanner Houck (Missouri), Jared Poche’ (LSU), Will Crowe (South Carolina) and Alex Faedo (Florida). His nine wins this season move him into a tie for 6th place on Kentucky’s single-season wins list. Hjelle has allowed one earned run or less in six of his last seven starts and has given up six or fewer hits in his last 12 starts.
Pompey, who hails from Toronto, Ontario, led the conference with a .410 batting average in league games, while also tallying the most hits and finishing in the top three in runs, on base percentage and total bases.
Salow, from Ashland, Ky., was dominant this season, as the Cats’ closer. His 10 saves are the second most in a season in school history and SEC opponents hit just .136 against him. The lefty had a stretch of 30 consecutive batters who did not reach base and he struck out 63 in 45.1 innings.
White, who missed 13 games early in the season due to injury, still ranked among the league leaders in batting average, doubles, hits and total bases. It is the second consecutive Second-Team All-SEC honor for the Gahanna, Ohio native, who ranks ninth in UK history in career hits and fifth in career batting average.
Mahan quietly produced a phenomenal season in SEC play, ranking in the top three in runs (2nd), doubles (3rd), triples (1st), home runs (1st) and slugging percentage (2nd). The Cincinnati native joined Mississippi State’s Brent Rooker as the only players to win SEC Player of the Week three times this season.
Squires, from Elizabethtown, Ky., became a force both behind the plate and in the batter’s box this season. He hit .333 with 11 extra base hits and 26 RBI while also throwing out 45 percent of opposing baserunners attempting to steal.
UK Athletics Photo