LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky Baseball team had waited 121 years for this moment, so a couple extra hours didn’t seem to matter all that much.
The top-seeded Wildcats roared from behind to defeat NC State 10-5 Monday night, June 5 and advance to the first Super Regional in program history. The victory was extra sweet, as the Cats won three consecutive elimination games, including back-to-back nights over the third-seeded Wolfpack.
“They have just done something that has never been done in the history of the baseball program and we’ve been playing baseball over 100 years here,” UK coach Nick Mingione said. “They’re going to be able to tell their kids, their families, their wives and hopefully the baseball thing works out and they will be able to play 10 years in the big leagues. But, if it doesn’t and they go into business – I promise this equips them.
“This goes way deeper than just baseball. This makes them believe that they can do things that have never been done before – and that’s really powerful.”
The regional championship game was delayed two hours and 16 minutes due to a fast moving storm that dumped torrential rain on the field just after the originally scheduled start time. When play resumed a record crowd of 5,005 at Cliff Hagan Stadium was in full throat from first pitch, eventually breaking into song and dance in the later innings.
The Cats (43-21) twice rallied from deficits, scoring three runs in the seventh to take the lead for good on sophomore catcher Kole Cottam’s two-run double high off the right-field wall. UK tacked on three insurance runs in the ninth for good measure as the party began in the dugout and in the stands.
Sophomore right-hander Sean Hjelle -- SEC Pitcher of the Year -- closed out the final 3.1 innings for his 11th win of the season, following the yeoman’s work of starter Zach Logue (3.1 innings) and senior lefty Logan Salow (2.1 innings).
The Cats advance to this weekend’s Super Regional at Louisville for a best-of-three series with the Louisville Cardinals (50-10). The in-state rivals split the regular season series at one game apiece, with each emerging victorious at home.
It was announced Tuesday morning by NCAA that Kentucky-Louisville series will begin on Friday at noon. That game will be televised by ESPN2. The Saturday's contest will also start at noon and will be shown on ESPN. If the third game is necessary, both schools will square off on Sunday at noon. Either ESPN or ESPN2 will televise the third game.
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