LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Kentucky’s historic 2017 season came to a close with a 6-2 loss to Louisville on Saturday, June 10 at Jim Patterson Stadium, ending a run that saw the program reach the NCAA Super Regional round for the first time and post the fourth-most wins in school history under first-year head coach Nick Mingione.
The Wildcats finished 43-23 despite beginning the season 2-5, playing for the regular season Southeastern Conference championship on the final day of play, reaching the top five of the national rankings and winning three elimination games in two days in the Lexington Regional, just the second time the program has hosted postseason play.
“I am really proud of this team because to do something that has never been done before is hard,” Mingione said. “They are going to be able to tell their kids, they are going to be able to tell their families, they are going to be able to tell their wives one day that they were a part of something that had never been done before.”
Having not reached the postseason since 2014, UK put itself within two victories of making the College World Series with a mix of strong pitching and one of the nation’s top offensive clubs. The Cats won 19 SEC games – the second most in school history – won 17 games against ranked teams and played a schedule that ranked among the nation’s top 10 most difficult.
On Saturday, Louisville used a pair of home runs from infielder Drew Ellis and answered every UK threat behind All-American left-hander Brendan McKay. The Cats piled up baserunners against McKay and put pressure on the Cardinals’ defense but couldn’t get either to crack, even in the ninth inning as senior outfielder Marcus Carson crushed a drive to right-centerfield that Logan Taylor caught while crashing into the wall.
Despite the way it ended the season will be remembered as one of the best in the program’s 121 years.
“We got over that hump, got into the Super Regional and that’s something that has never been done before in Kentucky history,” junior infielder Riley Mahan said. “I can promise you guys this, the University of Kentucky baseball program is in really good hands. With the coaching staff and all the athletic (administration) it’s in really good hands.”
Kentucky’s seniors, juniors and redshirt sophomores now await 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, which begins Monday.
Photo by Michael Reaves