LEXINGTON, Ky. – After 50 years, 733 victories and countless memories, Cliff Hagan Stadium hosted the final regular season game in its storied history on Sunday, May 13 on a pristine late spring day befitting the best of what baseball has to offer.
Although the outcome wasn’t what No. 17 Kentucky and the capacity crowd had hoped – the Cats lost 18-8 to Mississippi State – the weekend was a success with a series win over the Bulldogs that kept alive hopes of The Cliff hosting an NCAA Regional in three weeks.
“We've got series wins over three Top 10 RPI teams,” UK coach Nick Mingione said. “Not three wins, three SERIES wins. I like our chances (to host). It’s my job to make sure this wasn’t the last game played here.”
A total of 91,551 fans attended home games this season, a school-record total for the program and the top eight regular season crowds in the stadium’s history came in 2018. Combined with two postseason games last year, the top 10 crowds at the facility have all been the past two seasons.
After a pregame ceremonial first pitch by five former coaches, the son of a former coach and stadium namesake and Cliff Hagan (pictured), the Cats struggled to slow the game down as Mississippi State jumped out to a 9-0 lead through three innings. The Cats made a run – as has happened in The Cliff many times – late in the game but it wasn’t meant to be on this day.
There were highlights, however. Redshirt freshman Brayden Combs blasted a pinch hit, two-run home run in the sixth for his first collegiate hit. It was just his sixth at bat of his career and he followed it up with a single in his second at bat.
Senior Luke Heyer and junior Kole Cottam continued their assault on opposing pitchers, as Cottam extended his career-long hitting streak to 14 games with a double and Heyer smoked a pair of doubles to give him 33 extra-base hits this season. Junior Trey Dawson connected for a home run off the scoreboard to provide fireworks as well.
The Cats will travel to Paducah, Ky. on Tuesday night to face Murray State and then on to Nashville for the final regular season series at Vanderbilt next Thursday-Saturday.
UK Athletics Photo by Noah Richter