A super-regional showdown awaits Kentucky and Louisville if the Wildcats and Cardinals can take care of business in the first weekend of the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
Both schools host four-team NCAA regionals this coming weekend and, as the top-rated teams at their sites, are projected to advance to the super-regional round.
Should things play out that way, Louisville would host Kentucky for a best-of-three super regional the weekend of June 9-12.
Kentucky and Louisville split a pair of regular-season games this season, each winning at home. Louisville won 5-3 on April 4. Kentucky returned the favor 11-7 two weeks later.
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Louisville would host the super regional because the Cardinals received one of the eight top national seeds during Monday’s NCAA Selection Show. Kentucky, which lobbied for a top-eight seed, did not make the cut. All of the top seeds who advance out of the regional round will automatically host super regionals a week later.
“The thing I wish is that I could be in those meetings,” UK Coach Nick Mingione said, “and hear what’s important to them. I wish I could do that. Unfortunately, I was not in there. It was one of those deals where we didn’t do enough, apparently. … I’m at peace with that.”
The eight schools awarded overall national seeds, in seeded order, were: 1. Oregon State, 2. North Carolina, 3. Florida, 4. LSU, 5. Texas Tech, 6. Texas Christian, 7. Louisville, 8. Stanford.
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UK was selected Sunday night as one of 16 regional hosts, the first time the Wildcats have earned that distinction since 2006.
“I’m just so happy to have a regional back here,” Mingione said.
Other schools hosting regionals that were not among the top eight national seeds were Clemson, Arkansas, Southern Mississippi, Houston, Long Beach State, Florida State and Wake Forest
Kentucky will face Mid-American Conference champion Ohio University in its opening game this weekend.
The Wildcats (39-20) will take on the Bobcats (31-26) on Friday at noon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
“At 12 o’clock on Friday, let this serve as everybody’s excuse to get out of work,” Mingione said. “You tell your boss to watch this. … We will have a great baseball game at noon on Friday.”
Friday’s second game in the Lexington Regional will pit North Carolina State (34-23) vs. Indiana (33-22-2) at 7 p.m.
As host, Kentucky is the top-rated team in the Lexington Regional, followed by No. 2 Indiana, No. 3 N.C. State and No. 4 Ohio.
The double-elimination event continues Saturday, Sunday and, if necessary, Monday.
Kentucky (39-20) finished second in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division in the regular-season standings at 19-11.
But the Cats lost four of their last six games.
“I’m not a big believer in momentum,” Mingione said. “I just believe that every single day and every single pitch provides an opportunity.”
Ohio University secured its NCAA berth by winning the Mid-American Conference Tournament. The Bobcats finished fifth in the league during the regular season.
Ohio and Kentucky did not meet during the regular season. One of the Bobcats’ top players is a Kentuckian. Senior infielder Connor Callery from Covington Holy Cross is second on the team in hitting (.313).
“That looks like a really good team,” Minigione said. “They field .980 as a team. They can really pitch. They got a guy on the back end with 15 saves. So I think we’re going to have our hands full that first day, there’s no question.”
Kentucky and Indiana collided once during the regular season, a 5-2 Wildcats victory on May 9 in Lexington. UK and North Carolina State did not play each other this season.
Kentucky was one of eight SEC teams to receive NCAA berths, joining Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.
Louisville is one of seven Atlantic Coast Coference teams in the field along with Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia and Wake Forest.
Back in the Bluegrass
All three visiting teams in the Lexington Regional have coaches with ties to Kentucky.
That includes two former UK players — Indiana assistant Matt Reida and North Carolina assistant Taylor Black. Reida, who works with the Hoosiers’ infielders, hitters and baseruners, played at Kentucky from 2011 to 2014. Black, who is the Wolfpack’s first base coach, was at UK in 2010-11.
Ohio assistant coach and recruiting coordinator CJ Wamsley was a three-year starter at Boyd County High School. He went on to play four years for Western Kentucky and was previously an assistant coach at Morehead State.
Indiana head coach Chris Lemonis was an assistant at Louisville from 2007-14. Hoosiers assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Kyle Cheesbrough played two seasons for the Cardinals and was an assistant there from 2012-14.
The Louisville Regional also gets underway Friday, at Jim Patterson Stadium.
The opening game features Oklahoma (34-22) vs. Xavier (32-25) at 2 p.m.
Louisville (47-10) takes on Radford (27-30) at 6 p.m.
Radford’s roster includes former Ashland Blazer standout Cameron Fritz. The sophomore pitcher is 4-2 with a 4.31 ERA.
The order of seeds in the regional is No. 1 Louisville, No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Xavier and No. 4 Radford.
All-session tickets, which include admission for every game of the regional tournament, went on sale Monday.
Single-session tickets go on sale Thursday at 9 a.m. Each session is one game, and the stadium will be cleared between each game.
Any remaining tickets will be sold at Cliff Hagan Stadium beginning three hours before Friday’s first game.
All pre-purchased tickets and parking permits must be picked up at Will Call. UK employee IDs, Junior Wildcat Club passes and Wildcat sports passes are not valid for free admission to postseason events. Children ages 1 and under will be admitted free.
NCAA Lexington Regional schedule
Friday, June 2
Game 1: Kentucky vs. Ohio, Noon (ESPNU)
Game 2: Indiana vs. North Carolina State, 7 p.m. (WatchESPN.com)
Saturday, June 3
Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
Game 4: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2
Sunday, June 4
Game 5: Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3
Game 6: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5
Monday, June 5
Game 7: If necessary, same teams as in Game 6