Fast-break points from a baseball state:
21. Dan McDonnell. The Louisville coach has now led U of L — a school with no substantial baseball history before McDonnell — to four trips to the College World Series. It is one of the most impressive coaching jobs in commonwealth sports history.
20. Nick Mingione. Losing to Louisville in high-stakes games like an NCAA Tournament super regional is never fun for Kentucky backers. Still, the UK baseball coach produced more in his first season than any reasonable Cats fan could have expected.
19. A UK historical note. Kentucky baseball’s visit to an NCAA Tournament super regional this season for the first time is NOT the closest the Wildcats have ever come to making the College World Series.
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18. 1988. The NCAA baseball tournament was a 48-team event in ’88, with eight six-team regions whose winners advanced directly to the CWS.
17. Cats one win away from Omaha. Coach Keith Madison’s ’88 Wildcats entered the Northeast Region as the No. 3 seed. UK beat No. 4 Rutgers, No. 5 St. John’s and upset top-seed Clemson. The Cats stood one victory from the College World Series — with two chances to defeat defending NCAA champion Stanford for the trip to Omaha.
16. Keith Madison. “There was some kind of quirk with the weather, a rain out, and Stanford, out of the losers’ bracket, ended up getting a day off and we didn’t even though we were in the winners’ bracket,” Madison recalled Monday. “So their pitching was fresh and ours wasn’t.”
15. So close. In the first game, Stanford bested UK 6-5 on an RBI single by Frank Carey in the eighth inning. Says Madison: “Billy White was our shortstop. (Carey’s hit) was a liner right over his head. I can still see it, Billy jumped as high as he could and it skimmed right off the top of his glove. I really believe, had he caught it, we were going to Omaha.”
14. Pitching wore out. Forced to a second game, the Cats ran out of fresh arms. Stanford scored 11 runs in its final two at-bats and beat Kentucky 16-2.
13. A connection between teams. The 1988 UK team that missed the College World Series by one win and the 2017 Wildcats who missed by two victories have a connection. John Marshall was a UK first baseman in 1988; his sons Tyler (infielder) and Brett (pitcher) were on the 2017 Cats.
12. Kentucky women’s track and field. In the past four NCAA championship meets, Coach Edrick Floreal’s women’s team has finished seventh (2014), second (2015), 11th (2016) and fourth (2017).
11. Not a one-trick program. This year’s fourth-place finish might have been Kentucky’s most impressive. It was accumulated through strong showings in events with which UK — known primarily for its hurdles prowess in recent years — had not previously been associated.
10. Scoring points in different ways. UK produced its 40 team points by winning the pole vault (10 points) and 4-by-100-meter relay (10), earning second places in the triple jump (8) and 100-meter hurdles (8) and a fifth place in the long jump (4).
9. Edrick Floreal. “Our success in events like the 4-by-1, pole vault and triple jump shows that we are growing and adding to our brand,” Floreal said in a UK news release. “We’re not just a hurdles university.”
8. A young nucleus. Among the competitors who scored for UK in the NCAA meet, pole vaulter Olivia Gruver, triple jumper Marie-Josee Ebwea-Bile and hurdler Jasmine Camacho-Quinn are all sophomores. From UK’s winning 4-by-100 relay, junior Kayelle Clarke and sophomores Kianna Gray and Camacho-Quinn, have remaining eligibility. Next year, UK will add teenage U.S. Olympian Sydney McLaughlin, too.
7. EJ Floreal. The former Kentucky men’s basketball walk-on left John Calipari’s hoops team after three seasons to run track for his father. A sprinter, EJ sat out 2016-17 mending from an Achilles tendon injury.
6. A “freak of nature.’’ EJ Floreal “is really motivated to do track at the highest level,” Edrick Floreal says. “He’s basically a freak of nature, 45-inch vertical (jump). … I think, once he gets healthy, he is going to turn a lot of heads.”
5. Jake Ohmer. The Scott High School boys’ basketball star — a Western Kentucky University signee — ended his prep career with a flourish.
4. Kentucky-Indiana All-Star Game heroics. Ohmer, a 5-foot-10 guard, scored 30 points to help the Kentucky All-Stars to a 111-110 double-overtime victory over the Hoosiers All-Stars on Sunday. The win snapped a 17-game losing streak for Kentucky in the annual series.
3. Sweet Sixteen heroics. This came after Ohmer electrified the 2017 Sweet Sixteen with games of 41, 32 and 33 points while leading Scott on an unexpected run to the state semifinals.
2. UK football. When Mark Stoops and Kentucky open the 2017 season at Southern Mississippi on Sept. 2, the Cats can achieve more than earning revenge for last season’s 44-35 upset loss to USM.
1. A chance at history. Kentucky will take an all-time record of 599-612-44 to Hattiesburg. So the Cats could open 2017 with the 600th football victory in University of Kentucky history.