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Kentucky baseball’s challenging week starts with Louisville

Louisville game start of big week for Kentucky baseball

Kentucky baseball coach Nick Mingione talks to media on Monday about Tuesday’s game with Louisville. SEC East opponent South Carolina visits Cliff Hagan Stadium this weekend.
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Kentucky baseball coach Nick Mingione talks to media on Monday about Tuesday’s game with Louisville. SEC East opponent South Carolina visits Cliff Hagan Stadium this weekend.

It was cross-state rival Louisville that kept Kentucky from the College World Series last season, the Cards sweeping the visiting Cats in the an NCAA Tournament super regional.

Tuesday, the two schools meet for the first time since then when Louisville travels to Cliff Hagan Stadium to take on No. 9 Kentucky in the first of two regular-season meetings.

With the weather forecast calling for rain later Tuesday night, first pitch has been moved from 7 p.m. to 4 p.m. It’s the start of an important week for Nick Mingione’s Kentucky team.

“Every week is big, right, especially in our league,” Mingione said Monday. “But this is an exciting week for us especially because we get to play Louisville (Tuesday) and then you think about this weekend we’ve got South Carolina. Four games at home, which is nice to get back home after being on the road.”

The Cats salvaged the final game of a three-game set at Alabama by beating the Crimson Tide 5-2 on Sunday. That followed back-to-back 4-2 losses on Friday and Saturday. Ranked No. 9 by D1Baseball.com, UK is now 19-9 overall and 3-6 in the SEC, at the bottom of the East Division standings.

Kentucky baseball head coach Nick Mingione talks about the importance of the Kentucky-Louisville baseball game.

Louisville fell out of the D1Baseball.com rankings after losing two of three at Florida State. The Cards are 19-8 overall and 5-7 in the ACC.

“They’re a good team and a good program as you all know,” Mingione said of the Cards. “It’s exciting because everyone who chose to come to Kentucky, one of the main reasons why is you want to play good competition. And when you sit there and look at our schedule, so far we’ve played three teams ranked in the top 10. We’ve had nine games against teams that have been ranked in the top 10. Louisville is a program that is traditionally there — obviously they’re not there right now, but it’s exciting for our guys.”

The teams split their regular-season home-and-home series last season. The Cards won 5-3 in Louisville on April 4. Two weeks later, the Cats won 11-7 in Lexington on April 18.

After losing star pitcher/slugger Brendan McKay, taken with the No. 4 overall pick by Tampa Bay in the MLB Draft last year, and third baseman Drew Ellis, taken No. 44 overall by Arizona, the Cards have some new faces this season.

“I think the biggest thing is Sam Bordner; he’s got eight saves,” Mingione said of Louisville’s closer. “You think about Louisville, they’ve played a lot of close games, a ton.”

Freshman Logan Wyatt tops Louisville in hitting at .351. Sophomore Drew Campbell is batting .346. The Cards have hit just 16 home runs this season, compared to 48 for Kentucky.

Luke Heyer, who leads UK with a .376 batting average, has 11 homers with 34 RBI. Kole Cottam, who is batting .358, has hit 12 homers with 29 RBI.

“It’s been a really big game for some time now,” Cottam said Monday of the rivalry with Louisville, saying that UK’s regular-season win over the Cards helped the Cats make their run last year. “It was right around when our team was kind of just coming together, at its peak. We were really playing well. It’s going to be fun.”

Has there been much talk among UK’s players about last year’s super regional loss to the Cardinals?

“That’s always in the back of the head,” Cottam said. “But it’s a new year, a new team, for both teams. (Last year) was something we learned from. We haven’t played them yet this year so it’ll be kind of feeling it out and sticking to our game goals and just saying within ourselves.”

SEC baseball standings

EAST

SEC

OVERALL

Florida

7-2

25-5

Georgia

7-2

21-7

Missouri

5-4

20-7

Vanderbilt

5-4

17-11

South Carolina

4-5

17-11

Tennessee

4-5

17-12

Kentucky

3-6

19-9

WEST

SEC

OVERALL

Ole Miss

6-3

25-4

Arkansas

5-4

19-9

LSU

5-4

18-11

Auburn

4-5

22-7

Texas A&M

3-6

21-8

Alabama

3-6

18-11

Mississippi State

2-7

14-15

Kentucky baseball 2018

Date

Opponent

UK

Opp

Dec

W

L

CW

CL

2/16

@Wofford

6

1

W

1

0

2/17

@SC Upstate-1

6

5

W

2

0

2/17

@SC Upstate-2

10

3

W

3

0

2/18

vs. Evansville

8

4

W

4

0

2/21

Xavier

2

3

L

4

1

2/23

Oakland

10

1

W

5

1

2/24

Oakland

17

6

W

6

1

2/25

Oakland

15

6

W

7

1

2/27

Western Kentucky

4

3

W

8

1

3/2

vs. Houston

14

2

W

9

1

3/3

vs. Sam Houston

7

2

W

10

1

3/4

vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

10

4

W

11

1

3/6

Eastern Kentucky

16

5

W

12

1

3/7

Northern Kentucky

6

8

L

12

2

3/9

Texas Tech

10

7

W

13

2

3/10

Texas Tech

11

6

W

14

2

3/11

Texas Tech

3

5

L

14

3

3/16

@Arkansas

4

9

L

14

4

0

1

3/17

@Arkansas

2

14

L

14

5

0

2

3/18

@Arkansas

9

16

L

14

6

0

3

3/20

@Xavier

20

4

W

15

6

3/23

Auburn

5

4

W

16

6

1

3

3/25

Auburn-1

3

5

L

16

7

1

4

3/25

Auburn-2

13

3

W

17

7

2

4

3/27

Miami (Ohio)

13

7

W

18

7

3/30

@Alabama

2

4

L

18

8

2

5

3/31

@Alabama

2

4

L

18

9

2

6

4/1

@Alabama

5

2

W

19

9

3

6

4/3

Louisville

4/6

South Carolina

4/7

South Carolina

4/8

South Carolina

4/11

@Western Carolina

4/13

@Georgia

4/14

@Georgia

4/15

@Georgia

4/17

@Louisville

4/19

Florida

4/20

Florida

4/21

Florida

4/25

Morehead

4/27

Missouri

4/28

Missouri

4/29

Missouri

5/4

@Tennessee

5/5

@Tennessee

5/6

@Tennessee

5/8

@Indiana

5/11

Miss State

5/12

Miss State

5/13

Miss State

5/15

@Murray State

5/17

@Vanderbilt

5/18

@Vanderbilt

5/19

@Vanderbilt

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