Sean Hjelle glad to be back at Cliff

Sean Hjelle (Chet White/UK Athletics)

By TIM LETCHER, UK Athletics

The Kentucky baseball team closed the 2017 regular season with a grueling, 10-day road trip that included a three-game series in Gainesville against Florida followed by the double-elimination SEC Tournament. By the end of the trip, the Wildcats were both mentally and physically worn out.
On Monday, the Wildcats got the news they both wanted, and expected to hear – that they won’t have to go back on the road for this week’s NCAA Tournament Regionals. For just the second time in school history, Kentucky will host a regional, meaning that the Wildcats will have familiar surroundings, both on and off the field. 
Kentucky, the top seed in the regional, will open play in the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Cliff Hagan Stadium at noon ET on Friday against the region’s fourth seed, the Ohio Bobcats, winners of the Mid-American Conference Tournament. 
After such a tough road trip over the past two weeks, the Wildcats are thankful to be staying in Lexington.
“There’s something always positive about sleeping in your own bed,” said senior closer Logan Salow. “Getting back into a routine that you’re more accustomed to. It’s going to be good for us.”
Sophomore Sean Hjelle, the SEC Pitcher of the Year, agrees with Salow.
“It was a fairly long 10 days for us,” Hjelle said. “It’s nice to be back here at the Cliff.”
Second-seeded Indiana, a team Kentucky beat 5-2 at the Cliff on May 9, will face third-seeded N.C. State of the Atlantic Coast Conference at 7 p.m. ET on Friday in the other half of the bracket. Winners of Friday’s games will meet at 7 p.m. on Saturday, with the losers of Friday’s game playing an elimination game at noon on Saturday. All of those time are subject to change.
Kentucky was in the discussion for a national seed, but the Wildcats came up short, despite an RPI of nine, six wins against the top 25, 20 wins against SEC opponents and 17 wins against the top 50. Mingione thought his team was deserving, but he also knows that nothing can be done to change his team’s position now.
For now, the Wildcats are focused on themselves and on taking care of business at home, where they are 27-5 this season. 
“It’s exciting,” Hjelle said of the prospects of what lies ahead for this team. “We’re looking to do things in this program that have never been done before. We’ve hosted a regional before, but we haven’t won one.”
Winning the regional would mark another step in the development of the Kentucky baseball program. Winning it at home would make it even more special.

Mingione happy to have regional back at UK

Vicky Graff Photo

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky did not get the national seed that coach Nick Mingione felt it deserved to have a chance to host a Super Regional, but the UK baseball coach still understands the significance of hosting a regional this weekend.

“I’m just so happy to have a regional back here,” he said. “I remember standing right in that coaching box in 2006 (as a UK assistant the last time UK hosted a regional), and I remember looking down that left field line and seeing all the people lined up and thinking, ‘Man, this is an awesome place.,'” Mingione said Monday.

Which team should UK football fear most in 2017?

Lamar Jackson (Vicky Graff Photo)

By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer

It’s less than 100 days until the UK Football players step onto the field at MM Roberts stadium in Hattiesburg, Mississippi to play the Southern Miss. Golden Eagles in the season opener for both teams. This upcoming season is one that many college football pundits are predicting to be a breakout year for Mark Stoop’s team. With that being said which team should UK fear the most on its upcoming 2017 schedule.

Should it be the aforementioned Golden Eagles of Southern Mississippi. The game will be played at MM Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg and UK historically struggles on opening day under Stoops.

Kentucky Faces Ohio University in NCAA Tournament Opener

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Top-seeded Kentucky will open the NCAA Tournament at home against No. 4 seed Ohio University on Friday afternoon as the first game of the Lexington Regional, it was announced on Monday. No. 2 seed Indiana and No. 3 seed North Carolina State will square off in the nightcap at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

First pitch for the Wildcats and Bobcats is noon ET and the game will be aired on ESPNU. Indiana and N.C. State will begin at 7 p.m. ET. Times for Saturday and Sunday are tentatively set for 2 and 7 p.m., but subject to change. Monday’s regional final, if necessary, is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Special salute today for my friend Matthew Bradford

Matthew Bradford at UK’s graduation ceremony.

By LARRY VAUGHT

With today being Memorial Day, I thought it was the perfect time to make sure you knew about my friend Matt Bradford.

About 10 years while serving in Iraq a road side bomb exploded underneath him and he lost both legs and his eyesight. But it didn’t claim his spirit or even slow him down.

The former Marine has been skydiving. He’s competed in Marine Corp half-marathons, shared a stage with Toby Keith, got married, become a father and just recently finished his degree at UK. And he also became the first blind double amputee to re-enlist in the service.

USA under 19 team coached by Calipari still scheduled to play in Egypt in July

John Calipari (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

The recent deadly bombing in Manchester, England, followed by the attack on a bus full of Coptic Christians in Egypt that killed 28 people on their way to a monastery to pray could have an impact on John Calipari’s summer.

The 2017 USA Basketball Men’s Under 19 World Cup Team is scheduled to play July 1-9 in Cairo, Egypt. That is the team that will be coached by Kentucky’s John Calipari and could have several Wildcats — Hamidou Diallo, P.J. Washington, Kevin Knox, Quade Green, Jarred Vanderbilt — on the team based on their past Team USA experience.

Kentucky Named NCAA Tournament Regional Host Site

Riley Mahan (Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky will stage its first baseball postseason games since 2006 this week after being selected one of 16 schools to host the NCAA Tournament Regional round, it was announced Sunday night. The games will take place Friday, June 2, to Monday, June 5, at Cliff Hagan Stadium.

It will be just the second time the program hosts the four-team regional bracket. The other three teams that will make their way to Lexington will be announced Monday at noon during the NCAA Baseball Championship Selection Show. The Wildcats also will find out whether they are one of the eight national seeds who would host a Super Regional should they advance past the regional round.

Kentucky’s fight even in loss to Oregon gives coach Rachel Lawson even more hope for the future

Rachel Lawson (Vicky Graff Photo)

By GUY RAMSEY, UK Athletics

 

EUGENE, Ore. – Kentucky’s young team has been a quick study all season, adjusting on the fly through a rigorous Southeastern Conference schedule.
The Wildcats did it again on Saturday, but their response to playing “tight and tense” on Friday wasn’t quite enough.
“I love that they came out fighting today,” head coach Rachel Lawson said. “I thought that was great. And that is something we’ve done all year. We went through our regional very easily. We did a great job in some series this year and when we faltered in the middle of the season we always came back and we came back better. I think that was a real sign of the future of the program.”
The present for UK softball, however, is pretty painful. Facing elimination, the Cats built a 5-2 lead on No. 3 Oregon, only to see it disappear when the Ducks plated four runs in the top of the seventh inning to send UK to a 6-5 season-ending defeat in heartbreaking fashion.
“As disappointed as we are in this game, I think overall this was a good season for us for a couple reasons,” Lawson said. “We replaced a lot of seniors that had four years of starting experience and for us to be able to come and go to a supers with such a young team shows that the program’s in a good place.”
Oregon’s four-run rally came against Meagan Prince, UK’s ace who came on in relief of Erin Rethlake in the fifth inning. It wasn’t the end to her career the senior drew up, but the Cats wouldn’t have made it to super regionals if not for her excellence in the circle and leadership outside of it.
“Her competitive drive that she has day in and day out, aside from games,” Rethlake said. “She is just an outstanding leader and I think that’s something that trickles down. You want to play well behind her and you want to do well for her because she’s doing the same for you.”
The veteran Prince is an exception on this UK roster featuring 14 freshmen and sophomores and only six underclassmen. Prince and fellow seniors Shannon Smith and Breanne Ray will depart after memorable careers, but they will leave behind a talented team.
“I think it’s a big step for us that we made it to supers, but obviously our goal was the World Series,” said shortstop Katie Reed who made a number of outstanding plays. “So it’s disappointing. But it just gives us something to work harder for next year.”
What Lawson wants the Cats to work for now is a national seed, which means the right to host super regionals. UK learned the value of that first-hand in playing in front of raucous Oregon crowds of about 2,500 on both Friday and Saturday.
“You don’t just want to be a top-16 national seed,” Lawson said. “I think the atmosphere, especially when they have such a great atmosphere like they have at Oregon, like we have at Kentucky with the Big Blue Nation, you want to be playing in front of your fans so when you are in a tight situation the fans can help push you over the edge.”
All offseason long, Lawson expects the Cats to have that on their minds.
“I believe this is going to be the team that changes the mindset of Kentucky softball forever,” Lawson said. “And I think that them coming out here and having this experience in Oregon against a Pac-12 team in such a great atmosphere is going to help them drive them over the summer and in the fall and help us do what we need to do to get all the way to the top.”

Oregon rally ends UK’s season

By OREGON ATHLETICS

EUGENE, Ore — As Mike White settled into his chair on the dais of the Yamanaka Room in Jane Sanders Stadium, the UO softball coach took a deep breath to collect himself.

“Slow the heart rate down just a little here,” White said. “Pretty pumped up after that.”

You and the rest of us, coach.

For the fourth time in White’s eight seasons as head coach, Oregon is headed to the Women’s College World Series. The Ducks advanced Saturday thanks to a thrilling comeback that had White and everyone else on the edge of their seats, rallying for four runs in the seventh to beat Kentucky, 6-5, and sweep the Eugene Super Regional.

Kentucky prep players Zion Harmon and David Johnson added to Under 16 National Team training camp roster

Scottie Barnes (Cardinal Newman H.S./West Palm Beach, Fla.); Jordan Noah Collier (Westtown H.S./West Chester, Pa.); Zion Harmon (Bowling Green H.S./Bowling Green, Ky.); Jason Harris (Desert Ridge H.S./Mesa, Ariz.); David Johnson (Trinity H.S./Louisville, Ky.); Nico Mannion (Pinnacle H.S./Phoenix, Ariz.); Joshua Nickelberry (Northwood Temple H.S./Eastover, N.C.) and Romeo Weems (New Haven H.S./New Haven, Mich.) today were added to the 2017 USA Men’s U16 National Team training camp roster. Three of the athletes – Mannion, Nickelberry and Weems – participated in the 2016 USA Junior National Team October minicamp, and this will mark the first USA Basketball experience for the remaining five.