Relentless Offense Carries Kentucky To Deciding Game

Riley Mahan (Photo by Mat Gdowski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

LEXINGTON, Ky.—Facing elimination Sunday, Kentucky turned to its formula for success all season long: a relentless offense and a “desire to win that dominates.”

Kentucky defeated Indiana, 14-9, in an elimination game in the afternoon to advance to Sunday night’s regional final against North Carolina State. The Wildcats won again, defeating the Wolfpack, 8-6, to force a rematch Monday with a berth in super regionals on the line.

Throughout the season, coach Nick Mingione has implored the Wildcats to play with a “desire to win that dominates,” which Branch Rickey said is the most important quality in a player. With their backs against the wall Sunday, the Wildcats did just that.

“You guys just witnessed a group of 18-23-year-olds that had a desire to win that dominates and it was just oozing out of them,” Mingione said. “I’m really proud of them.”

Kentucky had the mindset it needed Sunday, as well as the offense. The Wildcats lead the Southeastern Conference with 7.3 runs per game this season. In the two victories, they piled up 22 runs on 32 hits and eight walks. Eleven of their hits went for extra bases, including home runs from Marcus Carson (two), Kole Cottam and Riley Mahan.

Mahan had five hits on the day, including going 4-for-6 with a grand slam against Indiana. Carson collected four hits, including two home runs and a double. Outfielders Tristan Pompey and Zach Reks both added five hits.

Mahan said Sunday’s victories typified Kentucky’s season.

“Our offense all year has been relentless,” the junior second baseman said. “I’m just so proud of these guys, the way they battled. They put really good at bats together, we grinded pitchers out and we did what we always go and we came out with two Ws today.”

While Kentucky’s offense has been a driving force behind its success this season, it had stalled down the stretch. Before Sunday, the Wildcats had scored more than six runs just once since the end of April.

During that stretch, Kentucky had been lacking big innings, which Mingione defines as three runs or more. Against the Hoosiers, the Wildcats finally put one together, scoring six runs in the sixth inning to break the game open.
Mingione said that inning broke the dam for the Wildcats.

“(Recruiting coordinator Roland Fanning) finally said, ‘We unlocked the biggie box,’ the big-hitting box,” Mingione said. “When we finally got the six-spot we unlocked the biggie box.”

Kentucky tapped the “biggie box” again in the sixth inning against North Carolina State, scoring four runs to again break the game open.

It was the kind of offensive day that was a long time coming for the Wildcats, who got contributions from every hitter in their lineup. It came when they needed it most, allowing them to extend their season and give them a chance Monday to win the first ever regional in program history.

“When somebody didn’t get something done, the next guy was there to pick him up,” Carson said. “I think that just kind of speaks about our team, how we’re all just brothers and we’re just all there for each other.”

Comments are closed.

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone