Mingione knows task won’t be easy for Cats in Super Regional

Published 3:30 pm Friday, June 7, 2024

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Kentucky baseball coach Nick Mingione knows the task won’t be any easier for the Wildcats as they delve deeper into the postseason.

Coming off a three-game sweep to win the NCAA Lexington Regional last weekend, the Wildcats (43-14) will take on Oregon State starting Saturday at Kentucky Proud Park in a best-of-three series for a spot in the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Beavers (45-14) won NCAA national championships in 2006-07 and again in 2018, while Kentucky is seeking its first-ever appearance on the big stage.

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“They are legitimately as well-rounded of a team as we will face,” Mingione said. “They’ve only lost 14 games all year. They pitch at a super high level. They have a unique guy on the back end who can throw sidearm. They defend the field well. They bunt, they steal, offensively, they can score in a bunch of different ways and they have a pitching staff that can really pitch.”

Oregon State’s offense is led by Travis Bazzana, a second baseman who is expected to be of the top players chosen in the Major League Baseball Draft. He’s currently batting .415 and has connected on 28 home runs, with 65 RBI. He’s one of the top players in the nation.

“We continue to watch video on him (and) he is a super talented player,” Mingione said. “Not only does he have the ability to hit and hit for power, but he can absolutely fly. So this is a little bit different than maybe some of the other guys where you walk them, there’s no threat of a stolen base.

“This guy is super, super talented on so many levels and his speed is one of the things that changes the game for him. We’ll have to be really careful and continue to watch video of what’s the best way to attack him.”

On the mound, Oregon State is paced by right hander Aiden May (7-0, 2.88 earned run average). Starting pitchers Jacob Kmatz (7-2, 3.29 ERA), Eric Segura (6-1, 4.93 ERA) and closer Bridger Holmes (13 saves, 1.97 ERA) anchor Oregon State’s pitching staff.

Overall, Mingione said the Beavers will match up well with the Wildcats.

“After watching them, there’s a lot of similar characteristics,” Mingione said. “They have the ability to steal bases, they have the ability to hit home runs, they hit for average. It is a team filled with guys up and down their lineup that know how to work and manage their way through at-bats, very similar to us.”

Kentucky and Oregon State have never meet on the diamond. The series begins at 6 p.m. Saturday and the second game of the best-of-three showdown begins at 9 p.m. Sunday. Both games will be shown on ESPNU. If necessary, a third and decisive game will be played Monday at a time to be determined.