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ANALYSIS: Three takeaways from Kentucky’s sweeping weekend

Jack Weaver
Kentucky Wildcats head coach Nick Mingione talks to reporters after the No. 18 Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky baseball game on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, at Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Kentucky won 10-8. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

No. 17 Kentucky baseball swept No. 13 Alabama this past weekend, extending its record to 27-4 and its conference record to 11-1.

With a lot working for the Cats, three major things stuck out from the series:

Hot starts

Kentucky Wildcats second baseman Emilien Pitre throws to first base during the Kentucky vs. Eastern Kentucky baseball game on Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2024, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 10-0. Photo by Isaiah Pinto | Staff (Isaiah Pinto )

The Cats started each of their three games this weekend with a lead and started each game with at least one run in the first two innings.  

“That’s huge,” pitcher Dominic Niman said. “It gives you the ability to just attack the zone, have them get themselves out and our guys make plays.”

In game one, Nick Lopez hit a single in the second inning to put the Cats on top. 

In game two, Devin Burkes hit a sacrifice fly out that brought in Ryan Waldschmidt to take the lead in the first inning.

In game three, Nolan McCarthy doubled to left centerfield, bringing in Ryan Nicholson in the bottom of the second. The Cats scored two more runs that inning after a James McCoy ground out and a single by Émilien Pitre.

In a gauntlet of an SEC, attacking quickly and establishing a lead will be pivotal going forward.

Bullpen rest

Something that went under the radar after the Cats’ excellent pitching this weekend was how few arms they used to do it.

Only five different pitchers took the mound for Kentucky over the course of the weekend. 

“When you get that many good starts it’s hard to get some of the other guys in there you know,” Kentucky head coach Nick Mingione said. “But we have good arms down there waiting and then we gotta find opportunities to get them in the game.” 

With only five arms used during the entire weekend, the pitching staff should remain fresh for the team’s upcoming road trip.

Waldschmidt thrives

Kentucky outfielder Ryan Waldschmidt celebrates at second during the Kentucky vs Lipscomb baseball game on Friday, Mar. 1, 2024, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky, Kentucky won 7-4. Photo by Sydney Yonker | Staff (Sydney Yonker)

Waldschmidt struggled in the first game of the series, going 0-5 with two strikeouts, but he didn’t let that phase him for the rest of the series.

“We talk about how the wins expire at midnight so whatever you did that day also expires at midnight.” Waldschmidt said.

In game two, he exploded, going 2-4 with two RBIs and a home run that helped catapult the Cats to victory.

Waldschmidt built on his game two performance by going 2-3 with an RBI and two walks in the series finale.

“You think about Waldy, I love the way he started the game,” said Mingione.

Waldschmidt’s offensive explosion was a key factor in the Cats’ wins on Saturday and Sunday and he can be expected to continue to be a major player for the Bat Cats.

Kentucky will travel to Auburn, Alabama, for its next series where it will take on the Auburn Tigers. Game one will take place on Thursday, April 11, with first pitch scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.

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