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Kentucky baseball’s miracle season comes to an end in 15-4 loss against Florida

Kentucky+players+celebrate+a+home+run+during+the+Kentucky+vs+Western+Kentucky+baseball+game+on+Tuesday%2C+Feb.+27%2C+2024%2C+at+Kentucky+Proud+Park+in+Lexington%2C+Kentucky.+Kentucky+won+5-0.+Photo+by+Sydney+Yonker+%7C+Staff
Sydney Yonker
Kentucky players celebrate a home run during the Kentucky vs Western Kentucky baseball game on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 5-0. Photo by Sydney Yonker | Staff

Kentucky baseball (46-16) was eliminated from the Men’s College World Series after being blown out by Florida (35-29) by a score of 15-4.

“I knew how special they were,” Kentucky head coach Nick Mingione said. “Their uncommon focus every single day, their unselfishness, I really dreaded this day because I just wanna keep being around these guys.”

Kentucky Wildcats first baseman Nick Lopez hits the ball 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)

Despite the lopsided finish, the Wildcats jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first after Nick Lopez singled.

The lead was short lived, however, as Dominic Niman ran into immediate trouble in the first, giving up a single and hitting a batter. After getting a strikeout, Colby Shelton and Luke Heyman hit back-to-back singles, which scored three runs and gave the Gators a 3-1 lead.

After Niman walked Dale Thomas, Cameron O’Brien came on in relief and gave up a single to load the bases. Brody Donay then delivered the big blow in the inning as he launched a grand slam over the right field wall to break the game open.

The Gators added to their lead in the third when Cade Kurland singled to bring home two runs to extend the lead to 9-1.

“Once you fall that far behind, you have to stop the scoring,” Mingione said. “Give them credit, they kept adding to it.”

The Bat Cats were able to plate a run in the fourth on a Lopez single and two runs in the fifth on an Émilien Pitre two-run home run that cut the lead to five, but Wildcat pitching was unable to hold the Gators scoreless as Donay’s second home run and singles by Tyler Shelnut and Ashton Wilson — along with a double by Heyman — plated five more runs and extended the Gator lead to 14-4.

Jac Caglianone then added to the Florida lead by crushing a solo homer to right field, which broke the record for the most in UF baseball history.

“We knew our season would end here, winner or loser,” Ryan Hagenow said. “Obviously we would’ve liked to winners, but we knew our season would end here in Omaha.”

The Wildcats were held scoreless after the fifth, which sealed their fate in the elimination matchup.

“They are truly an amazing group of men and the way they have represented this program, the institution and the entire state of Kentucky is really remarkable,” Mingione said.

The loss ended the Wildcats’ historic season, forcing the program to transition into the offseason.

“I knew we could do it,” Mingoine said. “I’m thankful we got here and I wish we could’ve accomplished the ultimate goal of national champions, but they made history forever.”

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Jonathon Bruner, Assistant Sports Editor

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