UK baseball faces Gamecocks in second round of SEC Tournament


Kentucky Wildcats head coach Nick Mingione encourages Luke Becker during his at bat in the top of the third inning of the game against the Louisville Cardinals at Jim Patterson Stadium on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 in Louisville, KY. Photo by Addison Coffey | Staff.

Charlee Schaefer

2017 SEC Baseball Coach of the Year Nick Mingione came into the season with a new coaching staff and a lot to prove. Finishing the regular season with the most wins since 2012, the second most SEC wins in school history and second most wins versus ranked teams by UK; Mingione certainly proved he was worthy of the job. 

After being defeated in the first round by Alabama in the 2016 SEC Tournament, the Cats have already surpassed what they accomplished last year, receiving a bye in the single-elimination first round, by coming in as the No. 3 seed. The Cats will play a minimum of two games this week in the double-elimination round. 

The first matchup for the Cats in the tournament will be against the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Gamecocks finished their season 13-17 in conference play and were defeated in the series against the Cats earlier in the year. 

The Cats will have a roster full of recent SEC award winners in the tournament, as on Monday, the 2017 SEC Baseball Awards were announced and along with Mingione’s prestigious award, the Cats had several other award winners.

Sean Hjelle, UK’s Friday night ace received the Pitcher of the Year award, with a 7-1 record and a 1.90 ERA in conference play. Zach Logue received the Scholar-Athlete of the Year award with a 3.96 GPA as a chemical engineering major. He is a two-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll and finished the season with a 5.03 ERA.

Hjelle, Tristan Pompey and Logan Salow were named to the First-Team All-SEC. Hjelle and Salow are the first UK pitchers since 2008 to get this recognition. 

Troy Squires, Evan White and Riley Mahan were named to the Second-Team All-SEC. White was also named to the SEC All-Defensive Team, the third time in his three years at UK that he has received this award. 

Mingione had a huge impact on his players this year and all of these awards and their success is a prime example of this. 

“You’ve got to earn their trust. They trust us and we trust them and that goes a long way. It’s more of a compliment to love someone than to trust someone. You have to trust someone to love someone. That’s a bigger compliment, if someone can say that they trust you,” Mingione said. “We trust and love these guys because they’ve done everything. They’ve got the student, person, player down. This group’s got it.” 

The Cats will face the South Carolina Gamecocks on Wednesday at approximately 2:30 p.m., and the Thursday matchup will be decided based on the outcome of the LSU versus Mizzou game on Wednesday.