No. 12 Kentucky baseball’s miracle season comes to an end in Baton Rouge Super Regional


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

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

No. 12 Kentucky baseball’s miracle season came to an end in the Baton Rouge Super Regional against No. 6 LSU on Sunday.

Kentucky qualified for the Super Regional for the first time since 2017, the first season of head coach Nick Mingione, after surviving the Lexington Regional over Ball State, Indiana and West Virginia, last defeating the Hoosiers back-to-back to advance. 

Traveling to face fellow SEC school LSU, which won its regular season series against Kentucky 2-1, the Cats knew their hosting days were in the past due to being the lower seed.

Still, with hopes of making it to the College World Series in Omaha, Kentucky traveled to Baton Rouge undeterred.

Things would quickly get off to a rocky start when a controversial weather delay postponed the original afternoon start time all the way until 10 p.m. The decision led to outcry by many Kentucky fans, due to the clear skies in Baton Rouge.

Regardless of the delays, things finally kicked off late Saturday night and did not go well for the Wildcats.

Zack Lee earned the start on the mound for the Cats and ran into trouble early, surrendering a run in the bottom of the first inning.

While he rebounded in the second, two home runs in the third innings saw the Tigers jump ahead 4-0. Lee would give up one more home run in the fourth inning to put Kentucky in a 5-0 hole before his day came to an end.

Kentucky Wildcats pitcher Jackson Nove (43) pitches the ball during the No. 18 Kentucky vs. No. 25 Missouri baseball game on Sunday, April 2, 2023, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 3-1. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff (Travis_Fannon)

Unfortunately for the “Bat Cats”, Lee’s retirement perhaps only worsened the situation as his reliever, redshirt freshman Christian Howe, also inherited his base runners.

By the time the dust had settled LSU had scored six runs in the fifth inning, boasting an 11-0 lead before finishing even two-thirds of the game.

Howe would eventually be relieved by junior Seth Logue, but a run in the sixth and two more in the seventh added up to 14 LSU runs in game one.

Kentucky, facing LSU ace Paul Skenes, was shut out, resulting in a 14-0 final which put Kentucky one loss away from elimination.

The Cats entered game two determined not to repeat the mistakes of game one and got off to a solid start when Jackson Gray hit a solo home run in the bottom of the first to give UK its first lead of the series.

The lead would not last however as the Tigers tied the game in the top of the second before scoring four more in the top of the third for a 5-1 lead.

Kentucky managed to get two runs back in the third and fourth innings and four straight scoreless innings saw both teams enter the ninth inning in a 5-3 battle.

With the Tigers up to bat first the goal for Kentucky was simple: keep LSU scoreless to give itself the best chance of a comeback. Unfortunately for Mingione, this goal was unsuccessful.

The trio of Magdiel Cotto, Seth Chavez and Evan Byers conceded three LSU runs to put Kentucky in an 8-3 hole with just three outs remaining.

Perhaps demoralized by the top half of the inning, the Cats went down in order. LSU earned the series sweep to advance to Omaha and the College World Series while Kentucky returned home, the miracle season having come to an end.

With the 2023 season in the books, Kentucky will begin to look ahead to the 2024 season and attempt to build on the successes of the year.