LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky baseball team earned its first SEC series victory of the season at Ole Miss on Sunday. The Wildcats topped the 10th-ranked Rebels 4-1 and 4-2, claiming both ends of a doubleheader, earning UK’s first series win in Oxford since 2013 and first over a Top 10 opponent on the road since 2015.
The Wildcats’ reward after winning a pair of games on Sunday was a long bus ride home, with the team arriving at Kentucky Proud Park after 4 a.m. ET on Monday morning.
As the Wildcats prepare for four home games against rival opponents this week, head coach Nick Mingione knows what his team’s top priority must be.
“First thing we do is, we’ve got to get them some rest,” Mingione said. “They’ve got to get to bed early. It’s a big week, obviously. The biggest thing we’ve got to do is get them rest.”
Kentucky opens its week of rivalry contests by facing intrastate rival Louisville on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network Plus). Later this week, Tennessee comes to Lexington for a Thursday-Friday-Saturday series, also at KPP.
This game will be the second meeting of the season between the Cats and the Cards, with Louisville winning 8-3 at Jim Patterson Stadium on April 2.
Tuesday night’s game will be Stripe the Stadium night, with fans sitting in particular sections receiving t-shirts (limited quantities available) in order to stripe the stadium in blue and white.
After taking two of three games at Ole Miss, Mingione hopes that his team can carry momentum, and confidence, into this week’s games against Louisville and Tennessee.
“Obviously, they should be confident, they should be feeling good about themselves,” Mingione said. “To get our first (SEC) series win, much less against a Top 10 opponent on the road was big for our team.”
Mingione has stressed to his team that they can’t control everything, an approach that the team seems to be embracing.
“I talked to our team this weekend about controlling the controllables and not worrying about the uncontrollable,” Mingione said. “And we went through a list of the uncontrollables, like the weather, the crowd, the field conditions. You can’t control those. Let’s control the things we can control like our effort, our toughness, our attitude, the thoughts going through our heads, let’s control that. Our biggest focus right now is our team and not our opponent because we can’t control our opponent.”
Even when that opponent is Louisville, which is ranked No. 7 by Baseball America, and enters Tuesday’s game with a 28-8 record. The Cats hope to get a win on Tuesday to not only make it three straight wins against Top 10 teams, but also to earn a split of the season series with the Cardinals for the third consecutive year.
Mingione knows that it’s time for the Wildcats to embrace the message that the coaching staff has instilled in them.
“It’s time for them to take over. They’ve been trained. There’s not many new things we’re going to drop on them at this point. They have been trained and now it’s time for them to trust that, and to believe in each other.”
If last weekend’s results were any indication, the Cats are embracing the coaching staff’s message. And that could mean bigger things on the horizon for this ever-improving team.
COLLETT NAMED SEC PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Kentucky’s T.J. Collett is the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week after he hit game-winning home runs in both ends of a doubleheader sweep of No. 10 Ole Miss in Oxford over the weekend, the league announced on Monday.
The junior first baseman/designated hitter helped power the Wildcats to their first road series win against a Top 10 opponent since 2015 with a pair of blasts on Sunday at Swayze Field. It was the first series win for UK in Oxford since 2013 and a year to the day of the club’s last road series win against a ranked opponent, which came at Georgia.
Tuesday, April 16 vs. #7 Louisville
When: 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Kentucky Proud Park; Lexington, Ky.
Radio: UK Sports Network; 630 AM Lexington (Darren Headrick); UKathletics.com
TV/Online: SEC Network Plus
Promotions: Stripe the Stadium (fans will receive t-shirts, limited quantity, early arrival recommended.)