Mingione: Cats finished season winners on and off field

Published 5:30 pm Monday, June 24, 2024

Kentucky fell short in its quest to win a national championship, but two losses in three games in the College World Series didn’t take away from the team’s memorable season.

“I’m so proud of these guys for the way they represented themselves, our baseball program and our institution,” Kentucky baseball coach Mick Mingione said. “(It was) just an amazing, amazing group of men. And they are winners in every sense of the word, every sense of the word. I like to call them dogs. That’s what they are, a bunch of dogs. Proud of them.”

Kentucky finished the season with a school-record 46 victories and swept the Lexington Regional and Super Region to reach the College World Series for the first time in school history.

Email newsletter signup

The Wildcats, the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, won their first six games of the tournament, including a 5-4 win in their CWS debut, before bowing out with losses to Southeastern Conference foes Texas A&M and Florida, respectively. The Wildcats also captured a share of the SEC title during the regular season.

The impressive finish was no surprise to anyone in the program, including pitcher Ryan Hagenow.

“We knew our season was going to end here, winner or loser,” he said. “Obviously we would have liked to have been winners. But we knew our season would end here in Omaha. I think just that belief that the whole team had in each other and the staff, whenever they made a call, just complete trust in every single person in our locker room. It’s been pretty awesome.”

Teammate Nolan McCarthy said the Wildcats were a complete team from top to bottom.

“Everyone was committed to our goal,” he said. “And we’ve had this goal of going to Omaha, winning a national championship. We fell a little short. … Everyone emptied their tank. That’s what was special about this team. Everyone cared so much and they would empty the tank no matter if they were playing every day, hitting .350 or if they weren’t even on the roster, doing what they could do to make us better. Everyone bought in, unselfish. That’s what made the team special.”

Mingione sensed a change after the Wildcats dropped two of three games against Kennesaw State in early March. That’s when the turnaround began, Mingione said.

“I thought after that series our team just really fell into place.” he said. “They really created their identity. And we were behind that Tuesday mid-week game right after that (a 10-6 win over Murray State), and they just fought back. And really we haven’t looked back since.”

Mingione said the team’s success followed the team off the field.

“We talk about winning, but not just on the field, in every area of their life I want them to be winners,” Mingione said. “The way they go about their business, the way they treat their teammates, the way they go about their diet, the way they approach the weight room, the way they treat women, all of this has to do with winning. They’ve been unbelievable.”

Hagenow said the team’s successful run this season is just the beginning of things to come in the future.

“There’s no reason that this program can’t stay at the top and be among this group every single year,” he said. “With the staff that we have, all around, not just coaching staff, training staff, our equipment manager – I’m close with everybody – and with the stadium and the fan base we have and Coach Ming leading the way, there’s no reason this team shouldn’t continue to have success.”