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June 6, 2017
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Pitcher Sean Hjelle celebrates after the Regional Final against NC State on Tuesday, June 6, 2017 in the Lexington Regional at Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won the game 10-5, advancing to the first Super Regionals in school history.

It was a magical night befitting a magical season.  With a record crowd at The Cliff, the Cats finished off North Carolina State and advanced to the Super Regional for the first time in program history.   From the incredible Marlana VanHoose singing the national anthem, to Hjelle’s striking out the final 3 batters, to the perfect dog pile to Coach Mingione’s “Praise the Lord…and go Cats!”, the night was just as special as this team has been all year.   This game officially put Kentucky Baseball on the map.

With a record crowd of over 5,000 at The Cliff, the Big Blue Nation did their part in helping the Cats achieve their dream.  When UK fell behind early 2-0, the fans kept up their energy, seemingly getting louder with every pitch.  Despite a nearly two-and-a-half hour rain delay, the BBN remained and their dedication was rewarded.  Kentucky quickly erased the 2-run deficit and took the lead at 4-2.  But, as Mingione has reminded us all year, this isn’t supposed to be easy, and before long, NC State had not only tied the game, but took a 5-4 lead.

It would have been easy for the Cats to fold.  It would have been understandable if they had faltered, given the monumental task of having to win 3 games in 36 hours.  It would have been easy to do that, but that’s not how this team rolls.  They embody the spirit and passion of their coach.  They fought, they clawed, and they came back roaring, ending the night with a sweet 10-5 victory.

While I was unable to attend the game in person, watching it on television was just as exciting.  Twitter was alive and rocking.  At midnight.  On a Monday.  For a BASEBALL game.   There were so many great things about this game that it’s nearly impossible to adequately convey them all in written word, but here are some of the moments that stuck with me:

The Rally Cup Cap

Redshirt freshman pitcher Austin Keen’s unique rally cap crafted from NCAA cups and lots of tape is becoming a symbol for this team and the way Coach Mingione has taught them to be winners — one pitch at a time, one inning at a time, one game at a time, and now, one cup at a time.

 

 

Sweet Caroline

With the stadium blasting “Sweet Caroline” between batters, the umpire signaled for the music to be cut off when it ran a couple of seconds too long.  The crowd paused for a second and then, virtually in unison picked up the song where it had been cut off, singing loudly while the Wolfpack was at bat.  The “So good, so good, so good!” refrain got louder with each batter and ended up being the theme for the game.  Yes, it was indeed “So GOOD!”

UK Athletics Department IS A Family

Mitch Barnhart is arguably the most underrated AD in the country.   Besides elevating every athletic program at UK, he has cultivated an environment of family where coaches and athletes are consistently showing support for each other.   Vince Marrow, Eddie Gran, Lamar Thomas, and yes, even John Calipari all showed up at various times.  Perhaps the greatest moment however, was seeing Barnhart  with towels, drying off the seats at The Cliff after the rain stopped.  Oh, and let’s not forget he brought Coach Nick Mingione to Kentucky.

Even In A Jam, This Hjelle Don’t Shake

Kentucky’s ace, Sean Hjelle was brought in as the closer in this all-important game.  He faced 10 batters and allowed zero hits while striking out five, including all 3 batters in the 9th inning.  Enough said.

Mingione Is Our Future

We want Mingione to be at UK for a long time.  A very long time.  What he has accomplished this season is almost surreal.

And now I leave you with these images of Kentucky’s celebration along with the hope that these are but the first of many to come.

 

 

 

Follow me on Twitter @ForeverBigBlue

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Michele Brown
Michele Brown
Writer at CameronMillsRadio.com since Feb. 2015 Co-host of Big Blue Views podcast. Mom, Christian, sports junkie, golf addict and speed typist. I can cook your mama's food better than she can.

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