Kentucky Baseball on a Roll Heading Into First Super Regional in Six Years

Kentucky Baseball on a Roll Heading Into First Super Regional in Six Years
Fact Checked by Nate Hamilton

The University of Kentucky is two wins away from its first trip to the College World Series, but before the Wildcats can go to Omaha, they must first head down to Baton Rouge.

UK earned its first berth in a Super Regional since 2017 thanks to a 4-2 home win Monday night over Indiana University in the regional final held at Kentucky Proud Park. It was the third win in 36 hours for the Wildcats, who had to go through the losers’ bracket after the Hoosiers defeated them 5-3 on Saturday.

Catcher Devin Burkes went 2-for-3 and scored the go-ahead run in the sixth on Hunter Gilliam’s double down the left field line.

“I think good things happen to good people, and we both got good swings off in a big-time moment,” said Gilliam, who drove in two runs and whose double came one out after Burkes led the sixth with a two-bagger.

Pulling off three straight wins could not have come at a better time for a team that had been struggling to string together wins. UK (40-19) had a winning streak of three games or more just once since April 9.

With Kentucky sports betting coming to the Bluegrass State later this year, there's no doubt the Wildcats will be a popular option for bettors.

Kentucky Wildcats Going Back to Baton Rouge

The late-season swoon likely kept the Wildcats from earning a higher seed. While UK still hosted a regional, they were the 12th seed and paired with fifth-seeded LSU, which also won its regional Monday after defeating Oregon State 13-7.

Kentucky-LSU is one of two all-SEC Super Regionals, with Florida hosting South Carolina  in the other.

In April, the Wildcats went to Baton Rouge for a three-game set. The Tigers (46-15) would win the series, but UK did take the middle game 13-10, with Nolan McCarthy and Chase Stanke combining for seven runs batted in.

The Wildcats will face a tough challenge once again. LSU leads the SEC in team batting (.314), slugging (.566) and runs scored (566). The Tigers also have hit 122 home runs, tied for fifth in Division I. Tommy White, a freshman sensation at North Carolina State last season, transferred to LSU this season, and the third baseman leads the team with 20 homers and 93 RBI.

UK coach Nick Mingione said he expects crowds of up to 13,000 for each game to give LSU a definite home-field advantage.

“They have great fans,” Mingione said about LSU after Monday’s win. “They’re great people, and it will definitely be a different environment now. It’s a really good one, but it will go up another level. But the fact that our guys have experienced that definitely helps.”

The best-of-three series will begin Saturday.

Is Kentucky Baseball Undervalued?

Sports betting is legal in Kentucky but won’t launch until later this year, but it is operational in nearly all the states surrounding it. Heading into this past weekend, DraftKings listed the Wildcats at +3000, or 30-1. FanDuel had the Cats as even longer shots at 50-1. Kentucky sportsbook apps will be on top of all the latest odds once they launch.

Having survived and advanced to the Supers, UK’s odds are now 31-1 at FanDuel and 12-1 at DraftKings.

While UK may be longshots on the oddsboard, the Wildcats have also been considered one of the top teams all season according to the RPI. They entered NCAA Tournament play second nationally behind Wake Forest and did so by playing the toughest schedule in the country.

So, the Wildcats cannot be overlooked.

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Steve Bittenbender

Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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