Kentucky Baseball Going to Jackson(ville) for Opener

Kentucky Baseball Going to Jackson(ville) for Opener

by Tim Letcher

Kentucky baseball head coach Nick Mingione knows what it takes to win games in the Southeastern Conference – pitching and defense.

The Cats were improved on the defensive side of things last season, recording the highest fielding percentage in school history.

The pitching was not quite to that level.

But with a new season comes a new expectation for the UK pitchers. Mingione thinks that the innings pitched last season may translate to success in 2022.

“I’m excited about our pitching staff,” Mingione said. “This is the first time we’ve had pitching experience. The most we’ve had since 2018. I’m excited about that. We return every single SEC win on the mound. The experience will be there.”

Versatility will be something that the Cats can display this season. Mingione knows that this staff is made up of all kinds of pitchers.

“I love the fact that our pitching staff has different pieces,” Mingione said. “We have different arm angles, different arm slots, two-seam guys, four-seam guys, all these different types of pitches that I’m excited about.”

Right-hander Cole Stupp returns for the Cats. Stupp made 13 starts last season and was 4-5 with a 4.76 ERA. Mingione knows what he is going to get from Stupp nearly every time he takes the mound.

“He was our Friday night guy from a year ago,” Mingione said. “I call him mister consistency. He’s just the same guy but also the same player. He had eight quality starts last year, where he had at least six innings pitched and three or fewer runs. Just proud of him, the growth he’s made with his delivery, with his velocity, the leader he’s been.”

Kentucky has a number of players with SEC experience on this year’s team, something Mingione hopes wlll pay dividends this season.

“Sean Harney is back. He is the first guy in school history to have six saves and start six games,” Mingione said. “When we lost Mason Hazelwood last year to injury, we brought Sean out of the bullpen and used him as a starter. He’s super talented.”

“Daniel Harper is back. He’s got 74 career appearances, so he’ll lead that bullpen from an appearance standpoint,” Mingione said. “Mason Hazelwood is back from his injury, we expected to have him back for the beginning of the year. He’ll start out in the bullpen and we’ll just see where the season goes with him.’

“Zack Lee started all 14 weekends for us. So, he’s back on the mound, too. We have a ton of time invested in him,” Mingione said. “Alex Degen has 32 career appearances. He will throw out of the bullpen for us. He’s a two-time SEC Community Service Award winner.”

Mingione also hopes that last year’s freshman class can take a big step forward this year.

“Last year, we had four freshmen who threw 14 innings or more, which is a lot for our league,” Mingione said. “Seth Logue, Ryan Hagenow, Wyatt Hudepohl are all back and are improved.”

The Cats also went to the transfer portal and gained four pitchers who will be important to the team in 2022.

“We brought in left-handed pitcher Tyler Bosma from Miami of Ohio, we brought in EKU’s Friday night guy, his name is Darren Williams,” Mingione said. “We brought in Mag Cotto from South Carolina, he’s a left-handed pitcher and we brought in Tyler Guilfoil from right here in town, he went to Lafayette and he was at Lipscomb. All four of those guys will have significant innings for us.”

The combination of talent and experience on the mound should bode well for this year’s Cats.

Friday, February 18 at Jacksonville State              
     4 p.m. ET; Jim Case Stadium (Jacksonville, Ala.)
     TV: ESPN+; Radio: UK Sports Network
Saturday, February 19 at Jacksonville State        
     4 p.m. ET; Jim Case Stadium (Jacksonville, Ala.)
     TV: ESPN+; Radio: UK Sports Network
Sunday, February 20 at Jacksonville State           
     2 p.m. ET; Jim Case Stadium (Jacksonville, Ala.)
     TV: ESPN+; Radio: UK Sports Network

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