Big Innings, Defense Carry Kentucky in Season-Opening Victory

Big Innings, Defense Carry Kentucky in Season-Opening Victory


SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Nick Lopez smacked a pair of doubles among a three-hit day and Grant Smith kickstarted an air-tight team defensive effort with another highlight-reel play to help spark Kentucky to an 11-7 season-opening victory over a spry USC Upstate squad on a crisp, overcast afternoon at Harley Park.

Lopez keyed an offensive attack that saw eight of nine starters record a hit and produced a pair of four-run innings to offset a pair of Spartans home runs. Devin Burkes provided the exclamation point with a towering two-run blast in the eighth after earlier dropping down a perfect bunt single on an unsuspecting defense.

Defensively, the Cats (1-0) received contributions from numerous parties but none more important than from its elite middle infield. Smith thwarted an Upstate rally attempt by diving to his left to snare a hard-hit grounder up the middle, flipped to Emilien Pitre at second, who barehanded the ball and threw a laser to first to complete the inning-ending double play.

James McCoy and Nolan McCarthy each got in on the defensive highlight tape as well. McCoy sprinted to the gap in right-center to catch a line drive, then doubled off the runner scrambling back to first. Later, McCarthy deftly played a deceiving wind while corralling a ball down the left field line.



  • UK Coach Nick Mingione is in his eighth season at the helm and now owns a 217-150 career record.
    • Mingione needs 41 victories to become the second-winningest coach in school history.
    • UK is 37-16 in the month of February under Coach Mingione.
    • Mingione is 5-3 in season openers.
    • Mingione is 134-40 in non-conference games overall and 116-16 vs. non-Power Five opponents.
    • Mingione now is 3-0 vs. USC Upstate.
  • Eight different Wildcats collected both a hit and an RBI.
  • Kentucky had five doubles and a home run.
  • Senior INF Nick Lopez sparkled in his Kentucky debut, going 3-for-5 with two runs, an RBI and two doubles.
  • R-Junior catcher Devin Burkes went 2-for-5 with two runs, two RBI and a home run.
    • Burkes laid down a bunt hit to spark UK’s second four-run inning and gave the Cats insurance with a two-run home run to CF in the eighth.
  • Freshman OF Griffin Cameron started in CF in his first collegiate game.
    • He is the first true freshman to start his collegiate debut since John Rhodes in 2021.
    • He legged out an infield hit in his first career at bat, then stole second base.
    • He finished 1-for-3 with two runs, an RBI, a walk and a steal.
  • The following Wildcats made their debut in blue: Griffin Cameron, Nick Lopez, Ryan Nicholson, Trey Pooser.



Kentucky resumes its series at USC Upstate on Saturday, February 17 at 2 p.m. ET. There is no live stream of the game but there remains live radio on the UK Sports Network.

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