Short Memories, Team-First Attitude Propel Cats on Saturday

Short Memories, Team-First Attitude Propel Cats on Saturday

by Tim Letcher

The Kentucky baseball team has a rule that, whether the team wins or loses, the result expires at midnight. After all, there is often a game the very next day.

That mantra worked well for the Cats on Saturday. After falling to second-ranked Arkansas 10-3 on Friday night, the Cats were not looking back, they were looking forward. It’s something that UK head coach Nick Mingione preaches to his team.

“Prior to today, we’ve been having a lot of the same pregame meetings, they’ve been very similar,” Mingione said. “We got to a spot where they knew what I was going to say and we were in a groove. We took longer today. We spent more time. We talked about them surrendering the results and not getting caught up in that. Just for us to redirect our mentality I thought was really good. Our dugout was phenomenal. Our dugout can will our team to make things happen. That’s our team.”

That attitude paid off for the Cats on Saturday. Arkansas put up two runs in the top of the second inning to lead, but Kentucky answered with three in the bottom of the frame and never looked back, winning 11-3 and forcing a rubber game for the Southeastern Conference lead on Sunday.

Kentucky had a 3-2 lead before scoring four times in the bottom of the fourth inning. In both the second and the fourth, it was second baseman Emilien Pitre doing big damage. Pitre knocked in a pair of runs with a double to the left field wall in the second, scoring James McCoy and Grant Smith to tie the game. Pitre would score the go-ahead run on a Devin Burkes double.

In the fourth inning, Pitre struck again. His double to right field again scored McCoy and Smith, giving UK a 5-2 advantage. Later in the same inning, Pitre would come home on a Nick Lopez single, extending the Cats’ lead to 7-2. Pitre said putting last night behind them helped the Cats in this game.

“It’s been huge. Everything expires at midnight, whether it’s a win or a loss,” Pitre said. “We praise on that and I think that’s how we’re so good.”

Lopez struck again in the bottom of the eighth inning, with a bases-clearing double to right field, giving Kentucky a 10-2 lead.

Meanwhile, after two subpar starts, UK starting pitcher Dominic Niman was back to his old self in this game. He held Arkansas in check and picked up his eighth win of the season. How did he put those previous outings behind him?

“Just really flushing it. Just telling myself that my stuff is good enough and it works,” Niman said. “I’ve just got to let the previous week go and move on to the next.”

Niman believes that having a short memory is really helping this team.

“It’s huge for us, win or loss, to move on from it the next day,” Niman said. “At 12 o’clock it expires and you’ve got to move on to the next game.”

Mingione was happy to see Niman and the Cats get back to normal.

“That’s our team. That’s us at our best,” Mingione said. “And it starts with the guy on the mound. I thought Dom was sensational. We were a team. The at-bats were there, the unselfishness, the tough at-bats with two strikes. That was Kentucky baseball.”

Mingione is fond of saying that the strength of his team is his team. The Cats showed that again on Saturday.

“We’re at our best when the focus is never on ourselves,” Mingione said. “It’s not about a player, it’s not about a coach, it’s not about anybody but the team.”

On Saturday, the Cats used their short memories and returned to playing as a team to beat the nation’s second-ranked team.

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