Unlikely Sources Power Kentucky Offense on Friday

Unlikely Sources Power Kentucky Offense on Friday

by Tim Letcher

On Friday, second-seeded Kentucky won its NCAA Baseball Tournament opener by beating Western Michigan 10-8 at Kentucky Proud Park. As usual, the UK offense was dynamic, scoring runs in a variety of ways, which was no surprise. However, the source of some of the offense may have come as a bit of a surprise.

With Kentucky already leading 1-0 in the second inning, outfielder James McCoy hit a line drive, two-run home run to right field, giving the Cats a 3-0 advantage.

In the third inning, McCoy struck again with an RBI double to left field, knocking in Mitchell Daly to make it 6-0 Cats. McCoy, who came into Friday’s game batting just .213, would finish the game with two hits, two runs scored and three knocked in.

Daly, meanwhile, was also a key part of the Cats’ win over the Broncos. He entered Friday’s game batting .294, but the senior reached on an error while knocking in a run in the third inning. One frame later, Daly doubled to center field, scoring Devin Burkes to give UK a 7-0 lead.

While the contributions from these two players may have come as a surprise to some, UK head coach Nick Mingione was not among that contingent.

“I thought the production up and down our lineup was crucial,” Mingione said. “If you look at what our seven, eight and nine guys (in the batting order) did, they scored five of our 10 runs. Any time you have that kind of production up and down the lineup, it obviously makes us hard to beat.”

McCoy had been slumping as of late but he broke out in a big way on Friday. He attributes a lot of trial and error with his head coach for the adjustment.

“It was about three hours (in the cage) with Coach Minge,” McCoy said. “Just working on a bunch of feels, doing a bunch of crazy stuff. Baseball is all about adjustments and having a feel with your swing and figuring out those adjustments and what’s working.”

Mingione appreciated how much work McCoy put into getting his swing right for the postseason.

“James, we tried like 30 different things with him,” Mingione said. “Thirty different things to get him these different feels. We would put a ball over here and you’ve got to hit the ball over there, try your hands right here, put your elbows together, spread your feet out, get your hip in there a little more and it’s like back and forth. It was a marathon. But to his credit, he just wanted to be coached. I appreciate that about our team, they’re always trying to get better, all of them.”

On his home run, McCoy had seen a similar pitch just before and knew what to expect.

“I saw a slider the pitch before and he came back to it,” McCoy said. “So, I felt good swinging at it. When I first hit it, I thought it was going to hook foul. It was cool to see it go over.”

Kentucky’s offensive output on Friday was not a surprise. However, the sources of that output may have been surprising to many.

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