Kentucky Welcomes 'Well-Rounded' Oregon State This Weekend

Kentucky Welcomes 'Well-Rounded' Oregon State This Weekend

by Tim Letcher

Kentucky will host Oregon State in the NCAA Baseball Super Regional beginning on Saturday at Kentucky Proud Park.

Oregon State is no stranger to playing on the big stage. The Beavers have appeared in 23 NCAA Tournaments, been to nine Super Regionals and made seven College World Series appearances. OSU won the national title in 2006, 2007 and 2018 under former coach Pat Casey.

This season, the Beavers are 45-14, including a 19-10 mark in the final Pac-12 season. Like Kentucky, OSU won all three games in its regional, which was held in Corvallis. The Beavers beat Tulane once and UC Irvine twice to advance to Lexington this weekend. UK head coach Nick Mingione knows that Oregon State is an outstanding team.

“They are legitimately as well-rounded of a team as we will face,” Mingione said. “They’ve only lost 14 games all year. They pitch at a super high level. They have a unique guy on the back end who can throw sidearm. They defend the field well. They bunt, they steal, offensively, they can score in a bunch of different ways and they have a pitching staff that can really pitch.”

Kentucky will have its hands full with the Oregon State offensive attack. Second baseman Travis Bazzana is one of the top players in the nation and is expected to be among the first players selected in this year’s Major League Baseball Draft. A native of Australia, Bazzana is batting .415 with 28 home runs and 65 runs batted in. His batting average ranks fifth in the nation, while his home run total ranks sixth. Mingione knows how good Bazzana is and the UK staff continues to spend time working on how to get him out.

“We continue to watch video on him. He is a super talented player,” Mingione said. “Not only does he have the ability to hit and hit for power, but he can absolutely fly. So this is a little bit different than maybe some of the other guys where you walk them, there’s no threat of a stolen base. This guy is super, super talented on so many levels and his speed is one of the things that changes the game for him. We’ll have to be really careful and continue to watch video of what’s the best way to attack him.”

Micah McDowell is second on the OSU team, hitting .403 this season. The senior has 12 doubles and six home runs in 2024. Gavin Turley has 19 home runs for OSU and leads the team with 74 RBIs.

On the mound, the Beavers have a pair of aces. Right hander Aiden May is 7-0 this season with a 2.88 ERA. He has struck out 79 hitters in 68.2 innings. Fellow righty Jacob Kmatz is 7-2 with a 3.29 ERA on the season. Kmatz has struck out 88 batters in 82 innings. OSU’s third starter is Eric Segura, who has a 6-1 record with a 4.93 ERA. Bridger Holmes is the closer for OSU. He has 13 saves on the season with a 1.97 ERA.

Mingione sees a lot of similarities between the Cats and the Beavers.

“After watching them, there’s a lot of similar characteristics,” the UK head coach said. “They have the ability to steal bases, they have the ability to hit home runs, they hit for average. It is a team filled with guys up and down their lineup that know how to work and manage their way through at-bats, very similar to us.”

Kentucky and Oregon State have never met on the baseball diamond. The teams share two common opponents this season, Arkansas and Washington State. The Cats went 3-1 against Arkansas, while the Beavers lost to the Hogs in their only meeting this season. UK lost to Washington State, while Oregon State took two out of three from the Cougars.

The Cats and the Beavers start the best two-of-three series on Saturday night, with game two on Sunday. Should a game three be necessary, it would be on Monday.

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