Nicholson Continues to Power UK Offense

Nicholson Continues to Power UK Offense

by Tim Letcher

As the games get more important for the Kentucky baseball team, first baseman Ryan Nicholson continues to get better. It happened again on Saturday as Nicholson and the Cats made history by winning an NCAA Baseball Super Regional game for the first time in school history.

As the Cats pounded the Beavers 10-0, Nicholson hit yet another towering home run, this one just under the scoreboard in right center field at Kentucky Proud Park. It was part of a seven-run seventh inning that put the game out of reach. For Nicholson, it was the third consecutive NCAA Tournament game in which he has homered and the fourth home run of the postseason for the left-handed slugger.

Nicholson hit his first postseason homer against Arkansas in the Southeastern Conference Tournament two weeks ago. Last weekend, in the Lexington Regional, Nicholson drilled long balls in UK’s wins over Illinois and in the regional clincher against Indiana State. He says that his focus right now is very simple.

“I think the focus really just goes to winning ballgames,” Nicholson said. “I think especially in postseason, everything is magnified, adding pitch to pitch.”

How is he able to keep that kind of focus?

“You really just separate everything and you really just hone in on that one single pitch and you slow your breathing down, and it’s a lot of self-talk,” Nicholson said. “But it’s all about just, okay — I mean, I’m not trying to hit a home run in that situation whenever it went off the wall. Like there’s a guy on third; with less than two (outs) I’m trying to get him in any way possible and get it done early. So that was really what I was trying to do there, and that’s where the ball went. I was just happy to get the run in really.”

Nicholson’s home run on Saturday night was his 21st of the season, moving him into solo fourth place on UK’s single season home run list. Nicholson is now just two home runs shy of tying the record of 23 homers in a season held by John Wilson (1999), Jeff Abbott (1994) and National Player of the Year AJ Reed (2014). He added two other hits, including a double that almost left the yard, and knocked in three runs.

UK head coach Nick Mingione knows how important Nicholson has been to the UK offensive attack, especially since Southeastern Conference play began.

“Ryan, I told you guys this; it’s one of the two major things that’s happened to our team and why we’ve done so good offensively, is because of what he’s been able to do,” Mingione said. “It started in that Georgia series and the guy has not looked back. He has gotten big hit after big hit after big hit, and he’s been super clutch.”

While the home run and the three hits and three RBIs were huge on Saturday night, Mingione also pointed out that Nicholson made a big defensive play as well.

“Ryan Nicholson is just — I don’t know if you guys — he impacted the game on the defensive end,” Mingione said. “I don’t know if you remember the hard hit ball to his right where he speared it.”

Nicholson’s play on both offense and defense continue to propel the Cats. Saturday night was just another example of just that.

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