McCarthy Hustle Play Appropriate as Cats Clinch Omaha Bid

McCarthy Hustle Play Appropriate as Cats Clinch Omaha Bid

by Tim Letcher

All season long, the Kentucky baseball team has proven time and again that it will do whatever it takes to win. Making gritty, hustle plays has been a calling card for this team all season.

Not coincidentally, the play that was the deciding factor in Kentucky’s 3-2 win over Oregon State on Sunday night was exactly that type of play.

The game was tied 2-2 in the top of the seventh inning when UK center fielder Nolan McCarthy doubled to left field to lead off the inning. One out later, Kentucky shortstop Grant Smith was at the plate when the play of the game happened. Smith swung and missed at a third strike, but the pitch got away from Oregon State catcher Wilson Weber, allowing Smith to take first base.

As that was developing, McCarthy headed to third base. As he reached the bag, he saw Weber still near the netting retrieving the ball, and he noticed that OSU pitcher Nelson Keljo was not covering the plate. So, McCarthy hit the third base bag and kept running toward the plate. Weber retrieved the ball but Keljo was not covering, allowing McCarthy to score with a head-first dive.

After the game, McCarthy described what he saw on the play.

“Yeah, I was on second, Coach Minge was telling me to be balanced on my skips. Don’t want to give that pitcher anything like that. It’s a big run,” McCarthy said. “I saw it squeak by. I was running to third. I immediately saw their pitcher wasn’t covering. I think I ran through a stop sign, but it ended up working out. No one was covering home, so might as well take what they’re going to give you.”

His finish was something he told a teammate he would do before Sunday’s game.

“I told Robert (Hogan) I was going to Pete Rose dive today,” McCarthy said. “And it ended up happening.”

UK head coach Nick Mingione was not surprised by McCarthy making the aggressive play.

“Nolan is, like, super aggressive, and the guys call him crazy. And Nolan is the guy that wants to make the special play,” Mingione said. “I was telling him to stop verbally, okay, not physically. But the game was in front of him, and I’m happy he went because he saw something. And we allow our players to make decisions on their own. This was different than like a base hit or something. The play was actually in front of him. When there’s a play in the outfield the play is behind him. But this was a play in front of him.”

For Mingione, seeing McCarthy attack the play was the perfect way for the Cats to clinch their first trip to the College World Series.

“The fact that he was and felt comfortable enough in his own skin to do that, I’m good with that,” Mingione said. “I’m good with that. When we attack, that is us at our best.”

The fact that Kentucky scored a run from second base on a wild pitch sums up the aggressiveness that UK has played with all season. It was the perfect play to carry the Cats to Omaha for the first time.

Related Stories

View all