'Small Ball' Cats Belt Three Homers in First-Ever CWS Win

'Small Ball' Cats Belt Three Homers in First-Ever CWS Win

by Tim Letcher

All season long, many people in the college baseball world have called the Kentucky offense a “small ball” attack. In other words, people thought that the only way the Cats could score was by using bunts, stolen bases and plays in that realm. In the mind of those people, Kentucky had to manufacture runs instead of being able to hit the long ball.

Kentucky head coach Nick Mingione knows that the perception is not the reality, and the Cats proved that on Saturday, hitting three home runs to beat N.C. State 5-4 in the College World Series. Mingione has his own description of the UK offense.

“That’s why I started just calling our offense a whatever-it-takes type offense because our guys are so talented,” Mingione said. “When we get production up and down our lineup, that’s us at our best, and we can do it in all different ways. And you know what? There’s a lot of coaching that goes into that. But for the players to be able to execute all those different things, we have to be very intentional.”

Mingione knows that being able to do lots of different things on offense takes a lot of effort and a lot of hard work.

“It’s definitely not easy, but boy can they execute at a high level,” Mingione said. “And I just want to make sure that everybody knows it’s not all about bunting. The whatever-it-takes type of offense, please, because bunting is a small piece to it, but to your point, we can hit homers too.”

Indeed they can. The first long ball came in the bottom of the fourth inning when Nolan McCarthy hit a two-run shot, giving UK a 3-1 lead.

After N.C. State rallied to take a 4-3 lead in the top of the ninth, UK first baseman Ryan Nicholson hammered a pitch to left field for a game-tying home run. Then in the bottom of the 10th inning, with two outs, Kentucky third baseman Mitchell Daly hit his seventh home run of the season, a walk-off shot that gave the Cats their first-ever College World Series victory.

Nicholson knows that he and Daly stepped up huge today, but he believes in the entire UK lineup.

“I think it just happened to be us today,” Nicholson said. “Our lineup, it’s so deep. You get so much production from everyone up and down the lineup. (Ryan Waldschmidt) probably would tell you that he didn’t have his best day; just wait until he gets hot. It just happened to be just the string of guys today and it could be somebody different tomorrow. Like, I or (Daly) could not have it the next day but somebody else will pick up the slack. That’s what this lineup and ballclub do really well. And everyone has the utmost confidence in the guy behind him and the guy in front of him. And I think that bodes well for us.”

As for the man of the hour, Daly described his final at-bat in simplistic terms.

“I was just trying to back the ball up,” Daly said. “I was just trying to see the slider up. And (assistant coach Austin Cousino) said he leaves it up sometimes. I saw it up, and I just went for it.”

In winning their first-ever CWS game on Saturday, Kentucky continued to prove that it’s much more than just a “small-ball” offense.

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