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Mingione, Wildcats look ahead after failing to make NCAA tournament

Kentucky will move into a new $49 million baseball stadium next season after playing at Cliff Hagan Stadium for the past 50 years. (UK Athletics Photo)

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Kentucky baseball coach Nick Mingione thought his team did enough to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats weren’t part of a field of 64 teams that were invited to the Big Dance when bids were handed out Monday.

Kentucky had an RPI ranking of 30 and collected 16 victories over the several top teams in the country. Kentucky finished with a 34-22 record and lost four straight games, including five of its last six to end the season. The Wildcats were swept by Vanderbilt and lost to Auburn in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Mingione was “very disappointed” the Wildcats didn’t receive an invite. Overall, 10 SEC programs will be participating in the tourney.

“Obviously, I’m very disappointed,” Mingione said. ”I’m really proud of this team. We won 34 games this year, that’s a lot of wins. Our RPI was number 30 and in our league, that’s pretty good.”

Mingione shouldered some of the blame for his team’s slow finish that prevented the Wildcats from making their 10th overall appearance in the NCAAs. Kentucky advanced to the Super Regionals last season before losing to rival Louisville.

“I’m sad, I’m disappointed and really, more importantly, I’m hurting,” Mingione said. “These are some awesome guys that I don’t get to coach anymore and ultimately, it’s my fault, and that hurts. Man, I feel bad for those guys.”

Kentucky was ranked in the preseason Top 10, but injuries to pitchers Zack Thompson and Justin Lewis, as well as designated hitter T.J. Collett, proved to be too much for the Wildcats to overcome down the stretch.

“The committee, they have a tough job and I think they’ve done, in their eyes, the best they can possibly do,” Mingione said. “The committee is in good hands with (committee chair) Ray (Tanner). They don’t deserve any bad or negative feedback they are getting because their job is hard.”

Kentucky has much to look forward to next season as it moves into a new $49 million facility, ending a 50-year stint at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Mingione is looking forward to competing in the team’s new digs next year.

“It’s going to be really neat,” Mingione said. “It’s amazing how far (the stadium) has come. When you start thinking about the lockers are in the locker room right now, it’s an exciting time. With each passing day, it becomes more of a reality for me. It’s going to be unbelievable.”

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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