Mingione Wants his Players to Have More Memorable Experiences


Kentucky coach Nick Mingiione and his players watching the NCAA Tournament selection show. (UK Athletics Photo)

Kentucky has never been a top-eight seed in the NCAA Tournament but Monday the Cats got the No. 2 seed when the NCAA tourney pairings were revealed.

Kentucky found out Sunday night it would be hosting a regional for the second straight season and Monday learned it would face Western Michigan in Friday’s opener at noon. The other two teams in the regional are Illinois and Indiana State.

Kentucky won the regional last year before falling to LSU in the Super Regional. This is the first time in school history UK has reached the postseason tournament in back-to-back seasons.

The Wildcats have never reached the College World Series and UK’s only other Super Regional berth came in 2017 when it lost at Louisville. However, if UK survives the regional, it will get to host a Super Regional for the first time.

“It hasn’t been easy,” Kentucky coach Nick Mingione said Monday. “I think we’ve all gotten better – coaches, staff, players, we’ve all learned. It’s just a lot of time and effort and intentional effort has gone into it.”

Kentucky shared the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship with Tennessee this season and  was one of five SEC teams to get a national seed.

Western Michigan won the Mid-American Conference Tournament. Illinois was the Big 10 regular season champion and Indiana State was the Missouri Valley Conference regular season champion.

Kentucky is one of only five teams to host NCAA regionals in both 2023 and 2024 (Arkansas, Clemson, Oklahoma State and Virginia are the others).

This is only the fourth time UK has hosted an NCAA regional (2006, 2017, 2023 and 2024) and three have been under Mingione. The Cats also won 40 games for the second straight season, a first in program history.

“We have assembled so many amazing people in the program,” Mingione said. “And when people come to this facility and they have recruiting visits and they walk around and see this place and the things and the people. I remind them not to miss the best part about it – the people who are in it. It is truly a special place.”

Mingione lets his team have fun and savor experiences like the one this weekend and the ones hopefully left to come this season.

“(Mingione’s wife) Christen and I have always said that about Reeves (Mingione’s son). We don’t want to give him things, we want to give him experiences,” Mingione said. “That’s what he will remember for the rest of his life. He will remember experiences. He’ll remember sitting down in that room at that selection show and looking up and seeing Kentucky as the number two seed. He’ll remember that.

“Our players will remember winning that (Southeastern Conference) championship on that Friday night here at Kentucky Proud Park/ They’ll remember that. They’ll remember seeing their names pop up as the number two national seed. They’ll remember this postseason. We’re in the business of making an impact on people’s lives and when you hear them say it, it means a lot.”

One Response

  1. Very happy for the Bat Cats and Mingione. After a hot start in year one, he struggled to repeat that success the next four years. Of course many were clamoring for his demise. Now he the Cats on the verge of their first CWS appearance. Go Cats! Congrats Mingione!

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