Once Again Ryan Nicholson had a Big Impact on a big UK Win


Vicky Graff Photo

Kentucky coach Nick Mingione could not say enough about first baseman Ryan Nicholson after Saturday night’s 10-0 win over Oregon State in the NCAA Tournament super regional.

“He impacted the game on the defensive end. I don’t know if you remember the hard hit ball to his right where he speared it,” Mingione said. “Ryan, talk about a slow heart rate; that dude has a slow heart rate.”

Mingione said Nicholson does not show a lot of emotion.

“You’ve just got to earn it from him. If you earn it, he’ll give it to you,” the UK coach said. “But 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. 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.”

He went 3-for-5 with a run, three RBI, a double and home run Saturday night. It was his 21st homer of the season,  the most in a single season in the Mingione era and third-most in a single season in Kentucky history. It was his 15th multi-hit game and 16th multi-RBI game of the season.

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

Lopez hit a two-run homer in UK’s seven-run seventh inning that broke the game open. Lopez said nothing was going through his mind at the time other “than this is pretty sweet” as he celebrated with teammates.

“I was just lucky enough to get one out of there and go bridge, and then we look up at the board and we’ve got Nove going in and just had the utmost confidence of him going in there,” Nicholson said. “It’s really just like, that was sweet. Cool. Just go out there and play defense now.”

Kentucky had a record 7,441 fans at Kentucky Proud Park for the win. The same type crowd is expected tonight when UK plays Oregon State at 9 knowing a win would send UK to its first College World Series.

“I think it’s cool on both sides of the ball. Obviously offensively it’s great to have them behind us. I think defensively it’s huge. I think it’s almost like having an extra defender out there,” Nicholson said.

“They really can flip momentum. Everyone is rowdy, and I think that momentum really helps fuel us to get some runs on the board offensively. So definitely like the transitioning from defense to offense I think is massive, especially with our crowd.”

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