Kentucky Baseball: Season to start as planned as SEC gives the green light

Zack Thompson of the Kentucky Wildcats. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Zack Thompson of the Kentucky Wildcats. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Play ball! Kentucky baseball set to play in 2021.

Kentucky Baseball received some positive news last week when Southeastern Conference officials met to discuss the fate of sports for the upcoming spring. SEC athletic directors approved a normal baseball schedule and granted schools the ability to expand the road roster from 27 to 30 according to Kendall Rogers of D1 Baseball.

This news comes as welcoming news after the Bat Cats were only able to make it 17 games through the schedule before the pandemic made the 2020 season screech to a grinding halt.

Schedules are not officially set quite yet, but according to Baseball America, the SEC will allow teams to play up to 26 non-conference games as usual and will have 10 conference weekends of three-game series totaling 56 games altogether.

Since SEC play never began in 2020 the SEC portion of the schedule will remain the exact same, including the sites of those games. The only difference being that the order of the schedule is subject to change and isn’t yet known.

Head coach Nick Mingione has something to be excited about going into his fifth season at the helm of the Kentucky Baseball program, Division 1 Baseball ranked Mingione’s recruiting class 25th in the country.

In his rookie season as a head coach, Mingione’s team erased records in the Kentucky history books numerous times. The program made a trip to the NCAA Tournament Super Regionals for the first time and finished ranked in the Top 10 of every major college baseball poll.

Additionally, the Cats’ 43 wins were just two shy of the school record and the most for a first-year coach in the program’s history. Overall his record stands at 110-77.

Mingione should be excited to return a trio of pre-season All-Americans. Outfielder John Rhodes and infielder Austin Schultz were honored by Collegiate Baseball News, and first baseman T.J. Collett was honored with a first-team preseason All-American selection by Perfect Game.

Collett, who was named Kentucky athletic’s Mr. Wildcat in 2020 will be pivotal in leading the Wildcats this season.

The senior started all 17 games at first base last year batting .290 in 69 at-bats with 13 runs, five doubles, five home runs, and 17 RBIs including a slugging percentage of .580 and a .931 OPS. He also knocked his 100th career hit on March 7, 2020, against  Norfolk State.

Kentucky will still have to deal with the sudden passing of pitcher Ben Jordan   on January 11. He was laid to rest this past weekend.

The jury is still out deliberating on if or how many fans will be allowed into Kentucky Proud Park, with the other major sports allowing limited fans I imagine the spring sports will be something similar. Limited capacity, and mandated masks I foresee being the operating procedure. No matter how the season shakes out, having college baseball back in 2021 will be a home run itself.

Look for our season preview once the schedules are released most likely this week and play begins typically in mid-February.

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