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Kentucky Wildcat Athletics: Smattering of Saturday Morning News

We begin our look at the Saturday morning news with:

Bat Cats drop a bummer

In one of the epic college baseball games of all-time (and the second longest NCAA baseball tourney game, ever), the No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats (43-17) lost its opening contest at the Gary, Ind. NCAA regional to the No. 25 Kent State Golden Flashes (42-17), 7-6 in 21-innings.

The Bat Cats had their chances to win, but UK stranded 20 base runners, and just as frustrating; of the 63 Wildcat outs recorded during the marathon affair, 26 were strikeouts. This UK setback marks the third straight NCAA regional opener the Bat Cats have lost (2006, 2008).

Kentucky plays this afternoon at 4:00 ET against Valparaiso, who lost to region host Purdue 7-2 in its opener.

JLev has the A Sea of post-game wrap-up here, and Mark Maloney of the Herald-Leader has the game story.

After the jump, sad news about former Notre Dame basketball star Orlando Woolridge, and Mitch Barnhart, along with Joker Phillips, talk Kentucky football.

Former Notre Dame basketball star Orlando Woolridge dead at age 52

This is just awful news. According to this report, Woolridge had been very sick for the last year or so, suffering two heart attacks. I'd like to offer prayers and support to the Woolridge family, especially his young son, Renaldo, who recently graduated from Tennessee after playing four years with the Vols.

I'll always remember the 6-foot-9 Woolridge, who played for the Fighting Irish from 1978-1981 (he played in the Final Four in 1978), as a dangerous scorer, tremendous competitor, and highly athletic. Most memorably, Woolridge participated in one of the the most entertaining UK games I've ever witnessed, as the No. 2 'Cats edged No. 8 Notre Dame 86-80 in December of '79 in a hotly contested battle. UK shot 60-percent from the floor, led by Kyle Macy's 8-for-13 shooting (he also led all scorers with 21 points). I can still remember watching the game, score-book in hand, as I recorded the action.

In Woolridge's four games against UK (three of which were Big Blue wins), he only scored in double-figures twice, but he was a player capable of going on a one-man scoring spree/dunk clinic. Woolridge, though, played with some serious talent in South Bend, as Bill Hanzlik, Kelly Tripuka, and John Paxson graced the Irish hardwood the same time as Woolridge, which surely effected his number of shots taken.

He was drafted with the sixth pick of the 1981 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls. Woolridge finished his professional basketball career in 1994 with 13,623 points, and will be remembered as a player who could fill the stat sheet in a hurry.

In happier Notre Dame-related news, it was announced Friday that UK will play Mike Brey's Fighting Irish in next season's SEC/Big East Challenge. The three day series of contests begins on November 29. The game will be played in South Bend.

UK last played at Notre Dame in the 2009 NIT, as the Irish ended UK's season, 77-67 (as best as I can remember, there was no court storming). But the 'Cats bested Notre Dame 72-58 in the two school's last hard court encounter, which, coincidentally enough, occurred in the 2010 SEC/Big East Challenge.

UK holds a 42-18 all-time series advantage over the Irish, with the Cats having won 11 of the last 12 meetings.

Barnhart & Phillips talk Wildcat football expectations

Talking exclusively to Cats Illustrated's Ben Jones (in this article), Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart spoke about the UK football program, and what he'd like to see on the field this fall.

"We've got a lot of good, young players. We have got to find a way to build off the people we've got in our program, and we have to find a way to make some progress. How is that defined? I think I'll know it when I see it."

Seven wins and Joker should keep his job, anything less and Phillips could be in trouble. Joker, ever the optimist, though, is going into the season with an understanding of the expectations, but also with a positive mind-set about what his team can accomplish.

"I saw them (the younger players) making plays last year. You see (Alvin) Bud Dupree, Eric Dixon, Josh Clemons, Ashely Lowery, a lot of them made plays. We've got a chance to be a big-time team here for a long time."

Other than his wife, nobody is rooting for Joker Phillips more than I am.

Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats!