While the Big Blue Nation continues to speculate on the status of freshman guard Jarred Vanderbilt ahead of Saturday’s basketball match-up with the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville, the Kentucky Baseball team received some high praise Friday in Perfect Game’s 2018 Preseason Top 25 coming in at #8 in the rankings.
Fresh off the team’s first-ever trip to College Baseball’s Super Regional last June, the Bat Cats will look to build off that momentum as they begin their second season under 2017 SEC Coach of the Year Nick Mingione, who led Kentucky to a 43-23 record in 2017. Mingione, who was also honored as the Perfect Game/Rawlings College Head Coach of the Year in 2017, signed a five-year contract extension with Kentucky back in September.
Kentucky Baseball will open the 2018 season against Wofford on February 16 in Spartanburg, S.C. and face off against Xavier in its last home opener at Cliff Hagan Stadium on February 21. The program is scheduled to move into a new $49 million facility in time for the 2019 campaign.
Notable returnees for the Bat Cats include 2017 SEC Pitcher of the Year Sean Hjelle as well as switch-hitting junior outfielder Tristan Pompey, who was a First-Team All-SEC selection and Third-Team All-American last season. Both Pompey and Hjelle were named preseason First-Team All-Americans by Perfect Game and Collegiate Baseball.
Kentucky will take a trip to Houston March 2-4 for the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic, where the Cats will take on preseason #21 Houston, #22 Sam Houston State, and Louisiana-Lafayette at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros.
Other significant non-conference matchups include a home weekend series against #4 Texas Tech, Mar. 9-11, a home and home with preseason #14 Louisville (Apr. 3 and 17), and a trip to #17 Indiana on May 8.
The Cats open SEC play March 16 at #6 Arkansas to kick off the 30-game league gauntlet. The SEC had the most teams of any conference in Perfect Game’s preseason top 25 with seven: #1 Florida, #6 Arkansas, #8 Kentucky, #11 Ole Miss, #12 LSU, #15 Texas A&M, and #25 Mississippi State. UK will not face Ole Miss, LSU, or Texas A&M, but will host #1 Florida (April 20-22), and #25 Mississippi State (May 11-13) in addition to their three-game trip to Arkansas.