UK wins CWS debut with walk-off homer

Published 8:00 am Monday, June 17, 2024

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Kentucky’s first appearance in the College World Series ended in dramatic fashion Saturday in Omaha.

Mitchell Daly’s walk-off home run lifted the Wildcats to a 5-4 win over North Carolina State in 10 innings. Daly’s heroics came after the Wildcats forced extra innings after Ryan Nicholson’s solo shot in the bottom of the ninth inning tied the score at 4-4.

“Just when you guys thought it couldn’t get better,” Kentucky coach Nick Mingione said. “What a game. What a game. Both teams. Just two teams duking it out and taking advantage of opportunities. Just so thankful for our players and our fans — in that ninth inning when Ryan hit that home run I could barely hear myself even thinking.”

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Nicholson said the Wildcats came to Omaha on a mission and added the CWS is just the beginning of bigger things to come for Kentucky.

“It feels good to be the ground floor of what we’re trying to produce for this program,” he said. “This game is a really good starting point and a big confidence builder going forward. We didn’t come here to be happy we’re here. We came here to win games.”

Kentucky (46-14) won its sixth straight postseason game and will face the winner of the Florida-Texas A&M contest on Monday. The rally by the Wildcats marked the third straight game game in the CWS to end with a walk-off run to end the game. North Carolina State (39-22) fell into the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination event and will play the loser of Texas A&M and Florida. Tennessee and North Carolina each won its opener in the prestigious event in walk-off fashion on Friday night.

Kentucky collected nine hits against three N.C. State pitchers in its CWS debut. Nicholson paced the offense with three hits. Nolan McCarthy added a pair of hits, highlighted by a two-run home run in the fourth inning that gave the Wildcats a 3-1 lead.

The Wolfpack tied it at 3-3 on Alec Malarewicz’s two-run homer in the seventh and took the lead with a run in the top of the ninth before the Wildcats staged a two-inning comeback.

Kentucky starter Trey Pooser pitched sixth and two thirds of an inning and scattered nine hits. He struck out three and walked two. Cameron O’Brien, Jackson Nove, Robert Hogan and Johnny Hummel relieved Pooser. The three pitchers allowed just one hit and combined on three strikeouts.

North Carolina State coach Elliott Avent and the Wolfpack finished with 10 hits, but stranded 12 runners in the loss.

“(We) played under control and had good at-bats,” Avent said. “But everything has to be really, really good. You don’t have any margin of error when you get to this final format.”


Mingione was named Coach of the Year by the National College Baseball Writer’s Association, for the second time since 2017. He also was named Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year and Perfect Game Coach of the Year.