The exact starting point is debatable, but you could make a case for the huge Matt Roark-led football win against Tennessee last November as the true starting point.
Regardless of where the starting point was, as we head down the home stretch of the 2011-2012 college sports season the UK baseball, softball, and tennis teams are alive and well with aspirations of duplicating what Coach Cal and Coach Mitchell’s basketball programs did coming out of the winter sports seasons.
Gary Henderson’s Bat Cats have rightfully received the most love from the statewide media contingent the past one and a half months since Coach Cal’s first successful NCAA championship came to fruition. The Wildcats’ new diamond heroes have proven every preseason college baseball pollster terribly and foolishly incompetent. Most predicted Henderson’s squad to finish in the basement of the extremely tough SEC, yet as we head into the final weekend of the regular season they stand at the top of the conference standings by one-half game ahead of South Carolina and LSU, who play each other this coming weekend while UK finishes up at Mississippi State with a three-game series and their fate resting in their own hands.
UK’s sweep of Alabama this past weekend virtually assures them of hosting an NCAA first round regional at Cliff Hagan Stadium when the NCAA bids come out the week after next.
Barring a complete meltdown at Mississippi State and in the SEC tourney, the Bat Cats by all rights should be in a serious hunt to host a super regional since they have been ranked in the top 10 for the past eight weeks and were anywhere from No. 1 to No. 5 in several different college baseball polls for most of April. Hosting a super regional is a huge advantage in trying to make that trek to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska become a reality.
It looks extremely bright for the UK baseball program’s immediate future, as well, with the team losing only three seniors to graduation and returning virtually the entire starting pitching rotation as well as six of the top eight hitters in the lineup. Also, according to the Baseball America Magazine, Henderson has recruited a top 10 class of incoming freshman for this fall.
UK football and tennis finishing strong
While Rachel Lawson’s softball program fell a little short of what was expected for the regular season, finishing a little closer to 500 than what they had hoped, the team did finish strong down the stretch with big wins against SEC rival LSU, and did qualify for a bid to play in the NCAA post season tournament. The team was placed in the Louisville regional this coming weekend, matched up against Michigan Friday in the opening round. Louisville will play Valparaiso in the lower bracket game, then the two winners and two losers will play on Saturday with the finals taking place on Sunday. It is a double elimination tournament, so there could be only one game Sunday if the winner’s bracket winner doesn’t lose the game that day.
Longtime successful UK tennis coach Dennis Emery just won another SEC men’s championship, and heads south to Georgia this weekend for the first weekend of NCAA tournament play.
Former UK Unforgettable Sean Woods Moves Up Coaching Ladder
Sean Woods, one of the historic UK Unforgettables who was directly involved in what many consider to be the most painful Wildcat basketball loss on record, has moved up the NCAA coaching ladder from low Div. 1 Mississippi Valley State to what many consider an up-and-coming mid-major program in Morehead State University of the Ohio Valley Conference.
Woods reportedly beat out several strong candidates that were assistants at successful Div. 1 programs by turning a longtime dormant program at Mississippi Valley into one of this past year’s big NCAA college basketball surprises when he overcame a 1-11 record at the beginning of the season and won both his conference regular season and tournament titles, qualifying his team for the NCAA tournament. Woods led his troops through a 13-game road gauntlet of Div. 1-A buyout games to start the season, and then turned it on down the second semester stretch. He is now reaping the rewards from his trials and tribulations of many hours of hard work.
Many rumors have circulated throughout the bluegrass of those college basketball inner circles who supposedly have influence in the hiring process, but sources extremely close to the hiring process at MSU have told us at combsbrothersonkysports.com that Woods’ past experiences with the business community in central Kentucky after his graduation at UK helped in the hiring process as much as his recent success on the floor at Mississippi Valley State.
Hopefully, if you’re an educated, astute and longtime follower of UK and MSU athletics, then you can decipher that previous remark, and not all sources can be revealed.
Regardless of how the coaching job was attained, it’s very gratifying to see a young coach persevere through hard times and get an opportunity after so many tireless hours of work.