LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After claiming the second most wins in the 104-year history of the program, the No. 19 Kentucky baseball team has earned its sixth all-time NCAA appearance, earning a No. 3 seed in the Ann Arbor, Mich., regional, joining host Michigan, No. 1 seed Arizona and fourth-seeded Eastern Michigan, it was announced on Monday.
Kentucky (42-17) will be making its sixth overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the second in the past three years. The Wildcats last appeared in the NCAA Tournament as a host selection in 2006, finishing second, going 2-2.
“I think in some ways it is rewarding but one reason we are practicing during the selection show, is because I want it to be excepted,” Kentucky fifth-year head coach John Cohen said. “I want our athletic director, our players and our fans in the state to expect us to be in a regional. I don’t want us sitting around hoping, I want that to be the expectation level of the program. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to be on the field working today and not sitting around waiting. It is all about us and our preparation and what we need to do.”
The Wildcats will be joined by Big Ten Champion Michigan (45-12), three-seeded Eastern Michigan (25-32) and No. 1 seeded Arizona (38-17). UK will face Michigan in round one on Friday, marking the 17th all-time meeting between the two schools, with the last meeting coming in 2004, a 15-14 UK win in Lexington. Michigan leads the all-time series with UK, 12-3-1.
Eastern Michigan traveled to Lexington for a midweek doubleheader in 2008, with UK posting an 18-5 win and an 8-6 win in the nightcap. Kentucky leads the series with EMU, 16-6, claiming four consecutive wins.
UK has faced Arizona just twice, with both meetings coming in 1991, splitting the two-game series at Arizona. UK got the first game of the two-game series in March of 1991, 5-4, before taking its worst loss of the year in the second game a 24-0 setback.
Game times have yet to be announced.
Kentucky is one of nine Southeastern Conference teams to make the 2008 NCAA Regional’s. The SEC also put nine teams in the tournament in 2004 and 2005.
UK faced 10 teams in the field of 64 in 2008, posting a 16-14 record against NCAA teams.
The winner of the four-team event will advance to a best-of-three NCAA Super Regional that will start eight Friday or Saturday, June 6-7. The Ann Arbor regional winner will match up against the winner of the regional being hosted by the No.1 overall seed Miami (Fla.). The Miami Regional consists of Miami, Missouri, Mississippi and Bethune-Cookman. The eight super regional winners will advance to the College World Series June 14-25 in Omaha, Neb.
Tickets for the regional tournament will go on sale to the general public through the UM Ticket Office Wednesday morning (May 28) at 8 a.m. Single-game tickets range from $6 for general admission to $10 for a chairback seat. All-session passes range from $28 to $56. All tickets must be picked up in person starting Thursday (May 29) at 8:30 a.m. or at the will call window at Ray Fisher Stadium on game days.
Arizona earned an at-large bid to the tournament after posting a 38-17 record and finishing the season with a series victory against No. 3 overall seed Arizona State.
Michigan has played host to NCAA Regional’s on seven previous occasions, most recently in 1986. UM also hosted in 1953, '61, '78, '80, '81 and '83. It will be the 21st time overall the Wolverines have appeared in the NCAA Championship and the fourth straight under head coach Rich Maloney.
Last year the Wolverines defeated top-ranked Vanderbilt twice in Nashville, Tenn., on the way to winning their eighth regional championship. UM lost twice at eventual national champion Oregon State in the super regional.
Press Conference Quotes
Monday, May 26, 2008
Kentucky Head Coach John Cohen
On getting selected for the NCAA Tournament …
“I think it is in some ways it is rewarding but one reason we are practicing during the selection show, is because I want it to be excepted, I want our athletic director, our players and our fans in the state to expect us to be in a regional. I don’t want us sitting around hoping, I want that to be the expectation level of the program. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to be on the field working today and not sitting around waiting. It is all about us and our preparation and what we need to do.”
On the pairings …
"I honestly don’t know much about any of those programs, other then just what I have read. You are much more educated about the teams in your region and of course none of those teams are in our region. We know a lot about Eastern Michigan because we have played them, but outside of that you don’t know much. They must be good or they wouldn’t be coming in this tournament.”
On how he feels going into the tournament …
“I really believe that we are going to play well in this regional, you have to have some luck and things have to go your way but you also have to be prepared. That is what we are concerned with right now, preparing a very good Kentucky team, a more prepared Kentucky team emotionally and physically to go complete in a regional then it was two years ago, even though two years ago it was at home. Your preparation and what you do best is the best preparation in the game.
On playing a talented Michigan team on the road …
“It doesn’t matter what other teams do well, it matters how well we do it and I am sure that Michigan will have a great home field advantage and a great crowd, but will it be more then the 11,000 Alabama fans that we saw in the SEC Tournament, I doubt that. That is why I think so many SEC clubs have so much success because usually a regional is so much smaller then an SEC Tournament or a weekend on the road in the SEC. I think it is great preparation for us, we did not play well in the final game down there but I don’t want to talk about that, I want to talk about the future and I think it is going to be very good and we will be prepared.”
On first-team All-SEC pitcher Chris Rusin returning to native Michigan …
“I think that is a neat thing for Chris. The thing that I am happy about with that is that Chris is the type of kid that can handle that. Sometimes you worry that kid going back to their home state and trying to do too much, but Chris is not wired like that. Chris is a very mature young man and I think he can deal with that the right way.”
On having a team that has experienced NCAA play in 2006 …
“It is very valuable. It is more then a handful of guys when you look at it, they have been there and can go back in the locker room and their apartments and say, hey in 2006 we did this and this and we needed to do this better. I think we have great leadership on this club and I think it is going to help when we go to Michigan. I feel very good about it. I am sure every team in the nation feels good about it. Our kids want this, it was new in 2006 but the newness has worn off a little bit, now it is an expectation, we want to win, getting there is not enough, we want to win and that is what it is all about. If I didn’t think we could do it, I wouldn’t get on the bus to Ann Arbor, because I think we can win.”
Jr., OF Collin Cowgill
On if playing in front of over 11,000 fans in Hoover helped prepare the team for NCAA play …
“Definitely, I think this week at Hoover helped us because there were a lot of people there, who were loud and into the game. They can really give the home team some momentum and the only thing that we can do is get up early and score first to try to quiet them down a little bit. In this league you are used to that. We play in front of 8,000-10,000 people everywhere we go, so we are used to it. It is a lot of fun to play in that atmosphere, but we are ready for it.”
On preparing younger players for the experience …
“There is just an increased level of excitement. It is just a real special experience and it is a unique environment, something they have not experienced before. I think being experienced and having gone through it in 2006, we just need to relax and take it one step at a time and just stay focused and do what we do best.”
On returning for his junior season …
“This is why I came back. This has been an awesome year, such a great coaching staff and a great group of guys. I have always said that 2006 was the best year I have ever had playing baseball, but I think this year has already topped it just because we have had so much fun and we are in a position to really do something special. I am really thrilled that I am here and get the play baseball with this group of guys.”
On whether UK feels snubbed about a three-seed …
“Two, three, four seed, it doesn’t matter, you still have to play the same teams and we are going to start off with a tough Michigan team. Whether we are a one, two or three seed it doesn’t matter to us, we are just looking forward to the opportunity to compete against a great Michigan team.”