The Kentucky baseball team has been selected for its seventh all-time NCAA Tournament, traveling to the Gary, Ind., regional as the No. 2 seed, hosted by No. 1 seed Purdue. UK will face off with No. 3 seed and 25th-ranked Kent State in the opener on Friday, with No. 4 seeded Valparaiso taking on Purdue.
Kentucky (43-16) will be making its seventh all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament, owning a 10-12 overall record. UK’s last appearance in the NCAA Tournament came in 2008, when the Wildcats tied the best finish in school history with a regional runner-up finish. UK also finished as the regional runner up in 1988 and 2006. UK has made the NCAA Tournament in 1949, 1950, 1988, 1993, 2006, 2008 and 2012.
Because Purdue does not have a home field capable of hosting the NCAA Regional round, the games will be played at U.S. Steel Yard, which is the home of a team named the Gary Southshore RailCats, which is an independent league team – not affiliated with any major league organization – which plays in an independent league called the American Association.
The NCAA Regional features a double-elimination format with a schedule that has two games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Game times have tentatively been set for 4 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. ET. The if-necessary game would be played on Monday at 8 p.m. ET. Any live television coverage of the Gary Regional will be announced later this week.
The Wildcats have had the best season in the history of the program, winning the second-most games in school annals and finishing third overall in the Southeastern Conference. UK led the SEC eight of 10 weeks and was just one win shy of winning the second league regular season title in UK history. UK is just one win shy of equaling the school record for wins, owning a 13-9 record against top-25 teams, a 10-5 mark against top-10 foes and setting a school record by winning seven of its 10 SEC weekends. Last week, UK advanced to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, the highest UK finish in the modern-era history of the league tournament (1998-present).
Purdue (44-12) will be playing in its second NCAA Tournament in school history, after winning the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships. The Boilermakers have enjoyed their best season in school history, batting .318 as a team, slugging 34 homers and stealing 62 bases. On the mound, Purdue had a 3.10 ERA with 13 saves, striking 346 and walking 122.
Kent State (41-17) will be playing in its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament after breezing through the Mid-American Conference and running its winning streak to a NCAA-leading 17 consecutive games. Ranked No. 25 by Collegiate Baseball, Kent State owns a .309 average with 31 homers and 52 steals. On the mound, Kent State has posted a 3.61 team ERA, striking out 464 in 501 innings, walking 198. Kent State is coached by the highly respected Scott Stricklin and has been led throughout the year by its school-record holder for career wins and strikeouts, lefty David Starn (9-3, 1.82 ERA).
Valparaiso (35-23) won the Horizon League Tournament and the regular season to clinch a berth in the NCAA 64-team field. Valpo has tied a school record for wins in a season and will be making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1968. Valpo has hit .292 as a team with 14 homers and 46 steals, fielding .968. On the mound, Valparaiso has a 3.41 ERA in 533.2 innings, walking 137 and striking out 319.
UK owns a 5-0 all-time record against Kent State, a 5-1 all-time mark against Purdue and have never played Valpo in school history. Overall against the field, UK owns a 14-13 mark against teams in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. UK ended the year with a No. 14 RPI.