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Nick Mingione wins Coach of the Year in SEC, other Wildcats pick-up awards

UK Athletics

Nick Mingione is the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year, the league announced Monday. It is the second time in his eight seasons as a head coach he has earned the award, as voted on by his fellow SEC head coaches.

Mingione also won both SEC and National Coach of the Year in 2017.

Mingione led Kentucky to its second SEC regular-season title with a school-record 22 league wins. The Wildcats started the year unranked but finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the D1 Baseball.com and Baseball America polls. Mingione was also coach of the year in 2017.

UK had a sensational 2024 regular season, piling up school and SEC records along the way. The Wildcats set a school record with 22 SEC victories and 11 SEC road victories. By virtue of a 9-1 start for the second straight league slate, UK became the first team in 32 years to accomplish that feat. UK’s 15-1 start to conference play also was the best in school history.

Kentucky’s rise to the top of the SEC play can be attributed, in part, to the statistical surge in conference games by the Wildcats. Kentucky led the league in SEC-only batting average, was third in SEC-only fielding percentage, and fifth in SEC-only ERA. Only one other school (Texas A&M) was top-five in all three major categories in conference competition this season. The Cats also led the league in OBP, runs scored, hits, RBI, doubles, sac bunts, sac flies, and stolen bases. Ryan Waldschmidt led the league in doubles and stolen bases in SEC play, and was also top-five in batting average, on-base percentage, runs scored, and hits. Ryan Nicholson provided major power for the Cats in SEC play, finding himself in the top-five for slugging percentage, home runs, and runs batted in.

Nick Lopez was named First-Team All-Southeastern Conference on Monday, capping a sensational season that witnessed him flirt with .400 for much of the campaign. Waldschmidt earned second team honors, while Mitchell Daly, Mason Moore and Emilien Pitre were named to the All-SEC Defensive Team. The league coaches voted on the awards.

Lopez, a graduate transfer from Southern Cal, has been scorching all season before finishing with a .380 batting average and 1.053 OPS in 48 games as Kentucky’s primary designated hitter. He also saw early-season time at third and first base.

The Santa Ana, California native scored 52 runs, had 70 hits, two triples, six home runs, 22 walks and drove in 47. His 20 doubles are tied for the third-most in a season in the Mingione era. In SEC play he hit .348 with 31 RBI. He has 23 multi-hit games this season.

Waldschmidt was even hotter in conference play, finishing as one of a handful of players with a batting average over .400 (.405). Overall, he hit .370 with a 1.153 OPS, 59 runs, 16 doubles, 11 home runs, 39 RBI, 31 walks, 16 hit by pitch and 23 stolen bases, which are the most in a season for a player in the Mingione era.

Maybe most impressive was the Bradenton, Florida native produced this season after recovering from a torn ACL in summer baseball in 2023. He did not return to the outfield until several weeks into the season.

Pitre, a junior from Quebec, Canada, earned defensive honors for the second consecutive season. He has been nearly flawless with just two errors in 210 chances this season, a fielding percentage of .990. He forms half the duo of one of the best defensive middle infields in the country and was part of 23 double plays turned this season.

Daly, who excelled at shortstop at his previous stop, moved to third base at UK and has been tremendous, ending several games with defensive gems. The Madison, Alabama native had just two errors in 104 chances this season for a .981 fielding percentage and gave the Cats an athletic, fearless presence at third.

Moore, from Morehead, Kentucky, showed off the range and athleticism at pitcher that made him a star basketball player in high school. He was flawless in 14 chances off the mound and helped make sure two of three would-be base stealers were caught stealing against him.

UK will open SEC Tournament play at 10:30 a.m. ET/9:30 local time on Wednesday, May 22 in Hoover, Alabama against the winner of LSU/Georgia.