UK BASEBALL | Saying Goodbye To "The Cliff"

05/11/2018 03:50 PM

The No. 17 Kentucky Baseball team (31-17, 11-13 SEC) has an important weekend series ahead- both on and off the field.

The Bat Cats will play host to the Mississippi State Bulldogs (27-22, 11-13 SEC). This is the final regular season homestead for UK- and what could be the final games at Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington, Ky in the stadium’s 50 year history. Kentucky is still in contention to host post-season play, but this is the final regular-season series at “The Cliff”

Friday night the Cats and Dogs get underway at 7:30 p.m. eastern at “The Cliff”. UK will be giving away commemorative prints of the stadium and will have a fireworks show following the game. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

Saturday, first pitch is set for 5:00 p.m. EST. Kentucky will be giving a jersey koozie collectors set and allow kids to run the bases following the game. Game two in the series will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

Sunday in the final game, UK will have former players take the field at their old positions alongside the current players for the National Anthem. Former coaches that account for 49 years of the 50 year history will throw a ceremonial first pitch alongside second-year Head Coach Nick Mingione, including former UK Head Coach and current Mississippi State Interim Head Coach Gary Henderson, who recruited a significant share of UK’s upperclassmen. Former UK head man John Cohen, will be on hand, along with Jordan “Tuffy” Horne’s son, Steve and Madison and Dick Parsons. They’re allowing the first 3,000 fans to take the field following the game to throw their own ceremonial last pitch- complete with a limited edition “last pitch ball”. They will also do a trading card giveaway. First pitch for game three will be at 3:00 p.m. EST and air on the SEC Network.

This weekend will also be Senior Weekend, with Senior Day for the five players taking place Friday night. Former coaches and players, along with the entire 1988 team have been invited back for the occasion. The ’88 Cats Coached by Keith Madison entered the Northeast Region as the No. 3 seed that season. UK beat No. 4 Rutgers, No. 5 St. John’s and upset top-seed Clemson. The Cats were one win from the College World Series — with two chances to defeat defending NCAA champion Stanford for the trip to Omaha.

UK’s new stadium near the Bell Soccer and Softball Complex is set to be completed late this summer and ready for action in the 2019 season. Per UK, the $49 million facility on Alumni Drive will hold state-of-the-art team offices, facilities, locker and team rooms and a practice area.

On Friday, Kentucky junior catcher/first baseman Kole Cottam was named Academic All-District First Team by the College Sports Information Directors of America. Cottam is a kinesiology major and maintains a 3.56 grade point average according to UK. The Knoxville, Tenn. native was voted to the District 2 team by SID’s from around the country and will now have an opportunity to be voted to the Academic All-America team.

Cottam has had a stellar season on the field as well as in the classroom. He leads the Wildcats with a .355 batting average, 46 runs scored and 66 hits. His 16 home runs ranked second to Luke Heyer’s 17 and his 44 RBI are third on the team. He has started all 48 games this season and recently was named SEC Player of the Week.

In a press release, UK sent out a chronological look back at 10 of the most memorable moments in the history of the stadium.

April 27, 1982 – Just five days after losing to Eastern Kentucky in Richmond, head coach Keith Madison’s Cats got their revenge against the Colonels in a big way, winning 21-4. Bill Sandry provided much of the offense for Kentucky on that day, hitting four home runs and just missing a fifth as the Wildcats posted a blowout win.

April 9, 1988 – Kentucky hosted Vanderbilt in an SEC doubleheader that provided not one, but two fantastic finishes. In the first game, the teams were tied 3-3 as Kentucky came to bat for the final time. The Wildcats loaded the bases and Mark Blythe won the game with a walk-off grand slam over the wall in right field. If that wasn’t enough, Kentucky did it again in the second game. Trailing 10-8 and, again, batting for the final time, the Cats loaded the bases and this time, Robbie Buchanan hit a grand slam, giving Kentucky a 12-10 win and a doubleheader sweep on a pair of walk-off grand slams.

March 18, 1989 – LSU All-American pitcher Ben McDonald came to Lexington with a scoreless streak of 41.2 innings, and extended that streak to a then-SEC record 44.2 innings early in this game. However, the future major leaguer saw that streak come to an end as Kentucky racked up 13 hits and seven runs against him, including a home run by shortstop Billy White that tied the score in the ninth inning. Mark Blythe and Mike Harris each had three hits in the game for the Wildcats.

March 1, 2002 – Kentucky plays its first game in Cliff Hagan Stadium following a $4.2 million renovation that installed 2,000 chair-back seats and new press box. The game itself featured an outstanding pitching performance from UK right-hander and future major leaguer Joe Blanton, who allowed just one earned run in eight innings of work while striking out 13.

June 2, 2006 – For the first time in school history, Kentucky plays host to an NCAA Regional contest, as the Wildcats face Ball State in the opening round of the tournament at Cliff Hagan Stadium. Unfortunately, it is Ball State’s Ben Snyder who shines the brightest, holding Kentucky’s potent offense in check for eight innings in a 3-1 Cardinals’ victory. Kentucky would bounce back to beat Notre Dame and Ball State in the regional before falling to College of Charleston.

April 8, 2008 – Kentucky and archrival Louisville played an epic, extra-inning game that actually went into the next day and ended with an unlikely hero. With the score tied 6-6 in the bottom of the 12th inning, Kentucky’s Keenan Wiley hit his first career home run, lifting the Wildcats to a 7-6 win. It was Wiley’s fourth hit of the game and one of the most important of his career.

May 16, 2010 – In his final regular season at-bat at Cliff Hagan Stadium, senior catcher Marcus Nidiffer comes to the plate with the bases loaded and his team trailing defending national champion LSU, 4-2. Nidiffer promptly launches a Matty Ott pitch over the wall in left field for a grand slam, providing the final runs in a 6-4 come-from-behind win for the Cats. With the win, Kentucky swept LSU in a three-game series for the first time since 1991.

March 17, 2012 – Kentucky ties a school record with its 19th straight win, this one coming in dramatic fashion. Luke Maile hit a two-run, walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Cats past two-time defending national champion South Carolina 4-3. Kentucky would start the 2012 season with a school-record 22 straight wins.

April 4, 2014 – AJ Reed had an incredible 2014 season and was the consensus National Player of the Year. On this night, Reed was spectacular, both on the mound and at the plate. Reed pitched seven scoreless innings against 12th-ranked Florida, allowing just five hits while striking out three batters. At the plate, Reed had two doubles and crushed his 10th home run of the season as the Cats thumped the Gators 17-1.

June 5, 2017 – Kentucky and N.C. State were scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. for a winner-take-all NCAA Regional championship game, but Mother Nature had other plans. In fact, storms that rolled through the area forced the evacuation of a huge crowd from the stadium, and pushed the starting time back to 9:20 p.m. Once the weather cleared, the fans returned, setting a Cliff Hagan Stadium attendance record of 5,005. And the Wildcats did not disappoint the record crowd, rallying to win 10-5, claiming the first regional championship in school history.

UK also sent out their probable starters, schedule and radio broadcasts for the weekend:

Friday vs. Miss. State
TV/Online: ESPNU
Radio: 630 AM WLAP Lexington; ukathletics.com
Probables: UK – RHP Sean Hjelle (6-4, 3.19) vs. MSULHP Konnor Pilkington (2-5, 3.72)
7:00 – Senior Night Ceremony (Infielder Luke Becker, RHP Alex Maley, LHP Brad Schaenzer and Squires.)
7:32 – First pitch vs. Mississippi State
Promotions – Stadium print giveaway, dollar hot dogs and post-game fireworks

Saturday vs. Miss. State
TV/Online: SEC Network
Radio: 630 AM WLAP Lexington; ukathletics.com
Probables: UK – LHP Zack Thompson (2-0, 4.98) vs. MSULHP Ethan Small (5-3, 2.99)
4:30 p.m. – Pregame ceremonies with the 1988 team, including throwing out the first pitch
5:02 – First pitch vs. Mississippi State
Promotions – Jersey koozie collector set #6, kids run the bases after the game

Sunday vs. Miss. State
TV/Online: SEC Network
Radio: 630 AM WLAP Lexington; ukathletics.com
Probables: UK – RHP Justin Lewis (7-3, 4.33) vs. MSUTBA
2:45 p.m. – Ceremonial first pitch with 50 years of Kentucky baseball coaches and Cliff Hagan
3:02 – First pitch vs. Mississippi State
Post-game – Fans are invited to throw a “ceremonial” last pitch from the mound.
Promotions – Trading card set #5, Sunday sundaes, “ceremonial” last pitch ball, flowers for mothers in attendance

The Cats are coming off a win at No. 19 Indiana (7-6) on the road on Tuesday. They have just four regular season games remaining after this weekend.

WATCH:

KSTV did a special edition of the show Friday in honor of “The Cliff”, broadcasting from batting practice at Cliff Hagan Stadium. In the first segment, hear us break down the commitment of five-star 2019 point guard Tyrese Maxey from Wednesday and his impact on the men’s basketball future, our memories at “The Cliff”, and hear from Head Coach Nick Mingione, redshirt junior right hand pitcher Justin Lewis, senior infielder and outfielder Luke Heyer, and redshirt senior catcher and first baseman Troy Squires discuss their emotions heading into such a big weekend, their favorite memories in the stadium and the importance of this series. We also spoke exclusively to former UK star and current UK Baseball Student Coach John T. Shelby on what the program has meant to him and his family. We also hear from Kevin Knox Jr. and Senior on the red carpet of Kentucky Derby 144 as Knox Jr. prepares for the NBA Combine next week in Chicago, plus an update on the UK Softball team in the SEC Tournament and plenty more:

In the second segment, hear from UK Track and Field freshman sensation Sydney McLaughlin as she and the entire team head to the SEC Championships this weekend, and former UK Guard Doron Lamb on the Kentucky Derby Red Carpet as he just wrapped up a season overseas:

To round out the show, KSTV catches up wit former UK guard Hamidou Diallo on the Derby Red Carpet to talk about the upcoming combine his second time around:

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