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2012 NCAA Baseball Tournament: Kentucky Eliminated After 3-2 Loss to Kent State

It's a bit surprising to look back, two and a half months later, and realize that Kentucky was 21-0 overall and 3-0 in the SEC after sweeping South Carolina in mid-March. Surprising because it puts into stunning perspective the disappointment that Wildcats fans have to be feeling right now, to see one of the best seasons in the history of their baseball program end up with a loss in the Gary Regional to Kent State.

Just a few weeks ago, the thought that Kentucky would be traveling anywhere to play their regional would have been laughable. Kentucky was still a favorite to get one of the eight national seeds guaranteeing they wouldn't have to leave Lexington unless and until they won their way to the College World Series in Omaha.

Instead, the dream is over, and this is the reality that Kentucky is faced with: It traveled to Gary and lost twice to a team from the MAC. Which is not to say that Kent State isn't a good baseball team -- clearly, it is -- but that's not how anyone would have banked on the Wildcats' season ending based on how they started off the year.

At least until recently. A season-ending slide had the Wildcats losing nine of their last 16 games even before they opened regional play. Still, Kentucky went into the NCAA tournament as the team to beat in that region, a program on the rise that should have hosted a regional instead of Miami.

Part of that might still be true. There are only three seniors on the Kentucky roster this year, though some of the juniors have likely caught the attention of major-league scouts. Even so, there are young players like SEC Freshman of the Year Austin Cousino to build around.

So it might be a short-lived disappointment in Lexington, even if that's not the kind of thing that eases the pain. But if nothing else, Kentucky has proven that they are no longer a team to be forgotten in the crowded SEC East.

That's not worth nothing. Even if it might seem to mean very little when the optimism of a few weeks ago was shattered in the space of a weekend.