There’s no time quite like the present for Kentucky baseball. This is the golden era. That can’t be denied.

On Saturday at 6 p.m. ET, Kentucky will host a Super Regional for the first time in program history. Including last season and 2017, the Cats have 3 Super Regional appearances in the Nick Mingione era. That’s quite the feat for a program that had 6 NCAA Tournament appearances (and 0 Super Regional berths) before his arrival. Even if UK gets bounced in 2 games by Oregon State, history has already been made by having Omaha up for grabs in Lexington this weekend.

Of course, that worst-case scenario would feel like a giant missed opportunity to get rid of the elephant in the room — UK is the only SEC program that has never earned a trip to the College World Series.

Sure, you could technically say that Mizzou has never accomplished that feat as a member of the SEC. Shoot, the Tigers’ manager, Kerrick Jackson, wasn’t even alive when they made their last CWS appearance back in 1964.

But you can bet that UK would like to shed that distinction, even if it can just avoid any future Jason Kipnis-like situations (him leaving UK to play for the more prestigious Arizona State in the middle of his career will always be a tough pill to swallow). Getting to Omaha is the SEC standard. It’s about time that the Cats live up to it.

This might finally be the year in which luck is on UK’s side.

Related: Keep tabs on all the Super Regional action this weekend with our SDS homepage for the College World Series!

You couldn’t say that last year when Kentucky ran into the buzzsaw that was eventual national champ LSU in the Baton Rouge Super Regional. There are tough draws, and then there are draws that send you to face Paul Skenes, Dylan Crews and Tommy White. Getting drubbed by a combined 22-3 in a 2-game sweep quickly squashed any hope that last year could be the year.

Running into Louisville in the 2017 Super Regional wasn’t quite as unfortunate, but those Cards still won 53 games and featured Golden Spikes Award winner Brendan McKay. The Cardinals also swept Kentucky and left the Cats longing for Omaha.

The only time that UK ever got within 1 win of a College World Series trip was in 1988. Before the days of the expanded Super Regional round (that began in 1999), Kentucky ripped through the first 3 games of the Northeast Regional and just needed to beat defending champion Stanford once in the Final. Not only did the Mike Mussina-led Cardinal fend off elimination with a pair of victories against Kentucky, but it went on to repeat as national champs. A team with 8 future Major League players was indeed a buzzsaw.

To recap, 2 of the 3 instances in which Kentucky was 1 round from Omaha included matchups against the eventual national champs who were stockpiled with MLB talent.

Unlucky? Yeah. That’s baseball. More specifically, that’s the college baseball postseason.

Kentucky may again be unlucky with an Omaha trip up for grabs. In a way, it’s fitting that Oregon State will have a say in that. The Beavers are the last non-SEC team to win a College World Series final, which happened back in 2018 — when they beat Arkansas. They haven’t been to Omaha since walking off the TD Ameritrade field that night.

But it’s hard to ask for a more ideal setup than Kentucky’s. It’s not just that it’ll get to stay home at Kentucky Proud Park, where Mingione’s squad is 24-6. It’s that by being so dominant in the regular season with a 22-8 record in SEC play, it doesn’t have the perceived buzzsaw awaiting with the No. 15 seed standing in the way of Omaha. That’s not a knock against Oregon State, who won 45 games and like UK, it won its Regional without facing elimination. And sure, dealing with Pac-12 Player of the Year and potential No. 1 overall pick Travis Bazzana won’t be a picnic for Trey Pooser and the UK pitching staff.

At the same time, there’s a certain standard for any team that reaches a Super Regional. Oregon State meets it.

“They are legitimately as well-rounded a team as any we’ll face,” Mingione said of the Beavers (via 247sports). “They’ve only lost 14 games all year when you think about that. They pitch at a super high level. They have a unique guy on the back end who can throw sidearm (Bridger Holmes). They’ve got all the different arm slots, they defend the field well, they bunt, they steal. Offensively, they can score in a bunch of different ways (tied for 8th nationally with 118 home runs), and like I mentioned, they have a pitching staff that really knows how to pitch.

“Which is to be expected. When you get to this point, this is what you would think the super well-rounded teams are going to be able to do it and they can do all of those things well.”

So how do you beat a team that does a bunch of things well and finally get to Omaha? There’s not 1 answer to that.

Ideally, UK would keep the speedy Bazzana off the bases and have him facing limited RBI opportunities by taking care of business at the bottom of the order (he leads off — and is hitting .415 with 28 HRs and 66 RBIs). Jumping out to early leads in each Regional game allowed the UK pitching staff to attack the strike zone, which is something Mingione would like to see replicated this weekend against an Oregon State staff that’s No. 7 in America in team ERA. And like we saw in the Regional when UK made just 1 error in 3 games, ideally, the Cats would avoid giving up those 4- or 5-out innings.

The daunting reality is that Kentucky can do all of those things and still find itself on the wrong end of a Super Regional result. That’s baseball.

You could say that the baseball gods haven’t been kind to Kentucky over the years. But sooner or later, you have to make your own luck.

There’s no time quite like the present.