TAYLOR: UK baseball focused on getting better

Kentucky baseball coach John Cohen isn't concerned about a letdown a year after the Wildcats won a school-record 44 games and share of the Southeastern Conference title.

"I don't know what our guys are saying around dorm rooms and apartments, but I can tell you around us that there's none of that talk," he said. "We just don't talk about those things. We want to get better every time we practice and every time we play a game. Our kids are really good at doing that."

Cohen likes the fact that a determination to improve has been a big part of the team's preparation for the upcoming season, which begins on Feb. 16 with a three-game series at Furman.

"They are really good at getting better and that's the greatest indicator to us that we are going to have a good club this year," the UK coach said. "I can tell you that having done this for a while, it's not always that way."

Kentucky catcher and legitimate professional prospect Sean Coughlin said that continuing to build on the last year's successful season is "in the back of everyone's mind."

"As a whole, in the locker room, we take it one step at a time," he said. "We have to seal up the holes that we have by losing the players that we did last year. We did that and we're coming together as a family, so we're taking it one step at a time. We don't have to say that we have to prove anything to anybody, we just have to go out and play our game."

Despite working through adverse conditions during preseason workouts, Cohen said the players have been responsive even when the weather permitted the team to take in a practice session on the practice diamond.

"I think our players have to fight to get through practices and maintain the focus that we want them to," he said. "When we went outside the other day, the first 30 minutes weren't very good. There's a whole lot of excuses that we could choose to use. It was cold, the wind was blowing 15-20 mph out of the Southwest, we didn't have as good of focus at home plate because we don't have a batter's eye. All that stuff is in front of you, but I think our coaching staff — and I mean all of our coaches — do a great job of keeping our players focused in that area."

Cohen added that competition for spots also has been a factor in helping the team maintain their focus.

"I think our players are still trying to fight for position," he said. ‘I think there are so many positions that are up for grabs, I don't think they're concerned about the overconfidence thing. I think most of our guys are fighting for a chance to step on the field, which is the way it ought to be."

The ultimate goal, Cohen said is to advance to the College World Series.

"I think our focus last year was SEC games as it should be," Cohen said. "We dominated at home, played really well at home. We didn't play as well as we wanted to in the tournament and, I think anybody in our league would trade a league championship for the opportunity to go to Omaha. I think that's what our players want to do. They want to go to Omaha."

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