Inclement weather forced the ninth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats to play three games in one day during Saturday’s action in the Lexington Regional of the NCAA Softball Tournament on Saturday.
Below are recaps of all three games:
Kentucky 6, Butler 1
The Hittin’ Kittens battled two rain delays and the Butler Bulldogs in a 6-1 win to open the team’s NCAA Regional campaign in a game that started on Friday afternoon and didn’t finish until late Saturday morning.
Katie Reed started the scoring for UK early in the bottom of the 1st inning when she smacked an RBI triple to centerfield. Abbey Cheek’s sacrifice groundout brought Reed home and put UK up 2-0 to end the inning before the skies opened up and the ground crew scrambled to put the tarp on the field.
Eventually, the umpires decided to postpone the game until the next morning.
The Kittens added another run the next inning when starting shortstop Christian Reed stole third base and then scooted home when Butler’s catcher overthrew the bag.
UK’s bats were silent until the bottom of the 5th inning. Nikki Sagermann got on base thanks to a fielder’s choice. Cheeks advanced her with a single and then both runners snatched an extra bag courtesy of another errant Butler throw. Both scored off of a Jenny Schaper single to extend the ladies in blue’s lead to 5-0.
The next inning, Sylver Samuel’s RBI single drove in UK’s final run of the game to give them a 6-0 lead.
Kelsey Nunley pitched one inning before the rain started coming down on Friday. Meagan Prince replaced her when play resumed, and Prince threw a dandy of a game. She surrendered a single run in six full innings to go along with five hits and six strikeouts.
Utah 3, Kentucky 0
Kentucky fell behind early on and could never get on track offensively in a 3-0 loss, the second game of the day for the Hittin’ Kittens in the Lexington Regional.
Early in the 1st inning, after retiring the first Ute batter via strikeout, Kentucky ace Kelsey Nunley walked a runner to set a showdown with the Utah’s second best hitter, Anissa Urtez. With the count deadlocked at 1-1, Nunley fired in another pitch only to watch it sail over the left field fence for a two-run homer.
After retiring the side in the bottom of the 2nd, Nunley ran into trouble again. A single and two walks loaded the bases with two outs before Nunley forced a pop-fly to end the threat. Nunley was able to keep the Utes in check until the top of the 7th when the Utes added another run on a fielder’s choice.
Nunley pitched a full seven innings in which she gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits to go along with four strikeouts in contrast to five walks.
Needing four runs to stay in the winner’s bracket, Kentucky came to bat in the bottom of the 7th. Utah pitcher Katie Donovan’s sterling pitching kept the hosts off the board and no further than second base for the entire game.
Sylver Samuel and Katie Reed each grounded out to the start the inning. Nikki Sagermann and Abbey Cheek provided a ray of hope with twin singles to put two runners on base. Utah brought out a new pitcher, Miranda Viramontes, face Jenny Schaper. Viramontes then sent Schaper back to the dugout swinging to clinch the game for the Utes.
Kentucky 3, Illinois 2
When Sylver Samuel grounded out to third base in the top of the 7th inning during the night game of the Lexington Regional, Kentucky was down to its potential final out of the season.
Trailing 2-1 and with Christian Stokes on second, Katie Reed came up to the plate with hopes of extending Kentucky’s season for at least one more day. Ahead 1-0 on the count, Reed calmly hit a single to center field to tie the game, and, after Kelsey Nunley struck out three Illinois batters in the bottom of the inning, the game went into an extra frame.
An Abbey Cheek single and a Jenny Schaper bunt put runners on the first and second in the top of the 8th. Brooklin Hinz lined into a double play soon after, but Kelsey Nunley was hit by a pitch and with that Kentucky had runners on the corners. Christian Stokes was up next and delivered the game-winning double.
Illinois managed to get a runner on base in the bottom of the inning but the rally petered out, and Kentucky survived to advance to the championship game against Utah on Sunday.
The Hittin’ Kittens trailed for most of the game. Illinois shelled Meagan Prince in the 1st inning. The normally solid Price gave up two runs on three hits and walked a batter in less than an inning of work.
Nunley threw 7 ⅓ innings in relief and didn’t surrender a single run. She struck out nine batters and gave up only three hits.
Stokes drove in Kentucky’s first run of the game with a single in the top of the 4th.