Softball

Utes Upset Wildcats in Decisive Game Seven, Into Super Regionals

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Ninth-seeded
Kentucky saw a late rally fall just short in Sunday’s regional Friday at John
Cropp Stadium in front of a season-high 1,808 fans, dropping a 5-3 decision to
the Utah Utes, who advance out of the Lexington Regional and into the
Tallahassee Super Regional next weekend in the Sunshine State.

With the loss, Kentucky’s historic
season comes to an end with a 46-14 overall record on the season and a
program-record second-place finish in the Southeastern Conference. The Wildcats
beat 11 ranked teams in 2016 and had the most road wins of anyone in the
nation, with a 20-3 record away from home.

The Wildcats saw a boost into its
starting lineup this season with the addition of three critical freshman stars,
in Katie Reed, Jenny Schaper and Abbey Cheek – who all three played crucial roles
in not only this weekend’s Lexington Regional, but the entire regular season as
a whole. Cheek broke the Kentucky record for freshman RBI, driving in 52 on the
season – and became just the third player in program history to record 10-plus
homers in her freshman season in the Blue and White.

Reed played sensational defense all
season long, and shined even brighter this weekend, making some incredible
plays up the spine of Kentucky’s defense. The Wildcats would not have even been
playing if it weren’t for Reed’s RBI single on Saturday night in an elimination
game vs. Illinois trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning. Reed started her career
on an 18-hitting streak to break the UK record, and never looked back.

In what turned out to be a pitcher’s
duel for the first four innings, Kentucky’s Meagan Prince was dealing on the
heels of her shutout in game one, as she kept the Utes off the scoreboard for
the first four innings of the second game. After retiring the first two batters
in the fifth inning, Prince allowed two seeing-eye base hits and Kelsey Nunley
was brought in. Two more successive base hits allowed the Utes to take a 3-0
lead.

Kentucky would respond in the
bottom of the fifth with a lead-off solo home run from freshman Jenny Schaper,
who caught all five of Kentucky’s games in the NCAA Tournament this weekend.

After Utah answered with a run in
the top of the sixth to make it 4-1, Kentucky mounted its biggest threat in the
bottom half of the inning. Katie Reed launched an RBI double to the wall in
left to score Sylver Samuel from second – who got on via a throwing error.
After freshman Abbey Cheek was hit by a pitch and Schaper singled to load the
bases with two outs, sophomore Brooklin Hinz recorded an infield single to the
shortstop to score a run and keep the bases loaded for Nunley. Nunley battled
in her at bat before being called out on strikes in an inside pitch to end the
inning.

Utah would make it 5-3 in the top
of the seventh inning after a lead-off double by the Utes Kay Kay Fronda was
cashed into a run on an RBI single by Hailey Hilburn.

The Wildcats brought the tying run
to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning, but a deep fly ball to left
ended the game, and closed the book on Kentucky’s 2016 season.

Sunday marks the end of the most
historic pitcher in Kentucky’s program history – and arguably the best player
in UK history – in senior pitcher, Kelsey Nunley. The Soddy Daisy, Tenn.,
native did just about everything you could do on and off the field, including
becoming the first-ever UK player to be named the Southeastern Conference’s
Pitcher of the Year.

2016 Lexington Regional

John Cropp Stadium (1,500)

Lexington, Ky.

Friday, May 20

Game 1: Utah def. Illinois, 1-0

Saturday, May 21

Game 2: Kentucky def. Butler, 6-1

Game 3: Utah def. Kentucky, 3-0

Game 4: Illinois def. Butler, 2-1 (8) [Butler eliminated]

Game 5: Kentucky def. Illinois, 3-2 (8) [Illinois eliminated]

Sunday, May 22

Game 6: Kentucky def. Utah, 4-0

Game 7: Utah def. Kentucky, 5-3*

*Utah to Tallahassee Super Regional round May 26-29

For the latest on the Kentucky
softball team, follow @UKSoftball on
Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as on the web at UKathletics.com

Related Stories

View all