UK builds lead, holds on for upset
Riley earns first save, Bell tops 700 career strikeouts in win
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - With a 7-6 upset of the nation's No. 2 team and the NCAA Tournament's No. 10 overall seed in Michigan, 21st-ranked Kentucky advanced to the regional final behind another impressive offensive performance. Kentucky is now just one win away from advancing to its first NCAA Super Regional.
Kentucky's (38-14) seven runs came from the Wildcats eight hits. Samantha DeMartine led the offensive effort with a 3-for-3 day at the plate with a pair of runs scored and two RBIs. The senior has combined to go 4-for-5 in the NCAA Tournament and brought in four runs.
"That's very important (winning the first two games), especially if our offense continues to do what it's been doing, and with our deep pitching staff, we don't have to worry about them (the opponent) tiring one of our pitchers out," UK coach Rachel Lawson said. "We have a lot of options, so this is a good situation for us to be in."
Junior Brittany Cervantes was 1-for-1 and drew two walks while scoring three times to break the UK single-season record for runs scored with 54. Alice O'Brien and Emily Jolly both contributed a two-run single to aid the Wildcat cause.
Chanda Bell picked up her second win of the postseason with a six-inning performance to improve to 15-6 on the season. Bell notched five strikeouts in the game and is now the first player in school history with 700 career strikeouts. Rachel Riley entered in the seventh with UK clinging to a one-run lead and forced three quick outs to earn her first save of the season and second of her career.
The win versus Michigan is UK's first against a top-three opponent since knocking off No. 3 Florida in Gainesville, Fla., on April 17, 2010.
UK struck first for the second time in the NCAA Tournament with a run in the home half of the second. Cervantes got things started with the first hit of the game that sliced through the left side. DeMartine followed suit with a single that lofted into shallow left field to get two aboard. A grounder to short placed runners on the corners for pinch hitter Lauren Cumbess. The freshman sent a slow roller along the first base line, but Michigan's Dorian Shaw allowed the ball to slip between her legs and Cervantes rounded home for the game's first score and a 1-0 lead for the Wildcats.
The Blue and White exploded for a three-run inning in the bottom of the fourth to take a commanding 4-0 advantage. Riley doubled into deep center field to begin the rally. Cervantes was then then awarded first after a five-pitch walk. DeMartine delivered her second clutch hit of the NCAA Tournament with a double into right to plate the first score of the inning. Following back-to-back strikeouts, Jolly came up with the biggest hit of her young career with a two-run single up the middle for the final two tallies of the stanza for the Wildcats.
UK continued its offensive onslaught with three more runs in the bottom of the fifth to stretch the lead to 7-0.
Meagan Aull drew a one-out walk to start the fifth. She promptly stole her 70th career base to shift into scoring position. Following a fly-out to left, Cervantes reached base for the third time by drawing her second walk. Aull, with some nifty base running, scooted to third with another stolen base on the two-out full-count pitch to Cervantes.
DeMartine then stepped to the dish and posted her second consecutive double, this time along the right field line, to score Aull. With a pair of runners in scoring position, O'Brien brought in the game's winning scores with a single into right field for the third runs of the frame.
Michigan answered with a run in the top of the sixth to stop Bell's 10.2 innings of shutout ball in the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines scratched the board with three singles in the inning after managing just two hits in the first five innings of action against the Kentucky righty.
After retiring the side in UK's home half of the sixth, Michigan made things interesting with five runs in the top of the seventh. Michigan's last-ditch comeback effort was highlighted by an Ashley Lane grand slam.
With no outs and now just ahead by one run, Lawson turned to Riley. UK's right-hander from Bowling Green, Ky., calmly entered the game and dispersed of the Wolverines in order including two consecutive strikeouts to earn her first save of the season.
Both teams retired the side in order in first inning. The Wildcats began the game in the field with Bell taking the mound for the second consecutive game. UK's right-hander got off to a terrific start by recording a pair of strikeouts in her first three outs to quickly scatter Michigan's top of the order.
After allowing her second base runner of the game to reach with a hit by pitch, Bell once again escaped the threat. Jolly made an outstanding snag at second base and pitched it to first for the third out of the second stanza.
Kentucky and Bell escaped another jam in the top of the third. UK's righty yielded her first hit of the game with a single to Lyndsey Doyle and then Shaw reached on a full-count walk. The inning ended on a crazy play with the count full, a check swing was initially ruled a hit by pitch but because she was swinging, the ruling was changed to an attempted swing and strike three. The umpires ruled the batter out to end the inning with two runners stranded for Michigan.