May 22, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio - In a thrilling contest that needed two days to play, Kentucky escaped with a 6-5 win over Ohio State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday. After leading 3-0 through three innings of action, play was suspended Friday night with the teams returning to the field Saturday at 10 a.m. ET. UK promptly took a 6-0 advantage behind a Brittany Cervantes three-run home run, before its lead dwindled behind a four-run seventh inning by the Buckeyes to give the Blue and White a scare. Cervantes made a diving snag in foul territory to preserve the victory for UK.

Kentucky improves to 32-25 on the season with the victory and will now advance to play No. 13 seed Cal at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Ohio State falls to 37-13 on the year and will play Bucknell later to keep its tournament hopes alive in the double-elimination regional.

Sophomores Chanda Bell and Rachel Riley teamed up for the dramatic victory in the circle for UK. Bell claims the win and has now posted 18 on the season. She tossed 4.1 innings of total work and struck out four. Riley entered the fifth in relief and worked 2.2 innings with a pair of strikeouts.

Cervantes and senior Natalie Smith paced the squad offensively. Cervantes knocked her 10th home run of the season in the sixth, while Smith had a bases-clearing three-run double Friday night.

In dramatic fashion the Buckeyes came storming back with four runs in the bottom of the seventh to inch within 6-5 of the Blue and White. It took a diving snag by Cervantes right in front of the Ohio State dugout to clinch the win.

Ohio State plated its scores behind a three-run home run from the No. 9 batter. The inning began with a Buckeye drawing a walk before Riley forced a pair of fly outs. An uncharacteristic error by Molly Johnson allowed the inning to stay alive. Ohio State used the opportunity to deliver the three-run bomb. Then the home team posted consecutive singles followed by another walk. Bell re-entered the game to a passing shower and struck a batter to bring in the fourth run of the inning. That's when UK's starter forced the ball into foul territory and Cervantes charged in to make the game-saving grab with the bases loaded.

UK broke open the game with its second three-run inning of the game in the top of the fifth. Smith singled into center field with just an out on the scoreboard. Megan Yocke then drew a walk to place two runners on the base paths. Cervantes then delivered her 10th home run of the season for a three-run shot and a 6-0 UK advantage.

The Buckeyes plated a run in the home half of the fifth behind two walks and a pair of singles. Riley entered in relief and yielded the one run before getting three consecutive outs, not allowing Ohio State to do any more damage with UK holding a 6-1 lead.

The Wildcats earned a 3-0 advantage with a three-run third frame on Friday night prior to the postponement.

UK's offense was quiet to open play Friday but erupted for three runs on three hits in the third stanza to help Kentucky to a 3-0 lead early. Rowlands smoked a one-out double that laced the left-field line to get a runner on base. Freshman Kara Dill then hit a chopper that nicked off the pitcher's mit, and the speedy runner was able to reach first before the second baseman could make the throw. The Buckeyes opted to intentionally walk Johnson to load the bags. Smith wasted little time in delivering a hit when she struck the first offering she saw into the left-center gap for a bases-clearing double and the three-run lead.

Kentucky returns to action at 12:30 p.m. ET to take on No. 13 seed California for the right to advance to the championship portion of the regional taking place Sunday. Cal and the Wildcats played earlier this season with the Golden Bears earning a 6-1 victory in that contest.

COLUMBUS REGIONAL SCHEDULE

Saturday (times subject to change):
Game 3: Cal vs. Kentucky - 12:30
Game 4: Bucknell vs. Ohio State - 3 p.m.
Game 5: Game 4 winner vs. Game 3 loser - 5:30 p.m.

Sunday (times subject to change):
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner - 2:30 p.m.
Game 7, if needed: Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser - 5 p.m.