Kentucky surprises No. 10 Michigan
Defense holds UM in check before Rowlands’ game-winner
ANN ARBOR Mich. -- Kentucky sealed its first NCAA Super Regional bid with a dramatic walk-off seventh inning rally to down No. 2 Michigan 2-1 on Sunday.
With UK trailing by one run, senior Meagan Aull lofted her 10th home run of the season over the right field fence to knot the score. Classmate Annie Rowlands then delivered a one-out, bases-loaded single into shallow right field to propel UK to the improbable win.
The Wildcats (39-14) set the stage for the comeback effort behind a dazzling pitching performance from junior Rachel Riley and near picture-perfect defense. Riley worked a complete-game effort for her 12th win of the season. She allowed just one hit to the powerful Michigan attack and walked four. The lone run came in as an unearned tally after UK's defense committed its only flaw of the entire tournament.
Sophomore Kara Dill, Rowlands, senior Samantha DeMartine, freshman Emily Jolly and junior Brittany Cervantes made defensive gems to support Riley's impressive show.
"Our defense has been outstanding all weekend long, but today that is the reason why we won," UK coach Rachel Lawson said. "All of our defensive plays plus Rachel's pitching kept us in the game long enough for us so we could have that awesome seventh inning."
At the plate, Aull became the fourth different Wildcat to notch 10 or more homes on the season with her double-digit dinger to start the seventh. Senior Megan Yocke, DeMartine, Dill and Rowlands accounted for UK's other hits in the outing.
With the Wildcats trailing by one run UK trotted to the plate its No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters. Aull wasted little time in giving life to the home team's dugout when she dipped an inside changeup over the right field wall to knot the score.
The Wolverine's senior All-America pitcher Jordan Taylor then threw nine consecutive balls to load the bases as Riley and Cervantes drew back-to-back walks and DeMartine was plucked with a pitch. Following a strikeout, Rowlands produced the most significant hit in UK program history. With Michigan's infield pulled in, Rowlands got enough of a ball to loft the sphere into shallow right field to bring in junior pinch runner Macy Allen easily.
Michigan struck for a run first with a tally in the top of the fourth behind a UK miscue. Riley walked two consecutive batters after recording the first out of the inning. A runner came home on a two-out muffed grounder by the Wildcat defense to give Michigan its first lead over UK in the tournament at 1-0.
Riley wasted little time in sitting the Michigan lineup down in order to open the game. Dill registered the game's first hit with a one-out single into right center. She shifted into scoring position on a tag-up to deep left-center, but then was caught attempting to swipe third for the final out of the stanza.
Riley allowed her first base runner of the NCAA Tournament with a five-pitch walk, but UK's defensive effort rose to the challenge and turned two spectacular plays. DeMartine charged a sacrifice-bunt attempt and fired to get the lead runner and then Cervantes made a sky-high snag to rob Michigan of a slap hit along the left field line in the top of the third.
Michigan's Dorian Shaw drew a one-out walk for the second time in the game to place a runner aboard for the designated visitors in the sixth. Jolly's diving snag and pitch to Dill at second to get the lead runner put two outs on the board. The Wolverines' recorded their first hit of the game with a single up the middle by Ashley Lane, but Riley forced a foul-out to DeMartine at first to escape the jam and keep UK within one run trailing 1-0.
Yocke attempted to ignite a two-out rally in the home half of the sixth with a single into right-center. The final out came on a strange play with the umpire declaring Dill out because the ball popped back up and hit her in fair territory.