WKYT | Lexington, Kentucky | Sports

UK softball ends with best ranking ever

LEXINGTON, Ky. – After advancing to the Women’s College World Series for the first time in program history, the University of Kentucky softball team ends its historic 2014 season ranked No. 6 in both the USA Today/ National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25 and ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25, it was announced Tuesday.

The rankings are the highest final rankings in program history for Kentucky, which finished the 2014 season with a 50-19 record. UK started the season No. 14 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 and No. 12 in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25, for its highest preseason ranking ever.

UK, which peaked in the national rankings at No. 5/6 on Feb. 18, spent the entire season ranked in the top 25 of both national rankings, including nine weeks inside the top 10 of both polls. UK has been ranked in 31 consecutive polls dating back to last season, setting a new program record in that category.

Kentucky ended the 2013 season ranked No. 12 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25, which was then its highest final ranking in that listing in program history. Prior to Tuesday’s No. 6 final ranking in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25, UK’s highest final ranking in the poll was No. 13 in 2011. This is the third time in the last four seasons that UK has ended the season ranked inside the top 14 of both national polls.

The rankings put the final stamp on the winningest season in UK softball history with the Wildcats earning 50 wins and advancing to the Women's College World Series for the first time in program history. Kentucky started the season with 12 consecutive wins, marking the longest winning streak in school history and the best to a season in program history.

The Wildcats ended the season by making the most successful run in program history in two of the game's most prestigious tournaments. UK advanced to the championship game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament in early May before winning the NCAA Lexington Regional and NCAA Los Angeles Super Regional to claim its first ever appearance in the WCWS. All told, UK defeated a school-record 15 ranked teams in 2014, including six wins over top-10 teams.

Kentucky made its sixth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament this season, becoming one of just 21 schools nationally to claim that honor. UK was the No. 14 national seed in the event and hosted a regional for the second straight year. The Wildcats are one of nine schools nationally to be a national seed each of the last two seasons.

UK completed its seventh season under head coach Rachel Lawson, holding a 244-172 record under the winningest head coach in program history. Lawson has 55 wins over ranked teams in her tenure at Kentucky, while the 2014 team had 20 wins over teams that ended the season ranked or receiving votes in either poll.

Prior to Lawson, UK had played 11 years of softball and never made it to the NCAA Tournament. Under Lawson UK has advanced to six NCAA Tournaments, three NCAA Super Regionals and one WCWS. In Lawson's time at UK, she has coached 10 players to 25 All-SEC honors, including three Wildcats named all-conference in 2014. Kentucky also earned its first-ever national ranking in either poll in Lawson’s tenure.


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