LOUISVILLE, Ky. – After rallying for two scores in the top half of the seventh, the Kentucky softball team fell in heartbreaking fashion in the home half of the inning to drop a 3-2 contest to No. 21 Michigan in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The loss sends the Wildcats to the elimination side of the bracket where UK will need to win four times to advance to a Super Regional. UK is set to play the loser of the Valparaiso-Louisville contest at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday with the game airing live on ESPN.
In what was an eerily similar contest to Kentucky’s dramatic win over the Wolverines a season ago, Kentucky rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the top half of the seventh to take a 2-1 lead. Michigan, however, answered the call with a two-out two-run double to earn the walk-off win over Kentucky.
UK drops to 29-29 on the season with Michigan improving to 40-15. Senior Chanda Bell worked 6.2 innings, allowing seven hits and striking out two for the Wildcats. Michigan’s freshman hurler Haylie Wagner picked up her 30th win of the season, tossing seven innings while striking out four Wildcat batters. Sophomore Ginny Carroll led the offensive output with a perfect 3-for-3 day at the dish while scoring what was the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh.
With the Wildcats trailing by a run going into their final at-bat, junior Alice O’Brien led off the frame with a base-hit knock that found grass in right field. After a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Lauren Cumbess, Carroll sliced a single over the head of the first basemen to put runners on the corners with one out. After Wagner recorded a strikeout, UK struck for its first run when sophomore Emily Jolly reached first on a fielder’s choice, with O’Brien scoring from third.
Senior Brittany Cervantes then fought off several pitches before lacing a ball to the shortstop, which was fumbled, allowing Carroll to score from second, and plate the go-ahead run on the error. The inning closed on a 5-3 put out with UK in front 2-1.
Wolverine right fielder Lyndsay Doyle led off the bottom of the seventh with a single up the middle that got a rally started for the Maize and Blue. On a bullet hit to Kara Dill, the junior cleanly fielded the ball, and got the lead runner on a force to record the inning’s opening out. Slapper Nicole Sappingfield smacked a single up the middle with one down to put runners at first and second. Big 10 Player of the Year, Amanda Chidester, fouled out to Carroll in left for the second out before clean-up hitter Sara Driesenga laced a two-run double into left field to plate the winning runs to earn the walk-off 3-2 win.
Michigan commenced the game’s scoring, striking for a run in the bottom of the fourth. With one down in the inning, Haylie Wagner was struck on the leg with a pitch, putting a runner on first. After getting the second out in the inning, Wolverine pinch runner Jaclyn Crumby advanced to second on a stolen base. With Crumby in scoring position, Stephanie Kirkpatrick laced a single through the left side of the UK defense to plate Crumby and put Michigan ahead.
With the loss, Kentucky falls to the consolation bracket and will face the loser of the (1) Louisville and (4) Valparaiso game at 5:00 p.m. ET on ESPN Saturday afternoon in Louisville.
For continuing coverage of the 2012 UK softball postseason, log on to UKathletics.com.