UK softball advances to Super Regionals

mmaloney@herald-leader.comMay 19, 2013 

  • NCAA Super Regionals

    Kentucky at Arizona State

    What: Best of 3 series (Sweet 16)

    When: Thursday-Sunday

Kentucky's one run Sunday was better than Virginia Tech's two.

So it will be UK moving on to NCAA Softball's Sweet Sixteen, known as Super Regionals.

The 12th-seeded Wildcats will visit fifth-seeded Arizona State in a best-of-three series next weekend.

Sunday, Virginia Tech came out of the regional tourney losers' bracket to hand UK its first defeat, 2-0.

UK made the most of a winner-take-all rematch, 1-0, before a John Cropp Stadium crowd of 1,816.

Lauren Cumbess and Kelsey Nunley (27-9) combined on a five-hit shutout.

Cumbess also drove in the only run with a line-drive fifth-inning single that hit off the glove of first baseman Courtney Liddle.

"I kept getting outside pitches and I figured they might keep going there," Cumbess said. "So, luckily, one went our way once and it popped out of her glove."

That allowed Sylver Samuel, who had reached on an error, to score from third.

Kara Dill's sacrifice bunt and Griffin Joiner's fly to deep left moved Samuel from first to third.

That was all the Cats would get against Jasmin Harrell, who also pitched 13 innings Saturday against Marshall.

After Nikki Sagermann walked, Cumbess tried to score from second on Ginny Carroll's single but was thrown out at the plate by center fielder Lauren Gaskill.

UK (41-19), making its fifth consecutive post-season appearance, had already flashed some leather, too.

Carroll laid out in left field to retire Liddle in the first.

Samuel glanced the center field wall to haul in Betty Rose's third-inning drive.

Shortstop Christian Stokes retreated into left field to make a diving robbery of Liddle again in the fourth inning.

The fourth inning being when Cumbess found trouble.

Two singles and a walk filled the bases with two outs.

UK Coach Rachel Lawson called on Nunley, who had gone the distance in the opening game.

"They made a great pitching change," Tech Coach Scot Thomas said.

Nunley got Amanda Ake to pop out to Stokes.

"I was just thinking we need an out," said Nunley, a freshman right-hander. "That's all that matters."

The Hokies would strand four more runners over the last three innings, eight for the game.

Cumbess, who moved from the circle to first base, stepped in after nearly every pitch to coach Nunley on her form, offer encouragement and even to retrieve a perspiration towel from the dugout.

Perhaps caught up in the all-for-one, one-for-all spirit, Lawson was moved to tears after the game.

The money and effort put in by the UK Athletic Department in building a stadium and indoor hitting facility made Sunday's victory extra special, she said.

"Women's sports is something that's come a long way, and people usually build facilities because they have to," Lawson said. "Kentucky puts out the effort because they want to. They didn't have to build this. They didn't have to build the indoor (facility) this way. They did. ... And they didn't have to name it after John Cropp."

Tech (38-21) forced the tiebreaker by nudging UK 2-0 in the day's opener. Both runs came in the fifth inning.

Rose led off with a single, the Hokies' fourth leadoff hit of the game.

A sacrifice moved her to second, and Gaskill brought Rose in with a double.

A hit batter and back-to-back walks forced in another.

Tech, held to six hits by Nunley, got an even better outing from Kelly Heinz. The right-hander said she threw about 85 percent curveballs.

She held UK to three singles — two by Sagermann and one by Samuel. Five walks added to UK's chances, but the Cats stranded six.

Lawson had some talking points between games.

"We didn't adjust," Lawson said. "They only threw six inside pitches. Every other pitch was outside. We knew where it was going, we told them where it was going. We just didn't drive the ball up the middle like we normally do. So that was first and foremost.

"I talked about anticipating the play when you're on bases or when you're on deck. You have to anticipate what you're going to have to do before it happens so, when you see a pitch, you can just react as opposed to thinking about it."

And she told her team "if they wanted to extend their season they were going to have to give a better effort in terms of defense. They were going to have to make big plays."

So they did.

Virginia Tech 2, Kentucky 0

Virginia Tech 000 020 0—2 6 0

Kentucky 000 000 0—0 2 0

Heinz and Rose; Nunley and Joiner. W — Heinz 17-8. L — Nunley 26-9.

Kentucky 1, Virginia Tech 0

Kentucky 000 010 0—1 8 0

Virginia Tech 000 000 0—0 5 1

Cumbess, Nunley (4) and Joiner; Harrell and Rose. W — Nunley 27-9. L — Harrell 18-9.


NCAA Super Regionals

Kentucky at Arizona State

What: Best of 3 series (Sweet 16)

When: Thursday-Sunday

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL.Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.

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