LOUISVILLE — Kentucky exited from the NCAA softball regional here in fitting, if frustrating fashion Saturday.
A 3-2 loss to archrival Louisville continued a trend that saw every game here Friday and Saturday decided in walk-off fashion and/or by a one-run margin.
UK, which lost to Michigan on a two-out, two-run walk-off double Friday, rallied from an early 3-0 deficit. Continuing the dramatics, the game ended with Ginny Carroll's bid for a walk-off two-run homer dying in the glove of the left fielder near the warning track.
U of L (55-4) advanced to Sunday's regional finals against Michigan. UK's season ended with a 30-30 record.
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Coach Rachel Lawson saw the break-even record and gritty final game as appropriate "for what this team has done over the last month."
U of L ace Tori Collins improved her record to 25-1.
After Louisville lost 2-1 to Michigan earlier in the day, first baseman Alicja Wolney made a promise. "We're going to win these next three games," she said. "I guarantee it."
With a stadium record crowd of 3,124 watching, she delivered.
Louisville scored three runs in the first inning. Wolny, the hero of Friday's victory over Valparaiso with a walk-off three-run home run, hit a two-run shot. The long arcing fly ball went over the 12-foot high chain-link fence in left-center.
When asked if she fulfilled her promise, Wolny said, "Oh yeah. Yes, sir."
After two walks and a single loaded the bases, Louisville got a third run when Chanda Bell threw a wild pitch that sailed several feet over the catcher's outstretched glove.
Rachel Riley took over for Bell in the second. She kept UK in the game, limiting U of L to two singles the remaining six innings and at one point retiring 13 straight batters.
UK did not hit a fair ball to the outfield until the fifth inning. Leadoff hitter Brittany Cervantes poked an opposite-field single down the right-field line with one out for Kentucky's first hit.
One out later, freshman Griffin Joiner hit a long home run caught by a man on the center-field TV camera platform. That reduced UK's deficit to 3-2.
Kentucky threatened in the sixth. After an error by the second baseman, U of L replaced Collins with redshirt sophomore Chelsea Leonard, who had pitched 22⁄3 hitless innings against UK in the regular season.
After giving up a single, Leonard retired pinch-hitter Ashleigh Gustafson (1-for-16 career hitter) on a foul-out to the catcher. No. 9 hitter Emily Jolly ended the inning by popping out to the first baseman.
Carroll's bid for a walk-off two-run homer fell short as Louisville's left fielder made the catch near the warning track.
Kentucky advanced to the game against Louisville by beating Valparaiso 5-4 earlier in the day. With starter Rachel Riley retiring the first 12 hitters, UK appeared to breeze to a blowout victory in a region that saw the first three games decided in walk-off fashion.
But two UK errors helped Valpo rally for four runs in the fifth inning. That brought on Bell, who got the final seven outs. In that span, only one Valpo hitter got the ball out of infield.