The University of Kentucky softball team will be the prohibitive favorite to win this weekend’s NCAA Tournament Lexington Regional, but don’t discount the Wildcats’ opening-day opponent, Butler.
Never count out Butler, apparently.
The Bulldogs (28-22) earned their NCAA berth by winning last weekend’s Big East Tournament in almost miraculous fashion. In the semifinals against No. 1 seed DePaul, the No. 4 seeded Bulldogs overcame a four-run deficit to win 10-6. In the championship game, St. John’s held a 6-0 lead and had not allowed a hit through four innings before Butler rallied to win 10-8 in eight innings.
“I still don’t have the words to explain how it happened, other than it was a complete team win. Twice,” Butler Coach Scott Hall told the Indianapolis Star.
Kentucky enters the weekend as the highest-rated team in the regional and the No. 9 overall seed in the 64-team NCAA field. The Wildcats finished second in the Southeastern Conference during the regular season then lost in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. UK is making its seventh straight NCAA appearance under Rachel Lawson, the 2016 SEC Coach of the Year. The Wildcats have advanced to four out of the last five super regionals, with a Women's College World Series appearance in 2014.
The Lexington Regional, a four-team double-elimination event, also includes Utah and Illinois. The champion advances to the super-regional round next weekend.
Game times for Friday’s opening day were changed on Thursday because of a forecast for heavy rain.
The double-elimination tournament continues with three games Saturday and either one or two games Sunday.
UK is 5-0 all-time against Butler, with the last meeting coming in 2014 at John Cropp Stadium. The Wildcats won that game 9-7. Kentucky played Utah earlier this season in the teams’ first-ever meeting, winning 1-0 on a walk-off passed ball in the bottom of the seventh inning as part of the Kajikawa Classic in Phoenix on Feb. 15. The Utes earned an at-large bid out of the Pac-12 conference. Illinois enters the postseason as an at-large selection out of the Big Ten. Kentucky won the only meeting between the two schools in 2013.
Games in Lexington will not be shown live in their entirety on broadcast television. Portions of some games may be featured during ESPNU’s “whip-around coverage” throughout the weekend. Every game is available online on ESPN3.com and on the WatchESPN app.
Tickets are on sale online at UKathletics.com or by calling the UK Ticket Office at 1-800-928-2287.
In the event of inclement weather, fans are encouraged to call the John Cropp Stadium weather hotline at 859-257-9014 for game-related updates. Updates will also be posted on Twitter @UKSoftball and @UKTix.
Game 1: Illinois vs. Utah, 11 a.m.
Game 2: Kentucky vs. Butler, 1:30 p.m.
Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 4: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 3:30 p.m.
Game 5: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 7: If necessary, 3:30 p.m.