Weather was the story at the 2016 NCAA Softball Tournament Lexington Regional on Friday.
After nearly a three-hour rain delay, Kentucky’s game against Butler was suspended with the Wildcats leading 2-0 in the second inning. The game will resume at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Officials hope to play the rest of Saturday’s games as scheduled: a winner’s bracket second-round game at 1 p.m., the losers’ bracket second-round game at about 3:30 p.m. and a losers’ bracket elimination game at about 6 p.m.
Freshman Katie Reed tripled in Sylver Samuel, then scored on a groundout to give Kentucky two first-inning runs Friday.
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After Butler led off its second inning with a double, the game was halted at 2:02 p.m. and a tarp put across the infield. The game was officially suspended at 4:57 p.m. By then, the John Cropp Stadium stands were empty and the tarp remained on the infield.
In the first game, which was moved from a scheduled 3:30 p.m. start to 11 a.m. due to the forecast, Utah beat Illinois 1-0.
Afterward, Utah Coach Amy Hogue expressed gratitude for organizers moving the first pitch to late morning in an effort to get the game completed before the rain.
After a trip across the country, then a practice day Thursday, it was better not to wait all day to play, Hogue said.
“It’s hard to wait that long to play,” Hogue said. “Thankfully, the game got moved up to this morning, so we didn’t have to wait as long. We were ready to play, and we’re excited about the win.”
Utah’s starting pitcher Miranda Viramontes, who gave up only three singles in 6 2/3 innings, echoed the sentiment. Of her eagerness to take the field and play, she said she and teammate Kay Kay Fronda had been awake until about two in the morning.
“It was like the night before Christmas because it was very exciting,” Viramontes said.
Coincidentally, Utah lost to Kentucky by a 1-0 score in mid-February. The game’s only run was scored on a passed ball in the bottom of the seventh.
When asked about the possibility of facing Kentucky later in this regional, Hogue said, “We actually gained a lot of confidence in that game.”
The confidence was a product of playing competitively against a Kentucky team ranked No. 18 at the time.
The Utah coach said she believed the regional’s double-elimination format would require an ability to find a reason to claim momentum and soldier on after defeat.
“You have to take the positives,” she said, “and roll with it and do your best to move ahead.
“We were close last time, a hit away from winning it, and we’ll get that hit if we face them tomorrow.”
Utah (33-19) had only five hits against Illinois. But Hogue spoke of her team showing more offense going forward.
“I think we left a lot on the table,” she said. “I think we showed what we can bring defensively and with pitching, but I think our offense is going to explode at any point. I’m anxious for them to loosen up and show what they can do.”
▪ This weekend’s Lexington Regional games are not being shown live on broadcast television. All the games may be seen online on ESPN3.com or on the WatchESPN app.
Game 1: Utah 1, Illinois 0
Game 2: Kentucky 2, Butler 0 (suspended in top of second)
Game 2: Kentucky vs. Butler, 11 a.m. (Resumption of Friday’s game)
Game 3: Utah vs. Game 2 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 4: Illinois 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.