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NCAA softball: Michigan's rally trumps Kentucky's

LOUISVILLE — One strike away from winning Friday's opening game of the NCAA Softball Regional, Kentucky got a taste of the will of the Wolverines.

Sara Driesenga's full-count, two-out, two-run double down the left-field line in the bottom of the seventh inning gave Michigan a 3-2 victory over the Wildcats.

Driesenga, 0-for-3 until that point, was pulled aside by Coach Carol Hutchins moments before delivering the winning hit.

"She just said it didn't matter what I did my last at-bat," Driesenga said. "... The only thing that mattered was that next pitch."

UK is still alive in the double-elimination tournament at Louisville's Ulmer Stadium, and will meet Valparaiso on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Michigan (40-15) will face Louisville at 1 p.m.

UK Coach Rachel Lawson has faith that her Cats (29-29) can bounce back.

"I'm not really worried about that. I think the cool thing about this team is we're very analytical in 'why things happen,' " Lawson said. "So I think we'll go back, we'll process what happened during this game, make some adjustments and hopefully we'll come back better tomorrow. But this team has a lot of character and they know how to bounce back."

UK, playing in its fourth consecutive NCAA tourney, handed Michigan a pair of one-run defeats in last year's regional at Ann Arbor.

"We came in and said 'we're not losing to Kentucky,'" Wolverines third baseman Stephanie Kirkpatrick said.

This time, with an ESPN2 audience watching, Michigan freshman Haylie Wagner (30-5) blanked the Cats on four hits through six innings.

Wagner also was hit by a Chanda Bell pitch in the fourth inning. Pinch runner Jaclyn Crummey stole second, then scored on Stephanie Kirkpatrick's two-out single to left.

It stayed 1-0 until the top of the seventh, when UK's Alice O'Brien led off with a single. Lauren Cumbess put down a bunt to move O'Brien to second.

Ginny Carroll's third hit of the day put runners on the corners.

One out later, Emily Jolly hit a grounder to the hole between short and third. Shortstop Amy Knapp fired to second, but Carroll slid in ahead of the throw to allow O'Brien to score the tying run.

Brittany Cervantes lined a one-hopper off Knapp's glove for a two-base, run-scoring error and a 2-1 UK lead.

In the bottom of the seventh, after a leadoff single, Bree Evans reached on a fielder's choice.

She took second on Nicole Sappingfield's single.

Bell got Amanda Chidester on a fly ball, then came within a pitch of getting Driesenga.

"It was an inside pitch and I think she was getting all inside pitches that at-bat," said Bell (16-12). "So I think she kind of backed off the plate a little bit, was expecting it. I knew she was swinging so I was just trying to get the ball to do what I wanted it to do — try and get it inside on her.

"I knew whatever we threw she was probably going to be swinging just because she hacked at a couple ones before. I thought we had her, though."

Hutchins never hesitated in waving Sappingfield home.

"I thought it was a pretty good decision," Hutchins said with a smile. "Absolutely. We were running all the way. Make them make a play."

Said Lawson: "Today was a good game. I think we gave ESPN what they wanted. Obviously we ended up on the losing end of things, so that wasn't ideal. But it was a good game.

"Michigan's a great team. You've gotta give them their props. I thought their freshman pitcher did an awesome job and their other freshman pitcher, who happens to be a hitter, got the game-winning hit. So you've really gotta give them credit for coming up big in such a tough situation."

Louisville 6, Valparaiso 4

Alicja Wolny hit a three-run, walk-off homer with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to lift the host Cardinals.

Valparaiso (42-18) had erased a 3-1 deficit with three runs in the top of the fifth to go up 4-3.

In the U of L seventh, Whitney Arion singled through the right side and Jennifer Esteban reached on a bunt hit. Two outs later, Wolny delivered the game-winner.

Louisville (54-3) scored its first three runs in the bottom of the first on a Wolny double and a two-run single by Taner Fowler.

Wolny, a junior first baseman from El Dorado Hills, Calif., went 3-for-4 with four RBI. She increased her season average to .399.

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