Senior catcher Griffin Joiner's two-out single in the top of the seventh inning scored the tying and go-ahead runs in the Kentucky softball team's 4-3 victory over host Notre Dame in the South Bend Regional finals on Sunday afternoon.
The win sent Kentucky to its third straight Super Regional appearance. The Cats will face host Florida in Gainesville.
"This was a great game for us," UK Coach Rachel Lawson said. "Obviously, it was a tight game."
The Irish, the 16th overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, had taken a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning on a leadoff home run by Cassidy Whidden.
But Joiner helped rescue the Cats with her hit that scored teammates Christian Stokes and Nikki Sagermann.
"I just looked at the scoreboard — it was full count, top of the seventh," Joiner said. "That's really what you work for and what you live for."
UK entered the tournament on a seven-game losing streak, including three walk-off losses in a row to Tennessee in the final two games of the regular season and the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Now, the Wildcats are on a remarkably well-timed three-game winning streak after sweeping through the South Bend Regional.
"It definitely says that we're tough," Lawson said. "I think the other thing it says is we have a really short memory, which in situations like this is key. So we don't really carry things from game to game. I think it says a lot about our character."
UK's Kelsey Nunley allowed three earned runs on seven hits with six strikeouts. That was against an Irish offense that scored 29 runs in two run-rule wins on Saturday.
"Notre Dame is a great offensive team," Lawson said. "They have so many different weapons and so many different tools. I really think that Nunley did a great job on the mound keeping them off balance and keeping the number of runners on base to a minimum."
Notre Dame managed to get a runner on third base in the bottom of the seventh. But Nunley got two of the Irish's best hitters — Emilee Koerner and Katey Haus — to pop out and end the game.
"We just tried to keep them off balance like we always do," Nunley said. "Once again, I thought Coach called another good game and it went well. It worked out. It was a little shaky at times, but in the end Griffin came up and was a stud."
Next up is a best two-out-of-three showdown with No. 1 overall seed Florida.
"It's definitely a good feeling knowing that we get to go out and we get to play another game," Joiner said. "That's really all we're doing right now, is just fighting for another game."