(Chet White/UK Athletics)
Amid all the hoopla last night over the Julius Mays commitment, and the bit of drama surrounding his high school coach’s public opinion of the decision, a big bit of news passed us by: Despite losing the first game of the SEC tournament, the Kentucky softball team has been selected for its fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance as an at-large bid.
After a rough start in early February out west and a very tough SEC schedule, the softball team was firmly on the bubble entering the final few weeks of the regular season. But five victories in the last six games; a series victory on the road at No. 7 Florida and a series sweep at home of No. 22 LSU, was enough to secure their place in the field of 64.
Kentucky is just a game over even at 29-28, but the USA Today poll has respect for its SEC battles, where they went 9-13. The poll has them ranked just outside the Top-25 at No. 31. That goes to show the talent this team has, despite nearly having a losing record.
The Cats will compete in the Louisville regional against Michigan on Friday at 4:30. The Louisville Cardinals received the No. 15-seed in the tournament and are in the same region as the Cats (Louisville has a tournament-best record of a staggering 53-3, but is diminished slightly with a weaker schedule), along with Valparaiso. The Louisville-region games will be televised on the ESPN networks, with the Friday game broadcasting on ESPN2.
The regional games are a double-elimination format. Support your Cats in Louisville if you can, because it’s going to be a tough one to get out of. But with the team playing its best of the season, now could be time to shock the world!
Kentucky is familiar with Michigan and Louisville, having played both teams this regular season. The Cards claimed the home-and-home series games, and the then-No. 11 Wolverines won 3-0 way back in February during that difficult start to the season for the Cats. Michigan is also a rematch from last season’s Regional game that Kentucky won to advance to its first ever Super Regional.
The possibility of playing a rival for the third time has to be enticing.