The spring ball season has finally sprung. Despite it being only mid-February, your Kentucky Wildcats softball team will begin its 17th season this afternoon at the Kajikawa Classic in Arizona. The Cats are coming off its fourth-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance — one of only 27 teams in the nation that can claim such an accomplishment — and are returning many key components of last season’s squad.
Senior shortstop Kara Dill will lead the way in the infield, and junior pitcher Lauren Cumbess is poised to fill in for one of the greatest Wildcats ever, Chanda Bell. Also returning is all-SEC freshman team performer from 2012, Griffin Joiner and senior outfielder Alice O’Brien, both of whom finished near the top of the list in batting average last season.
The Kentucky softball team will open the season against California, a traditional power in NCAA softball. Last season the Golden Bears advanced to the College World Series after posting a 58-7 record. The Cats and Bears last met in 2011 in the Lexington Super Regional where Cal would win the best-of-three series to advance to the World Series.
Kentucky will not play a game in Lexington until the weather warms up, playing its first 20 contests of the season on the road in Arizona, California, South Carolina and Florida. While traveling, Kentucky will square off against a fierce schedule which includes Oregon State, Arizona State, Stanford, Washington, and Oklahoma. These teams are all ranked ahead of Kentucky, which checks in at No. 34 nationally.
Kentucky will christen its brand new state-of-the-art stadium on March 6 against Marshall. The stadium will also host the SEC Tournament this season for the first time in school history. The event is considered one of the most prestigious and competitive softball tournaments in the nation.