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NCAA Women’s Softball Tournament Preview: Lexington Regional

via @UKSportsTurf

via @UKSportsTurf

via @UKSportsTurf

RISE AND SHINE IT’S SOFTBALL TIME! Today is the day that our very own Kentucky Softball team plays their first NCAA Tournament game of the postseason, a regional matchup versus Butler. With a home field advantage, the Wildcats will be going up against the Bulldogs at beautiful John Cropp Stadium while also hosting Utah and Illinois. KSR is here to get you ready with all the info you need to prepare for this weekend’s lineups. (*don’t forget to note the time changes!)

 

The Cats and Dogs go head to head

Going into their regional game versus Butler at 1:30 p.m. the Wildcats are 43-12 including the best start in school history. Their hard work during the season paid off and landed them a #9 national seed in the NCAA Tournament and the opportunity to host a round of regional match-ups. Going into the game the Cats will have three NFCA All-Region players in Kelsey Nunley, Abbey Cheek and Meagan Prince, who have all carried the team in one way or another this season.

At the helm is 2016 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year, Rachel Lawson, as she takes her team to a seventh straight NCAA appearance. Kentucky is 5-0 all-time against the Bulldogs and haven’t played them since 2014 at John Cropp. This year the Bulldogs earned the Big East automatic bid in the title game, even with their 28-22 season record. In the last face-off between the Cats and Dogs, Kelsey Nunley and Meagan Prince teamed up to pitch the win, something that would be great to see again this weekend.

The Butler Bulldogs have had an incredible run to the NCAA Tournament after winning their first ever Big East championship. After trailing 6-0 going into the fifth inning of said game with zero hits, they proceeded to flip the odds in their favor and win over No. 1 seeded DePaul. With back-to-back comebacks leading them to their NCAA appearance versus No. 9 overall seed Kentucky, many are calling them underdogs. But with big players like Kristin Gutierrez and Sarah Dixon, it would be wise to not underestimate that they could come back once again and beat the odds.

 

 

Players to Watch in the Regional

 

Kelsey Nunley (Kentucky): This Kentucky pitcher was named a National Fastpitch Coaches’ Association All-Southeast Region player. Nunley posted a 1.28 earned run average with 20 wins, 12 complete games and seven shutouts this season in addition to being third in wins (20), eighth in strikeouts (188), second in shutouts (7), eighth in games started (30), fifth in appearances (42) and second in opposing batting average (.179).

Meagan Prince (Kentucky): Kentucky’s other half of the pitching dynamic duo was also named a National Fastpitch Coaches’ Association All-Southeast Region player. With a career-best season in 2016, Prince threw 144.0 innings,  earning her a 19-5 record in 29 games. She also became the first SEC pitcher to throw three no-hitters in the same season since Alabama’s Kelsi Dunne in 2009. Prince started the season 14-0 before her first loss (a program record for the most consecutive wins to start a season).

Sarah Dixon (Butler): Dixon was named the Most Outstanding Player in Butler’s first-ever Big East Tournament championship. She was 4-for-5 with five RBIs, four walks, three runs, a home run, a triple and a double in the two games of the tournament. It was Dixon who broke the tie that had the Bulldogs at a standstill and led them to victory with a home run into the right-field bleachers. Her tenacity could be huge for her team at John Cropp Stadium.

Katie Donovan (Utah): This Utah Ute struck out 132 batters this season, going 18-10 and was named a first-team All Pac-12 pitcher. Against their regional round against Illinois today, Donovan could be a key ingredient in shutting down their opponent and gaining the confidence to move on at a vantage point.

Nicole Evans (Illinois): Illinois’ Nicole Evans leads her team with 12 home runs and 50 RBI and a .328 average which is the second best on her team. If Utah’s Donovan is having an off day, that kind of batting could result in a spark for Illinois that leads them to victory.

 

TICKETS! GET YOUR TICKETS!!

Haven’t purchased your tickets for this afternoon’s games? Better get a move on and get them before it’s too late! To make it easy for you, we’ve included the link here: BUY ME. Now go support our girls!

 

Softball TweatBeat 

 

And with that…let’s play some softball!

 

Article written by Kelsey Mattingly

Drew Franklin is my spirit animal. @kelseyKSR