LEXINGTON¿— Kentucky isn’t concerned about its 1-0 loss to California Saturday. The Wildcats are already looking ahead to Sunday.
The Wildcats (39-15) knows a berth in the College World Series is within reach despite being down 1-0 in the best-of-three Super Regional series against the Bears that concludes today at the UK¿Softball¿Complex. The series is set to resume at 1 p.m. Sunday. If necessary, the third game will begin at 3:30 p.m. The winner advances to next weekend’s College World Series.
NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
“We’ve been (down) before and we’ve bounced back,” she said afterward.
Kentucky acted like it had been there and done that while playing in front of nearly 2,000 fans, most of whom wanted to get a sneak peak at one of the top surprises in this year’s Big Dance.
Although the Wildcats failed to produce a victory on the big stage, Kentucky showed it can compete against the Bears, ranked among the top five teams in the nation. The Wildcats also are ranked in the Top 25 and didn’t waste time selling out all three games once tickets became available early last week.
Kentucky pitcher Chanda Bell, who tossed the first perfect game in school history in a 16-0 shutout over Austin Peay last month, threw well enough to win, but her lone mistake proved to be the only difference in the outcome. Bell struck out eight batters, but gave up six hits, including a home run to Frani Echavarria in the fourth inning. Bell was behind in the count when Echavarria sent Bell’s 1-2 pitch over the left-center field fence with one out in the fourth frame.
Bell said the pitch was “high” and wasn’t surprised it sailed over the fence.
“I knew it was going to be gone,” she said.
Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson praised Bell’s outing and credited the home crowd for providing the extra boost at various stages of the game.
“I think that the crowd was great,” Lawson said. “I think that it helped us. If anything, I think that it helped us in the situations where we did make a mistake and they had runners on and I think the crowd really helped Chanda (Bell) stay in the game and helped put pressure on their hitters. Actually, I think the crowd helped keep the score down to 1-0, which really helped give us a chance to win. The crowd was a big plus for us today.”
Lawson said her team’s biggest downfall occurred at the plate. Kentucky connected on just one hit — a single by Yocke in the third inning — off Cal ace Jolene Henderson, the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year.
Following the hit by Yocke, Henderson retired 13 of the last 14 batters she faced and finished with four strikeouts. Henderson’s shutout was the first against Kentucky since a 6-0 setback at Louisville on March 23.