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Video: Softball rolls Irish in all-important first NCAA Tournament game

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Making its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance and fresh off a record-setting offensive year, there were several reasons for optimism for the Kentucky softball team heading into its game with Notre Dame.

But to post an 8-0 mercy rule win against a team that was technically seeded higher than the Cats and had lost just nine times this season, that had to be a little surprising, right?

"I'm shocked, actually," head coach Rachel Lawson admitted after UK's five-inning win over the Fighting Irish in Ann Arbor, Mich. "I think Notre Dame is a tremendous team and they have great pitching, great coaching and they have a great offense. They've done a great job all year. I expect them to have a different outing tomorrow. I just think we were excited to finally get out of SEC play and play another team."

Kentucky dominated Notre Dame from the outset in setting the program record for wins with 37. Senior Samantha DeMartine singled in two runs in the first inning and the Wildcats never looked back. UK totaled 11 hits overall, including a pair of two-run home runs from junior Brittany Cervantes and senior Megan Yocke.

Junior Chanda Bell allowed just two hits to pick up her 14th win of the season, picking up key defensive plays from seniors Meagan Aull and Annie Rowlands.

Deb Moore has all the details in the game recap here.

The biggest thing to take out of the win for UK is that it avoided having to win four in a row to get out of the regional. A loss on Friday would have forced Kentucky into that win-four-or-go-home hole in the double-elimination regional.

"It's the most important thing to win the first game," said Cervantes, whose 35th career home run in the third inning tied Molly Johnson's record mark. "If you lose, you put yourself in a hole. You don't want that for your pitchers, your offense, your defense - nobody wants that. It just puts more pressure."

Kentucky will play the winner of the Michigan-Western Michigan game on Saturday at noon on ESPN.

If it is indeed Michigan, which, despite being the No. 10 overall seed in the tournament was ranked No. 2 in both major polls to end the season, the Cats have redemption on their minds. UK lost two games in Ann Arbor last year, both of which they led late into the game.

"Those games were a little bitter," Cervantes said. "We were ahead those games and didn't back it up. We scored the runs. Of course they're going to score runs; they're the No. 2 team in the nation. But we're still a little bitter (about last year). If we get the chance to play Michigan, I think it's going to be a completely different game than last year because I think they're a completely different team than last year."

Watch and listen to the full comments from Lawson and Cervantes from postgame interviews:

Head coach Rachel Lawson

Junior Brittany Cervantes

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