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Video: Lawson after season-ending loss in NCAA Tournament

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LOUISVILLE, Ky.  - If you had asked any of the Kentucky Wildcats a month ago whether they would take a berth in the NCAA Tournament, they would have jumped at the chance. Sitting at 23-36, the Cats looked like relative long shots to even reach softball's biggest stage.

After a furious rally to close the regular season, UK made it to the postseason after all, but the end of their run left them wanting more.

On Saturday, the Cats won an elimination game against Valparaiso, 5-4, to force another one against archrival Louisville. The Cardinals charged ahead with three runs in the first inning, but behind the steady hand of senior Rachel Riley and a fifth-inning home run by Griffin Joiner, the Wildcats close to within 3-2.

Ginny Carroll, who has been UK's hottest hitter in the NCAA Tournament, came to the plate with a runner on and two out in the final frame. She lifted a high fly ball deep to left field, but U of L's Jennifer Esteban retreated to make the catch and put an end to a season that likely won't be duplicated anytime soon.

"Our record is 30-30, and that's probably perfect for this team," UK head coach Rachel Lawson said. "It's not the record you want, but about two months ago, I didn't even think we'd be sitting here right now. I think what this team has done over the last month, I've never seen a team do that before."

UK, along with the three other teams in the Louisville Regional, has helped provide a national television audience on ESPN and ESPN2 with late-inning drama over the last two days. Moreover, the Cats helped attract the largest crowd in the history of U of L's home field.

Saying goodbye to a six-member senior class of Riley (who pitched 10.2 innings and got a win over two games Saturday), Chanda Bell (who got her fourth save against Valparaiso), Brittany Cervantes (who scored two runs over the two games), Macy Allen, Ashleigh Gustafson and Erika Silence who were largely responsibility for UK's recent ascendance is tough, but the legacy of the class is beyond question.

"I feel good about our team," Lawson said. "You never want it to end, but I feel good that we had the fight in us, that we had the character to pull ourselves of the bottom and be able to play in this kind of stage is pretty cool."

In the video below, Lawson talks about the day and the end of the 2012 season:

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