It's been a characteristic of the University of Kentucky softball team's 2013 success. And the Wildcats showed off just how tough they are once again Tuesday evening with a bases-loaded walk-off single from junior outfielder Ginny Carroll to earn a 4-3 victory over a pesky Marshall team at the UK Softball Complex.
"It was awesome," Carroll said. "That's one thing Coach (Rachel Lawson) has been getting on us about is being tough. I think we really showed it tonight and didn't give up."
UK came back twice in the game, scoring a run in the bottom of the fourth to tie the contest at 1-all and plating three in the bottom of the seventh to win after the Thundering Herd took a 3-1 advantage in the top of the final frame.
The game looked as though it may have been decided after Marshall took a two-run lead heading into the bottom of the seventh and senior hurler Andi Williamson dealing a gem. However, the Cats used a never-say-die mentality with the help of a couple Marshall errors and key hits, including the game-winner from Carroll to come out on top.
Carroll struggled in her first three at-bats but saved her best for last. The Hendersonville, Tenn., native says Lawson tells the Cats in practice that she doesn't care if they only get one hit, so long as they contribute and are doing their jobs.
She certainly did her job on Tuesday and with the pressure on. The Wildcats had one out in the inning with the bags packed, a full count on Carroll and the score tied at three.
Carroll's plan at the plate on the last pitch was simple.
"Since it was a full count I was just looking to protect," Carroll said. "Go after anything I could drive and then let it go if it was a ball. She was a great pitcher and we did a good job of hanging tough with her."
Marshall came into the evening sporting a 25-13 record and having won 15 of its last 16 contests. The Herd featured Williamson in the circle, who leads the country in strike outs and innings pitched and an offense that leads the Conference USA.
Head coach Rachel Lawson was pleased overall with her team's performance. She knows they didn't play their best game of the year but saw something out of her Wildcats that she has seen all season.
That word again. Tough.
"Obviously, the seventh inning we showed how tough we were and that has been a theme for us throughout the entire year," Lawson said. "I thought (Kelsey) Nunley had a good performance on the mound again. I think there were some things we could have done better but Marshall is a really good team. They are one of the best teams in the Conference USA and the best offensive team and for Nunley to keep them down was big for us."
With the victory, head coach Rachel Lawson tied the UK record with her 181st win at Kentucky. In just her sixth season, Lawson has taken the program to new heights and has the 28-10 Wildcats off to one of the best starts in history.
Kentucky travels to Frankfort, Ky., on Wednesday for a twin bill against in state foe Eastern Kentucky. Tomorrow will be a golden opportunity for Lawson to break the school's wins record, but the sixth-year head coach has bigger goals on her mind for this year and the future of the softball program.
"My goal is always to win softball games," Lawson said. "I don't really know that much about the records and such here. Our goal is to get to the (Women's College) World Series so that means we have to continue to win to do it and hopefully my teams will break a lot of records here over the years."