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Softball down, but certainly not out after series-opening loss

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Griffin Joiner blasted a grand slam in UK's 6-4 loss at UCLA on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Griffin Joiner blasted a grand slam in UK's 6-4 loss at UCLA on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
The NCAA Softball Super Regional is a best-of-three series for a reason. The series is not won or lost in just one game.

After a 6-4 loss at No. 3 UCLA on Saturday, the No. 14 Kentucky softball team gets the chance to come back Sunday in game two and force a third game with a trip to the Women's College World Series on the line.

The Wildcats pride themselves on their ability to bounce back and keep on fighting. It's a team that doesn't give up, no matter the situation, whether it's coming back after a loss or continuing to battle at the plate.

They'll get another opportunity to respond Sunday and keep their season alive, and it will be a situation the Wildcats have experienced before, twice in SEC play this season.

UK lost the series opener at No. 16 Missouri before it rebounded to win the final two contests in mid-March, while Kentucky also fell in the opener to No. 18 Texas A&M only to answer with two wins to claim the series in early April.

"We're a team that fights," junior captain Griffin Joiner said. "We've fought all year. We're just going to have to come out tomorrow and fight as long as we can."

Despite the loss, there are positives to build on.

Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Nunley allowed just four hits and did not allow an earned run. After UCLA scored two in the bottom of the second, the UK offense responded with four runs in the third, courtesy of Joiner's grand slam.

Another positive was the play from the Kentucky infield, which turned two double plays to extinguish several Bruin scoring opportunities.

"Our infield was awesome," UK head coach Rachel Lawson said. "The double plays turned were great, so I think that really showed that we were ready to play. They were playing loose. To be able to turn as many double plays as we did with the number of free passes that we gave up on the mound really shows that the infield came to play."

The key on Sunday will be UK's ability to shake off Saturday's loss and focus on the next game.

Lawson has stressed to her team all season that the most important pitch is the next one. Sunday, that will have to be the focus. 

"I think it's important to remember that the next pitch is the most important pitch," Lawson said. "What happened later in the game was we weren't looking forward to the next pitch. It was a tremendous crowd, they showed up great for Super Regionals, and I think we let the whole environment make us a little bit tentative."

Last weekend, Kentucky took advantage of the home crowd at John Cropp Stadium to win its Regional and advance to its third Super Regional in the last four years. Saturday, a crowd of 1,328 at Easton Stadium gave UCLA its spark. Sunday, UK will have to feed off the hostile road environment.

The Wildcats are in a hole and must win the next two games, but that's nothing that can't be done. It's already been done once in this season's Super Regional, by Florida State. Michigan claimed a 1-0 series lead Thursday before FSU won the final two games Friday to advance to the World Series.

Keep fighting, that's what Kentucky will have to do Sunday in game two, which begins at 3 p.m. ET on ESPNU. If the Cats do that, as they have so many times in a record-setting 2014, they will earn a third and deciding game, at 6 p.m.

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