Baseball - After falling just a win shy of claiming the second Southeastern Conference Championship in program history on the final day of the regular season, Kentucky will kick off postseason play by opening the SEC Tournament on Tuesday as the fourth seed against the ninth-seeded Ole Miss Rebels, with first pitch set for 10:30 a.m. ET at Regions Park. - UK will be making its 14th all-time appearance in the SEC Tournament, owning a 16-28 overall record, with its fifth-place finish in 2000 and 2008 marking a program best. - UK completed its regular season with the most wins in a regular season in the history of the program, equaling the 41 from the school-record 44-win season in 2008. UK also tied the school record set in 2006 by winning seven of its 10 SEC series matchups in 2012. The Wildcats led the SEC in eight of 10 weeks and boasted home series wins over No. 2 South Carolina, No. 10 Ole Miss and No. 1 LSU, and road series wins at Tennessee, No. 18 Georgia and No. 9 Arkansas.
Men's tennis - The sixth-ranked University of Kentucky men's tennis team won the doubles point, but could not continue its momentum in singles action, dropping a 4-1 decision to No. 11 Stanford in the NCAA Men's Tennis Tournament Round of 16. - The loss concludes Kentucky's season with an overall record of 28-6, the second-most wins in the history of the program. Last year's team set the school record for wins in a year with a 29-9 mark. UK ends the season with a .778 winning percentage, which is the third highest in the history of the program behind the 1988 and 1992 teams. - Kentucky ends the season with a 23-6 record against currently ranked teams. More specifically, UK was 11-6 against teams currently ranked in the top 25, including three wins over teams in the top 10. Since the start of the 2009 season, Kentucky has won an impressive total of 31 matches against top-25 foes.
Softball - The Wildcats made their fourth-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament on Friday in Louisville, and dropped a heart-wrenching 3-2 walk-off loss to No. 22 Michigan in the opening round. UK then defeated Valpo in an elimination game by a 5-4 margin before falling to the No. 7 Louisville Cardinals 3-2 in the Saturday elimination game. - UK ends its season at 30-30, marking the fourth-straight season the Wildcats have posted a .500 or better record. It is the best run in school history. Sophomore Ginny Carroll led the offense with a .444 average in the tournament, which included a double and pair of runs scored. Freshman Griffin Joiner connected for a two-run homer in the Louisville contest for UK's lone long ball. - The 2012 senior class comprised of Macy Allen, Chanda Bell, Brittany Cervantes, Ashleigh Gustafson, Rachel Riley and Erika Silence are credited with changing the culture of UK softball forever. The six-member class is the lone group of letter-winners to appear in postseason action in each season of its careers. They own the school-record for most wins in a career (136). Bell and Riley rank among the top-five in every pitching category in school history. Cervantes steps away as one of UK's most prolific offensive performers owning school records for homers and RBI. Track and field - Four Wildcats were named to the Track & Field All-SEC teams. Andrew Evans was a first-team selection in the discus, Raymond Dykstra and Luis Orta were second-team selections in the javelin and 3,000m steeplechase, respectively, and Keilah Tyson was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team in the 100m and 200m. Dykstra was also named to the All-SEC Freshman Team in the javelin. - Thirteen Kentucky student-athletes have qualified for the NCAA East Preliminary, which takes place from May 24-26 in Jacksonville, Fla. Representing Kentucky will be Terence Boyd (long jump, triple jump), Raymond Dykstra (javelin), Andrew Evans (discus), Terri-Ann Grant (high jump), Isiah Kent (discus), Josh Nadzam (1,500m), Luis Orta (3,000m steeplechase), Kayla Parker (100m hurdles), Allison Peare (800m), Jennifer Svoboda (shot put), Keilah Tyson (100m, 200m), and the 4x100m relay team, which will consist of Tamyah Pipkin, Tyson, Julie Nunn and Parker.
Tuesday, May 22 Baseball vs. Ole Miss - 9:30 a.m. (Hoover, Ala.) Wednesday, May 23 Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.) Baseball vs. LSU/Arkansas/Mississippi State (Hoover, Ala.)
Thursday, May 24 Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.) Track and field at NCAA East Preliminary Round (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Friday, May 25 Baseball vs. TBA (Hoover, Ala.) Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.) Track and field at NCAA East Preliminary Round (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Saturday, May 26 Baseball vs. TBA (Hoover, Ala.) Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.) Track and field at NCAA East Preliminary Round (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Sunday, May 27 Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.)
Monday, May, 28 Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.)
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:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - For right or wrong, the word "heartbreaking" is often used to describe defeats. There's no question whether the term was appropriate after Kentucky's 3-2 loss to Michigan on Friday.
In the Wildcats' first game of the NCAA Tournament, they scored two runs in the top of the seventh to take a 2-1 lead over the Wolverines. With senior ace Chanda Bell in the circle, Michigan got a two-out, two-run double from freshman Sara Driesenga on a two-strike count to walk off with the win.
"I think we gave ESPN what they wanted," UK head coach Rachel Lawson said of the late-inning drama.
Ginny Carroll had three hits, including one in the seventh-inning rally, while Bell tossed six innings of one-run ball before allowing two runs in the final frame. In the video below, Carroll, Bell and Lawson talked about the defeat and previewed what's next.
What's next is a matchup at 5 p.m. on Saturday against the loser of Louisville and Valparaiso. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ESPN3. Now playing in the losers' bracket, the Cats will have to win four in a row to make their second appearance in a row in the Super Regionals. Fortunately, rebounding from adversity is something UK is used to doing.
"That's who we are, so I'm not really worried about that," Lawson said. "I think the cool thing about team is we're very analytical about what happens and so I think we'll go back, we'll process what happened and make some adjustments and hopefully we'll come back better (Saturday). This team has got a lot of character. They know how to bounce back."
Lawson has not yet announced who will pitch for UK. Regardless, we will have complete coverage here on Cat Scratches and UKathletics.com, with another live blog beginning a few minutes before first pitch.
UK will face Michigan at 4:30 p.m. on Friday to open NCAA Tournament play. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Three weeks ago, even Rachel Lawson wondered if her Kentucky softball team could even reach this point.
The NCAA Tournament-bound Wildcats had just been swept on the road by Mississippi State to drop their record on the season to 23-26, three games below the .500 mark they knew they would have to reach to be eligible for the postseason. With just seven regular-season games and the Southeastern Conference Tournament left on the schedule, things were a little desperate.
"There was a point in the middle of the season where I was like, 'I cannot believe we're at this point.' I was a little nervous," Lawson said. "I was thinking, 'We're going to have to run through the SEC and win the SEC Tournament to make postseason.' "
Star hitter Brittany Cervantes couldn't help but feel the same way, but she wouldn't dare let anybody know about it.
"I wasn't going to say anything to anyone, but in the back of my mind I was a little nervous," Cervantes said.
The last thing Cervantes and her five fellow senior class members who "pretty much turned everything around for Kentucky softball" wanted to do was end their careers falling short of the tournament. There were no "rah-rah" speeches about a late-season surge, but only because they weren't necessary.
"They knew what was going on," Lawson said. "It was one of those unspoken things. I think the cool thing is they just took it upon themselves to continue to get better and better."
Improve they did.
The Cats took care of business in a midweek game against Morehead State before trekking to Florida and taking two of three from the second-ranked Gators. UK would then register its first-ever sweep of No. 22 LSU to move two games above .500. A first-round loss to Georgia in the SEC Tournament cast some lingering doubts about its fate, but they were resolved when "Kentucky" flashed on the screen during the selection show on Sunday.
For the fourth season in a row, the Wildcats (29-28) will play in the NCAA Tournament, a run that will begin against Michigan (39-15) at 4:30 p.m. on Friday as part of the Louisville Regional. All games during the regional will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN3. The double-elimination format will technically put UK in a "win or go home" situation for the first time this season, but in reality, it's old hat for these Cats.
"The last two weeks was absolutely tournament play," Lawson said. "When we were playing Florida, we knew that we had to take at least two. When we were playing LSU, we knew we had to sweep them. To have your back against the wall that many times in a row, that's what it feels like when you go to postseason."
Michigan and the regional's host, No. 15 Louisville (53-3), have been locks for tournament play for weeks now, which is a testament to the seasons they've had. The Wolverines and Cardinals make for arguably the NCAA's toughest regional, but they haven't dealt with the same strain as the Wildcats down the season's home stretch.
"With LSU, we felt some of that pressure and the way we reacted, that sort of feeling's going to come when we go to regionals and have these tight games," Cervantes said. "I think our team is finally comfortable with that pressure."
UK got another lesson in coping with that pressure during a run to the Super Regionals a season ago, one that ironically began in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the Cats defeated the Wolverines twice. Chanda Bell and Rachel Riley, seniors who pitched every inning of the NCAA Tournament last season, give the team a dimension many others lack with their experience and differing styles.
"When teams have seen one pitcher, we can bring in another or if they're practicing to hit the rise ball, we have Rachel who can come in and throw the drop ball," Bell said.
That doesn't mean the task will be easy.
"They're a juggernaut and they're one of the best teams in the nation," Lawson said. "They always are. They have young pitching this year, but they're very good.
"They have a lot of speed. The top of their order's very good, but they can come with a couple really big hitters in the middle of the lineup. They can do a lot of different things."
Michigan's two primary pitchers, Haylie Wagner and Sara Driesenga, are both freshmen, but the Wolverines boast a 1.90 ERA as a team to go with an offense that has belted 46 home runs this season while batting .288. If UK intends to repeat its Super Regional trip of last season, the Cats also figure to have to get past Louisville, which owns the nation's best record.
The Wildcats have the appropriate respect for two of the nation's top teams, but also confidence that if they play their game, they are capable of doing more than competing with them.
"I think if the right team shows up, we'll come out of that regional," Cervantes said.
In spite of that self-assurance, it would be a stretch to call UK anything but an underdog this weekend, a role the Cats don't necessarily mind.
"It's a challenge that we like," Lawson said. "We love to be the underdog."
Baseball - After completing a sweep of Alabama to remain in a tie for first atop the SEC standings, Kentucky concludes the regular-season with a four-game road trip during the week, visiting Murray State on Tuesday in a midweek matchup, before heading to Starkville, Miss., for its final SEC series of the year against Mississippi State. UK owns a one-game lead over Western Division leader LSU (17-10) and a half-game lead over South Carolina (17-9). LSU ends the season at South Carolina, starting Thursday at Carolina Stadium. - With the sweep and the 4-0 week, UK extended its winning streak to five games, becoming the first team in the nation to ascend to 40 wins and regained the NCAA lead in wins. The Wildcats have the second-most wins in program history and its 18 SEC wins ranks second-best in UK annals, behind only the 44-win seasons in 2006 and 2008 and the 20-win SEC Championship season in 2006. - UK owns a 16-4 record in one-run games and a 12-8 record in games against top-25 teams. The Wildcats have the ability to win the conference for the second time in program history entering the final weekend, which would also secure a bye for the SEC Tournament. - With the sweep, UK set a new wins record for Cliff Hagan Stadium, finishing 29-5 at home. UK also set a new school record for team saves (18). Men's tennis - Dominated both its first and second round matches in the NCAA Tournament against Radford and Indiana, taking down both opponents by the score of 4-0 to advance to its third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance. This is only the second time in school history that UK has advanced to three consecutive Sweet 16s after head coach Dennis Emery led UK to the event from 1987-89. - UK's win over Indiana is its 13th victory in its last 14 matches, and the eighth consecutive win at home. All told, Kentucky ends the season with an impressive 16-1 record at home and a 62-10 posting at Boone since the start of the 2009 season. The victory moves Kentucky's record to 23-5 this season against ranked foes, while UK's 28 wins in 2012 is one off its school record 29 wins set a season ago. - Eric Quigley was impressive in singles and doubles action over the weekend, winning both his doubles matches with Panav Jha and both of his singles matches in straight sets. Junior Anthony Rossi went 1-0 on the week in singles along with sophomores Tom Jomby, Alejandro Gomez and Grant Roberts. Rossi's win against Radford was the match clincher, while Roberts' win against IU was the clinching point. - Kentucky won the doubles point in both matches, moving to 21-0 this season when it wins the doubles point.
Softball - Kentucky earned a bid into the NCAA Tournament for a school-record fourth consecutive year. UK is one of just 27 teams in the country, including seven in the SEC, to achieve the feat. - UK's senior class is the only class in program history to advance to postseason play in each of its four seasons of action. The class has also compiled a school-record 135-94 overall record. - Kentucky dropped its quarterfinal game with No. 11 Georgia in the SEC Tournament on Thursday. Brittany Cervantes homered for the 11th time in UK's last 21 outings to lead the offense as UK rallied from a six-run deficit, but the rally fell short at 6-4. Cervantes along with junior Alice O'Brien both registered a pair of hits. Track and field - Andrew Evans threw a mark of 181-09/55.40m in the men's discus finals at the SEC Championships and took home the men's discus title. It is the fifth-straight men's discus title for Kentucky at the SEC Championships. - Evans led seven different Wildcat men to earn points at the conference meet, with a trio of women scoring points for UK. - Luis Orta charted 12 points combined with a second-place finish in the steeplechase and a fifth-place finish in the 5,000-meter run. - Raymond Dykstra (2nd - Javelin); Walter Luttrell (4th - 10,000-meter run); Matt Hillenbrand (5th - 1,500-meter run) and Jennifer Svoboda (5th - Shot put) rounded out the top-five finishes for the Wildcats, as the men finished in eighth overall and the women in 12th.
Women's golf - The University of Kentucky women's golf team wrapped up its season following a 17th place finish at the Central Regional in Columbus, Ohio, shooting a 75-over-par 939. - Senior Ashlee Rose concluded her career as a Wildcat with a season-best, even-par 72 in the final round on Saturday, finishing in a tie for 50th at 18-over-par 234. In her career, Rose competed in 106 rounds, seventh most in school history. - Kentucky's 304.73 season scoring average breaks a school record previously held by the 2008-09 team that earned a 305.23 scoring average. Upcoming schedule
Tuesday, May 15 Baseball at Murray State - 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, May 17 Baseball at Mississippi State - 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 18 Softball vs. Michigan - 4:30 p.m. (Louisville, Ky.) Baseball at Mississippi State - 8:00 p.m. Men's tennis vs. Stanford - Round of 16 (Athens, Ga.)
Saturday, May 19 Baseball at Mississippi State - 3:00 p.m. Softball at NCAA Regionals (Louisville, Ky.)
Sunday, May 20 Softball at NCAA Regionals (Louisville, Ky.) Men's tennis NCAA Quarterfinals (Athens, Ga.)
With a late-season surge in Southeastern Conference play, the Kentucky softball team played itself into tournament contention. On Sunday night, the Wildcats' hard work paid off.
UK (29-28) was selected to yet another NCAA Tournament as the Cats will make the short trip down I-64 to play in the Louisville Regional. Their first game will come against Michigan (39-15), a team UK faced earlier this season in a 3-0 loss and defeated last year to advance to the Super Regionals. The other two teams in the regional are No. 15 Louisville (53-3) and Valparaiso (42-17).
Cat Scratches caught up with head coach Rachel Lawson and star senior Brittany Cervantes to talk about the tournament.
Rachel Riley will play in the final SEC Tournament of her college career beginning on Thursday vs. Georgia. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Three years ago, the Kentucky softball team was preparing to take on the top-ranked Florida Gators and make its very first national television appearance at the UK Softball Complex. The anticipation and excitement built as the Wildcats looked to show the world what UK softball was all about.
But they would have to wait a little bit longer.
As weather sometimes does, a rain delay pushed back the first pitch. To pass the time and maintain the excitement and momentum, the UK team took to the locker room to listen to music, sing, dance, and stay loose in any way that they could.
But not a young freshman, the starting pitcher for that night's game who had not pitched in approximately a month. In preparing for her biggest pitching appearance of her rookie campaign up until that point, Rachel Riley could be found sitting in the corner. By herself. Reading a book.
"I remember I walked out of the locker room," said Kentucky head coach Rachel Lawson after she had gone to check on her team, "and (assistant) Coach (Kristine) Himes was like, 'How's she doing?' And I'm like, 'She's fine. She's reading.' And she was like what do you mean she's reading? 'She's reading Gone with the Wind, she's good.' "
And Riley has indeed been good. In fact, the two-time team captain has been the "rock" for this team as long as Lawson can remember. The highs are never too high. The lows are never too low. And she's clearly left her mark on this team while making quite an impression on her collegiate head coach.
"I would vote for Riley for President of the United States," said Lawson.
There's an obvious connection and mutual affection that Lawson and Riley share. Their history together at Kentucky goes all the way back to Riley's recruitment, before either of them even thought about being at the University of Kentucky.
Riley, a Bowling Green, Ky., native, had committed to play softball for Lawson at Western Kentucky University, right in Riley's backyard. But before Riley could suit up for the hometown Hilltoppers, Lawson was hired at the University of Kentucky.
Lawson couldn't leave her behind, and Riley certainly wanted to follow. She wanted to play for Lawson all along. It was not about to end before it even started.
"I honestly can't imagine playing for anybody else," said Riley. "She's been great. She's been great as far as working with my academics, my class schedule. She's been great with my pitching. She envelops me and I can't say enough good things about her."
Riley prefers to stay out of the headlines and the media. That's not what she's about. She's hesitant to talk about herself during interviews and does her best to remain stoic when talking about her teammates. She only concerns herself with winning and serving her team. She is quite content with her fellow seniors Brittany Cervantes and Chanda Bell getting much of the attention. But as far as Lawson is concerned, without Riley, there is no Cervantes or Bell.
"Chanda and Brittany, they're such dynamic players," said Lawson, "I think that's phenomenal that they get so much press because it's well-earned. But all three of them need each other. When Chanda's playing a tough team, she's getting all her strikeouts, well the next game we're coming with the drop-ball pitcher, which is the opposite of her."
As far as Cervantes goes, she and Riley aren't just teammates, they are roommates and best friends. During their four inseparable years together, Riley's calm and quiet confidence have surely rubbed off.
"That's kind of a combination if you know them," said Lawson, "But then once you do get to know them, they put the team first always. And I think Rachel keeps Brittany steady, which is her biggest thing. (Brittany's) such a dynamic player, and she's as hard on herself as she is on anybody. And I think Rachel, just that kind of cool, calm confidence that Rachel has rubbed off on Brittany, and Brittany has become a steady player now, as well."
When talking to Lawson, she uses that word "steady" often to describe her senior captain. It has been a less than ideal season for Riley in her senior season, but once again, she's been steady. For her career, the two-way player is 39-29 with a 2.75 ERA. This season, Riley owns an 8-7 record in the circle with a 3.25 ERA, and in the batter's box, she's batting .260 with 7 home runs and 30 RBI in the middle of the Wildcat batting order.
But "steady" isn't always good enough for Riley. And for this team, this season has been anything but. Last season, Kentucky reached all kinds of program highs, including hosting their very first Super Regional in the NCAA Tournament. Riley had better numbers, posting a 13-5 record and a 2.56 ERA as well as a .354 batting average. So the level-headed captain has certainly had her patience tested with the struggles they've endured this year.
"It was definitely more difficult," said Riley about the team's early season struggles. "I really don't like to lose, and so, having to get through this season, it was a struggle. But it's made us stronger, and we know that we have something to play for and we're trying to get into tournament and make a good run like we did last year. I think we just need to keep looking forward"
While the team looks forward to their first round game against fourth-seeded Georgia in the SEC Tournament on Thursday, it's been Kentucky's ability to focus on the present and the task at hand that puts them in the position they are in. Kentucky, regardless of the outcome of Thursday's game with Georgia, will be eligible for an NCAA Tournament bid thanks to what the Cats have accomplished over the previous two weekends.
After suffering a sweep at the hands of Mississippi State, Kentucky's hopes of making their fourth straight SEC Tournament and fourth straight NCAA Tournament were looking slim. But Kentucky went to Florida, a top-five team nationally, and promptly won two of three from the Gators. Then the Wildcats came home needing another series victory over Louisiana State to keep their hopes alive for an NCAA Tournament berth.
A night after a thrilling walk-off win over the Tigers in game one of the series, Riley took to the circle for her final appearance as a pitcher at home. As a senior leader is expected to do, she came through in a huge way, more than steady but victorious, tossing 6.1 innings of one-run ball to help capture the series. Kentucky would go on to record a series sweep, the first over LSU in program history.
Both weekends provided critical moments and victories to help improve their chances of earning a bid.
"They've been very crucial," said Riley. "To make it into the tournament we knew kind of put ourselves in a hole they we were going to have to have a good showing against Florida and LSU, which are really tough teams. It was crucial for us to get the wins we did, but we're still not guaranteed a spot, unless we win the tournament. It's really important that we continue this streak that we've got going."
So Kentucky heads to Tuscaloosa, Ala. for the SEC Tournament and a chance to improve its NCAA Tournament resume. It also gives Riley an opportunity to perform in front of her family for the first time ever at The John and Ann Rhoads Softball Stadium.
Riley's family has followed her throughout her career, both at home and on the road, but the only place that they had yet to travel to was Tuscaloosa. UK was scheduled to play there last season, but tornadoes ravaged the city and the series was cancelled, as was the trip.
The SEC Tournament also takes Riley back the place where she first made her mark as a freshman. The freshman from Bowling Green became the first Kentucky pitcher to win a game in postseason play in program history. She owns a 1-2 record in the tournament, but has posted a dominant 1.15 ERA.
In her very last go around in the event that put her forever in the UK softball record books, Riley isn't worried about this being her last time playing in the tournament. In fact, she doesn't approach these games any differently at all.
"I try not to think about that, to be honest, because I don't want any emotions to be involved," said Riley. "I try to come out the same way I do every game and do the best that I can, and hopefully that's enough to win."
Riley plays it cool when it comes to big games; in fact she often takes her game to another level. She may not always be found reading great American literature before every pressure-filled start, but she finds way to take the edge off. Somehow, when the intensity builds, Riley is not rattled when the situation indicates she should be.
"Every time she's under pressure, her game is on a new level," said Lawson. "Her drop ball drops off the table. And she just has such a focus about her. She's relentless. Things usually go the way that she wants them to because she wills them to happen.
"I think she has another gear that makes her special. It's not something you can teach. It's not something that you can coach. She's just a competitive person, and her ability to focus in on what she wants and to not let outside distractions get in the way is truly remarkable."
The Wildcats are on an incredible streak and are as hot as they've been all season. National pundits are talking about UK as a team to avoid in postseason play. Riley and her fellow seniors have an incredible opportunity to go out with a bang and make yet another run deep into the NCAA Tournament if they continue to hit on all cylinders.
But eventually the season will end. Kentucky will either not be selected for the NCAA Tournament, they will make it and be eliminated, or it will shock the world and win the College World Series. One way or another, it will come to an end, and Riley will play her last game with "Kentucky" across her chest.
However, thanks to the leadership, her numerous contributions on and off the field, and the legacy left by Rachel Riley, the Kentucky softball program is set up to succeed and find themselves with great opportunities for the future. It has become a place where players want to be. And "the rock" of this team for the last four years has become a cornerstone for Kentucky softball for years to come. Even when she's gone with the wind.
"What she might not have in terms of size and speed, she makes up with in intangibles," said Lawson. "She just has tremendous heart. She's such a winner. She's just the perfect person to help build this program around."