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UK was eliminated in the Women's College World Series with an 8-7 loss to Baylor on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK was eliminated in the Women's College World Series with an 8-7 loss to Baylor on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
OKLAHOMA CITY - There Ginny Carroll and Griffin Joiner were, sitting in their hotel room in the wee hours of the morning.

UK had just clinched its first-ever Women's College World Series berth with a Sunday sweep of UCLA and sleep just wasn't happening. Naturally, Carroll and Joiner flipped the television to ESPN, where the Wildcats' game-three victory was being re-aired.

Carroll, caught up the joy of the moment, turned to Joiner.

"I told Griffin no matter what happened from here on out I didn't think it was possible that I could be sad," Carroll said.

What Carroll didn't see coming was how things would change when UK arrived in Oklahoma City.

When she came to softball's biggest stage, Carroll quickly realized she wanted more. It became clear, in spite of what she thought on Sunday, that it would hurt if UK didn't win a national championship.

"Once you got here and practiced and played and you tasted it, then the bar is raised from making it to the World Series to winning the World Series," Carroll said. "Once you've tasted that, it's--I mean, you just want to win it."

UK did end up falling short of that national title, and it happened even more painfully than anyone could have predicted.

Riding an aggressive approach at the plate and a big day from their seniors, UK built a 7-0 lead on Baylor in an elimination game. Emily Gaines started it with a home run, hitting a second-inning home run on the first pitch she saw not even 24 hours after watching a crucial called strike three in a loss to Alabama. Fellow seniors Carroll and Krystal Smith would add homers of their own and the Cats appeared poise to cruise to a win with Kelsey Nunley dealing in the circle, per usual.

"I just thought we were facing a team destined to win and there was nothing we could do about it," Baylor head coach Glenn Moore said.

In the bottom of the sixth, things changed.

Entering the inning, Nunley had allowed just seven hits in 19 innings of work in the College World Series. The Lady Bears, however, smacked six singles to plate three runs. An inning later, with a solo home run, two doubles, a walk and the help of a fielding error, Baylor tied the game and sent it extra innings.

The Lady Bears would win it in the eighth, 8-7, when Joiner's throw to first on a sacrifice bunt went into right field.

"Obviously this was a hard one for us," UK head coach Rachel Lawson said. "This isn't the way we wanted it to go down, especially having so many runs early. But I'm really proud of this team."

Lawson has every reason to be proud.

By any reasonable measure, 2014 was the best season in the history of Kentucky softball. Not only did the Cats advance to the Women's College World Series and the finals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament for the first time, they did it while piling up a school-record 50 wins.

"I think this team has done something special," Lawson said.

The same can be said about UK's senior class.

Smith, Carroll, Gaines, Lauren Cumbess, Emily Jolly and Sarah Frazer have played important roles in the ascendance of UK softball onto the national stage, though they might not all have been stars or even full-time starters.

"We don't have any All-Americans in our class," Carroll said. "We're not 100-percent studs, but I think the biggest thing we are is we're tough. We have been in and out of the lineup our whole careers, but at the end I think we all brought our 'A' game and at the end of the day I know we're the toughest class around."

Tough as they may be, this is the end of the line for these seniors. Nonetheless, they'll rest easier than they did last Sunday.

"I don't think there is enough words to express what this means to us personally and for all our seniors," Smith said. "It brings us comfort to know that this senior class and this 2014 softball team has made an indelible imprint on the Kentucky softball program, and I think we can go home knowing that. We can move forward."

So too can the program, and the future is bright.

With the experience of finally reaching Oklahoma City for the first time, return trips seem likely. Nunley, though she ran out of gas in the late innings after a long NCAA Tournament, will be back in the circle next season.

Carroll will be watching.

"I told Skeeter after the game, she has two years left so I expect big things," Carroll said. "No pressure."

Welcome celebration Sunday at John Cropp Stadium

Soon after the loss on Saturday, UK announced plans to hold a welcome home celebration for the team at 1:30 p.m. ET at John Cropp Stadium on Twitter.





Head coach Edrick Floreal


Hurdler Kendra Harrison


Discus thrower Andrew Evans


Javelin thrower Raymond Dykstra


Head coach Gary Henderson


Juniors A.J. Reed and Austin Cousino


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