Metzger, Prince Lift Softball to Victory over NU in NCAA Opener
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Kentucky true freshman infielder Rachael Metzger came off the bench in the sixth inning to deliver a pinch-hit RBI single, while sophomore pitcher Meagan Prince tossed two scoreless innings in relief, lifting Kentucky to a 5-4 victory over Northwestern on Friday in the opening round of the NCAA South Bend Regional at Melissa Cook Stadium.
The win for Kentucky keeps the Wildcats in the winner's bracket of the regional. UK will play Ball State -- who defeated Notre Dame, 6-3, in Friday's second game -- at Noon ET on Saturday with the winner earning a spot in the regional final on Sunday. If the Wildcats drop the winner's bracket game, they will have to play an elimination game Saturday at 6 p.m. ET vs. the winner of Northwestern and Notre Dame for a spot in the regional final.
Free live video feed of every game at the NCAA South Bend Regional will be available online at watchnd.tv, while live stats from every game will also be available. For complete information on the regional, visit the regional central page at und.com.
Kentucky, who has been the victim of late-game heroics recently dropping its last three games on walk-offs in the bottom of the seventh inning, flipped the script against Northwestern with a game-winning rally in the bottom of the sixth inning. With the score tied 4-4 after a back-and-forth fourth and fifth innings, junior utility player Maisie Steed hit a single to rightfield and moved to second on a groundout by freshman outfielder Brooklin Hinz. After a hard-hit groundout by sophomore Breanne Ray, UK head coach Rachel Lawson turned to Metzger to pinch hit for junior infielder Ansley Smith. Metzger wasted no time making the most of her opportunity with a hard-hit single to leftfield on the first pitch of the at-bat, scoring Steed to give UK a 5-4 lead.
Prince, who entered the game in the top of the sixth inning, made sure the lead held, getting a groundout to start the top of the seventh inning. After an error, Prince got a groundout to put a runner in scoring position with two outs before a walk and a fielder's choice that did not record an out loaded the bases for senior Julia Kuhn. Prince got Kuhn to strike out swinging to end the game and seal the Kentucky victory.
The win for Prince moved her to 13-8 on the season with a 3.47 earned run average. Junior pitcher Kelsey Nunley started the game in the circle and went five innings, allowing four runs -- two earned -- on seventh hits with five strikeouts in a no decision.
Offensively, Kentucky got clutch hits when they needed it, getting a big two-run home run from junior infielder Nikki Sagermann in the fifth inning to erase a two-run Northwestern lead. The home run was the seventh of the season for Sagermann, who now has seven career RBI in NCAA Tournament play, which ranks third most in school history. Sagermann's hit extended her hitting streak to a career-best eight games, while her 27 career homers rank sixth most all-time in UK history.
Fellow junior Sylver Samuel recorded her 13th multi-hit game of the season, going 2-for-3 with a run scored. Samuel has 15 hits in NCAA Tournament play, ranking second most in program history, while Friday was her third multi-hit game in NCAA play. Samuel is currently riding a three-game hitting streak with two hits in all three of those games.
Senior catcher Griffin Joiner went 1-for-3 in the game with an RBI double, while Steed and senior outfielder Kara Howard were each 1-for-3 with a run scored. Joiner has showed her power as of late with each of her last five hits going for extra bases, belting three home runs and two RBI doubles. Howard showed her defensive importance in the game by throwing out a runner at home in the fourth inning.
Northwestern (28-22) started junior Kristen Wood in the circle, who went all six innings allowing five runs -- four earned -- on seven hits with seven strikeouts. Wood received the loss to move to 16-11 on the year. Offensively, junior Andrea Filler was 2-for-2 with two walks, while freshman Sammy Nettling was 2-for-4 with a RBI. Senior Andrea DiPrima was 1-for-4 in the game with a two-RBI single, while Kuhn was 1-for-4 and Olivia Duehr was 1-for-3.
The win for Kentucky was its 30th on the season, marking the seventh straight season the Wildcats have won 30 or more games under Lawson's tutelage. Prior to Lawson's tenure, Kentucky had only one 30-win season. The Wildcats are now 18-15 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
FINAL: Kentucky defeats Northwestern 5-4 to advance to winner's bracket of NCAA South Bend Regional! pic.twitter.com/HnS0rtFjVT
-- UK Softball (@UKsoftball) May 15, 2015
Tickets for the remaining two days of the NCAA South Bend Regional are available and are $10/day for general admission chairbacks, $5/day for general admission adult bleacher seats and $3/day for general admission youth bleacher seats. Fans can purchase NCAA South Bend Regional tickets at the gate one hour prior to first pitch Saturday.
The winner of the NCAA South Bend Regional will advance to a NCAA Super Regional against the winner of the Gainesville Regional, which includes No. 1 seed Florida, Hofstra, Florida Atlantic and Florida A&M. The Super Regional, slated for May 21-24, is a best two-out-of-three format with the winner advancing to the eight-team Women's College World Series, scheduled for May 28-June 3 in Oklahoma City, Okla.
For the latest on UK softball, follow @UKSoftball on Twitter and Instagram or like Kentucky Softball on Facebook.
South Bend Regional - May 15-17 - Melissa Cook Stadium - South Bend, Ind.
Notre Dame (40-14)
Ball State (34-23)
NCAA South Bend Regional Schedule
Friday, May 15
Game 1 -- Kentucky def. Northwestern 5-4
Game 2 -- Ball State def. Notre Dame 6-3
Saturday, May 16
Game 3 - Kentucky vs. Ball State - Noon ET
Game 4 - Northwestern vs. Notre Dame - 3 p.m. ET
Game 5 - Loser Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4 - 6 p.m. ET
Sunday, May 17
Game 6 - Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5 -1 p.m. ET
Game 7 - (If necessary) - 4 p.m. ET