2010 UK Softball Season Kicks off in Arizona

Feb. 9, 2010

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - After enjoying the most successful season in school history in 2009, the Kentucky Wildcats are poised to begin a new campaign beginning at the Kajikawa Classic on Thursday. The Blue and White have a tall task with a five-game tournament hosted by Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz.

UK will face five teams that are either ranked in the nation's top-25 are falling just out of the polls with votes. Arizona State will mark the opening game of the 2010 season and the Sun Devils are rated as the fifth best team to begin the season. Arizona State was a College World Series member a season ago. First pitch is set for Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET. To conclude the opening weekend tournament, UK will face No. 11 California on Saturday.

In between those games UK will also go head-to-head with San Diego State, Cal State Fullerton and Western Michigan who are all receiving votes in the preseason polls. Kentucky is also receiving votes in the preseason polls and is the first team out of the top-25 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball tally.

Three Wildcats will play in their home state of Arizona this weekend: Molly Johnson, Amber Matousek and Natalie Smith. The Wildcats return all of their position players and a full pitching rotation from its NCAA tournament team a year ago. Johnson is a preseason Player of the Year Candidate and became UK's first All-America selection after a thrilling junior campaign. Sophomore aces Chanda Bell and Rachel Riley return with a full-season of off-season conditioning and will look to improve upon stellar opening campaigns. Matousek thrived in fall workouts and will also be a steady member of the rotation for Coach Rachel Lawson.

Kentucky faces a tough test to begin the season in the opening tournament, but the schedule will not get any easier. The Wildcats will face nine teams ranked in the preseason top-25 and six more teams that are receiving votes. Five of the 2009 College World Series teams are on Kentucky's schedule, as well as a total of 16 teams from the 2009 NCAA tournament.

Up first for UK is Arizona State, a 2009 College World Series participant. The Sun Devils will kick off their season against SEC member Ole Miss just hours before its match up with the Wildcats. Arizona State is currently ranked as high as No. 5 in the country and returns seven starters and 15 letterwinners from last season.

San Diego State will be UK's first match-up on Friday morning. The Aztecs are the lone squad in this week's tournament that UK faced a season ago. In 2008, the Wildcats earned a 6-4 win over the Aztecs. San Diego State is receiving votes in both polls and returns six starters and all three pitchers from last year's NCAA tournament team.

In the afternoon matchup on Friday, UK will face Cal State Fullerton. The Titans were also among the 64-team field of the national tournament a season ago. Fullerton will field seven starters and three returning pitchers.

Saturday Kentucky faces Western Michigan in the opening game of the day. The Broncos are also receiving votes in the polls to open the year. Western Michigan returns four starters and its top two pitchers from last season's squad.

The final matchup of the weekend for UK will be Pac-10 member and No. 11 California. The Golden Bears reached the NCAA Super Regionals in 2009 and will return eight starters and its full pitching rotation.

Other than the rematch with San Diego State, Kentucky's other four matchups will be the first in the series between the two schools.

For a complete recap of the five games and live stats throughout the tournament visit UKathletics.com.