Softball Selected for First NCAA Tournament Bid

May 11, 2009

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Kentucky softball team has enjoyed a season of many firsts. Perhaps the most historical and exciting first occurred Sunday night. Kentucky earned a bid into the field of 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history it was announced this evening on a live telecast by ESPNU.

Second year head coach Rachel Lawson will lead her team into the Columbus, Ohio, regional pod featuring Ohio State, Brigham Young and Canisius. Kentucky’s first round match-up is with Brigham Young. The team gathered Sunday night with coaches, administrators, family, friends and members of the Kentucky athletic staff to learn its fate. They were not disappointed.

“The first thing that went through my mind is I wanted to see what all the looks on their (the team) faces were because I’m so proud of everything they’ve done this year,” Lawson said. “They deserve it. They work hard and for them to feel this moment for the first time is special.”

Kentucky has had simply the best season in school history. The Wildcats (32-21) had the biggest turnaround in school history posting 14 more wins than they did a season ago. UK has charted a number of wins over top-25 ranked opponents while facing one of the toughest schedules in the country. In their first SEC tournament appearance in eight seasons, the Blue and White picked up a 2-0 decision over No. 7 Georgia for its first win in the post-season in school allure. Now, the team will continue its incredible run on to its first ever NCAA Tournament bid.

UK will compete in a double-elimination format among the Columbus Regional for a chance for a Super Regional Bid. Kentucky’s first round match-up features BYU (39-16).

The Cougars will make their fifth consecutive tournament run when they open with the Wildcats on Thursday at 5 p.m. ET. BYU is led by Jessica Purcell at the plate who is batting .394 for the season. Purcell has an unprecedented 81 RBI on the season with 17 home runs. The pitching staff is equally impressive with a pair of arms that have a combined 1.78 ERA. Christie Zinanti is 20-7 on the season with Paige Affleck owning a 19-9 overall clip. The pair also has 201 and 199 strikeouts, respectively to form a potent duo. UK and BYU have faced a number of similar opponents throughout the season.

The squads share wins over UNLV and San Diego State. The Cougars also faced three SEC opponents in Alabama, Tennessee and Ole Miss. The Cougars are winless against the Southeastern Conference this season.

Ohio State (44-9) is the tournament’s No. 11 overall seed and also the country’s 11th nationally ated team. The Buckeyes and Wildcats met a season ago in Lawson’s first season. In that non-conference doubleheader the squads split their matchups. The Buckeyes are led by Sam Marder at the plate with a .373 average and a team-best 16 home runs. Alicia Herron paces the team with 43 RBI and also has 11 home runs. In the circle, Kim Reeder leads the staff with a 1.28 ERA and a 22-4 overall record. Reeder has fanned 176 batters on the season.

Ohio State and Kentucky have four common opponents on the season. The Buckeyes earned wins over Louisville, Mississippi State and LSU. Hawai’i, a team UK beat in the second game of the season, captured a 4-2 victory over the Buckeyes.

Canisius (27-22) earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after capturing the MAAC Championship over Niagara Saturday, 9-0. The Golden Griffs will be making their 11th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. Canisius is led by senior third baseman Cameron Norton, who was named the 2009 MAAC Tournament MVP. She leads the team with her .307 batting average and is tied for the team’s lead in hits (43) and runs batted in (28). Fellow senior Mallory Aldred was honored as a MAAC All-Tournament team honoree after she won all three games in the conference tournament for the Blue and Gold. She leads the squad’s pitching staff in wins (19), ERA (1.95), strikeouts (176), complete games (15), shutouts (9) and innings pitched (150.2).

The SEC led all conferences with nine bids into this year’s field. In addition to Kentucky, Florida is the nation’s number one overall seed. They are joined in the field by Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State and Tennessee.

Stay tuned to UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information about the UK softball team.

COLUMBUS REGIONAL SCHEDULE

Thursday (times subject to change):
Game 1: Kentucky (home) vs. BYU (away) - 5 p.m.
Game 2: Canisius at Ohio State - 7:30 p.m.

Friday (times subject to change):
Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner - 1 p.m.
Game 4: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser - 3:30 p.m.
Game 5: Game 4 winner vs. Game 3 loser - 6 p.m.

Saturday (times subject to change):
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner - 1 p.m.
Game 7, if needed: Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser - 3:30 p.m.