Softball Begins NCAA Tournament vs. Northwestern Friday
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The University of Kentucky softball team will make its seventh-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament on Friday when it opens up play in the NCAA South Bend Regional with a 2 p.m. ET first pitch against Northwestern at Melissa Cook Stadium.
The Kentucky-Northwestern game begins the weekend in South Bend, Ind., as No. 16 national seed and host Notre Dame faces Ball State in Friday's finale at 5 p.m. The winners from Friday will start play Saturday at Noon with the winner advancing on to Sunday's regional final, while the losing teams from Friday night will play each other at 3 p.m. Saturday. The losing teams from the Noon game and 3 p.m. game will battle in an elimination game at 6 p.m. Saturday night to determine who will earn the final spot in Sunday's finale. The regional final will start at 1 p.m. Sunday with an if necessary game at 4 p.m.
Free live video 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.
Tickets 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 by calling the Murnane Family Ticket Office at (574) 631-7356 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET on business days. Tickets are also available by visiting UND.com/buytickets.
The winner of the regional finale will advance to a NCAA Super Regional against the winner of the NCAA 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.
This is the seventh NCAA Tournament appearance in school history for Kentucky, becoming one of just 21 teams in the nation to claim that honor. Last year, the Wildcats had the most successful tournament run in program history, winning the NCAA Lexington Regional and NCAA Los Angeles Super Regional to advance to the school's first Women's College World Series.
The Wildcats return 13 letterwinners and six starters from last year's WCWS team, however only five players on Kentucky's 2015 roster have started five or more NCAA Tournament games. Kentucky enters the event with a 29-24 record after facing the second-toughest schedule in the nation according to the latest NCAA RPI. The Wildcats played 53 games this season, including 26 against top-25 RPI teams and 35 against top-50 RPI teams. UK only has one loss this season against a team ranked outside the top 50 with Friday's game vs. Northwestern marking only the fourth time since March 18 that UK has played a team not ranked or receiving votes in the national rankings.
Northwestern enters the tournament with a 28-21 record, including a 11-10 mark in neutral-site games. The Wildcats are coached by Kate Drohan, who is in her 14th season at NU. The Wildcats went 14-8 in the Big Ten and won its first game in its conference tournament before falling to highly ranked Michigan, 9-0. NU has won five of its last seven games. UK and NU have had several common opponents this season, including Arizona, LSU, South Carolina and Louisville. Kentucky went 5-4 against this teams, while NU went 2-2.
Sabrina Rabin leads NU in hitting this season with a .411 average, adding a .465 on-base percentage and 28 stolen bases, while Andrea Filler is hitting .392 with team-best 12 homers and 60 RBI. Andrea DiPrima has a .389 average with 10 doubles, 10 homers and 45 RBI, while Amy Letourneau has eight doubles and seven homers.
In the circle, Kristen Wood is 16-10 with a 4.18 ERA in 182.2 innings pitched with 221 strikeouts and opponents hitting .232 against her, while Letourneau limits opponents to a .292 average and is 11-9 with a 5.66 ERA in 99 innings pitched. Olivia Duehr is 1-2 with a 7.18 ERA in 26.1 innings pitched with opponents hitting .344 against her.
This is the first ever meeting between Kentucky and Northwestern in softball. Rachel Lawson has never faced Northwestern in her head coaching career.
Considered one of the hottest teams in the country with 26 wins in its last 28 games, Notre Dame enters the tournament as the No. 16 national seed for the first time in program history. The Fighting Irish are 40-13 overall and went 18-1 at home with its lone home loss coming to North Carolina in extra innings. ND fell in its first game of the ACC Tournament last weekend to Pittsburgh, 8-1. The Irish and Wildcats have battled several common opponents this season, including LSU, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State. The Wildcats posted a 3-9 record against those teams, while UND went 2-5 against those teams.
Offensively, Notre Dame has four players with 10 or more home runs this season, including Katey Haus and Micaela Arizmendi, who are tied for the team lead with 11 roundtrippers. Haus adds a .409 average and team-best 53 RBI, while Arizmendi has 48 RBI and a .363 average. Karley Wester is hitting .432 with seven doubles and 24 stolen bases, while Emilee Koerner and Cassidy Whidden each have 10 homes.
Allie Rhodes leads the Irish in the circle with a 19-5 record and 2.76 ERA in 121.2 innings pitched with 113 strikeouts, while Rachel Nasland is 16-7 with a 2.79 ERA in 165.2 innings pitched with 161 strikeouts. Katie Beriont is 4-1 with a 2.86 ERA in 44 innings pitched, while Sara White is 1-0 with a 7.64 ERA in 3.2 innings pitched.
The all-time series between Kentucky and Notre Dame is tied 1-1, including one previous meeting in NCAA Tournament play with the Wildcats earning a 8-0 run-rule victory in the 2011 Ann Arbor Regional. The first meeting came in 2000 with ND earning a 8-0 victory in an early season tournament in Bristol, Tenn. Lawson is 1-0 all-time against Notre Dame.
Ball State enters the tournament with a 33-23 record and is coming off a win in the MAC Tournament, defeating Akron, Miami (Ohio), Central Michigan and Western Michigan to bring home the title. The Cardinals, who have won 10 of their last 12 games, are 14-9 in neutral-site games this season and are 11-8 in true road games.
BSU has been led offensively by Hanne Stuedemann, who is hitting .394 with nine homers and 48 RBI, while Emily Dabkowski is hitting .358 with 16 homers and 53 RBI, adding 14 stolen bases. Selena Reyna is hitting .349 with 10 homers and 39 RBI, while Jessica Craft is hitting .331 with five homers and 42 RBI.
Nicole Steinbach is 18-13 on the year in the circle with a 3.35 ERA in 194.1 innings pitched with 160 strikeouts and opponents hitting .278 against her, while Carolyn Wilmes is 7-5 with a 5.54 ERA in 78.1 innings pitched with opponents hitting .345 against her.
Ball State leads the all-time series with Kentucky 2-1 with the last meeting coming in 2004. Lawson has never faced Ball State.
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 (40-13)
Ball State (33-23)
NCAA South Bend Regional Schedule
Friday, May 15
Game 1 -- Northwestern vs. Kentucky -- 2 p.m. ET
Game 2 -- Ball State vs. Notre Dame -- 5 p.m. ET
Saturday, May 16
Game 3 - Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 - Noon ET
Game 4 - Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 - 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
Tickets for the 2015 NCAA South Bend Regional went on sale Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. ET online here. Tickets are $10/day for general admission chairbacks, $5/day for general admission adult bleacher seats and $3/day for general admission youth bleacher seats.