Softball Opens with Ohio State in NCAA Tournament

May 20, 2010

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Kentucky softball team will hit the field for its second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament Friday. UK is set to take on the host Ohio State Buckeyes in the Regional's second game beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. Kentucky and Ohio State met in the NCAA Tournament a year ago on the same field where Ohio State edged UK for a spot in a Super Regional.

Kentucky (31-25) charted its second straight 30-win season. The two-year run under Head Coach Rachel Lawson is the most successful span of two seasons in school history. No coach had previously led the team to an NCAA Tournament berth or back-to-back 30 win seasons.

UK has shouldered a tough schedule, but has come away with upsets of four top-seven ranked teams. Kentucky finished the year as the No. 6 team in the Southeastern Conference and is one of seven teams from the league in the national tournament.

The sophomore pitching tandem of Chanda Bell and Rachel Riley has provided a steady force from the circle. Bell holds the single-season UK record for strikeouts in a season (276), while Riley has totaled the second most shutouts in a single season (6). The duo has combined for 28 of UK's victories - nine of those are shutouts between the two. Senior Amber Matousek has quietly put together the most successful season of her career with a career-best ERA. Matousek also tossed the school's only no-hitter of the season in a victory over Evansville earlier this season.

Offensively, Kentucky has continually had multiple players emerge this season. All-SEC selection Molly Johnson leads the squad in batting average and stolen bases. Junior Megan Yocke has charted 14 combined sacrifice hits and flies, while senior Destinee Mordecai has totaled a career-best six home runs in her final campaign. Senior Natalie Smith has been a consistent performer at the No. 2 spot in the order and leads the SEC as the toughest player in the league to strikeout.

Joining UK and Ohio State is the tournament's No. 13 overall seed in California along with the Patriot League automatic qualifier in Bucknell.

UK will compete in a double-elimination format among the Columbus Regional for a chance for a Super Regional Bid.

Kentucky's first matchup is with the host Ohio State Buckeyes who earned an at-large bid and were selected as a host site for the second consecutive season. Ohio State owns a 37-12 overall record and has wins over six top-25 ranked opponents this season.

Ohio State is paced offensively by Alicia Herron who is batting .421 and has a team-best 10 stolen bases on the season. Sam Marder has knocked a team-high 17 home runs while driving in 43 runs. For the season, the Buckeyes have collectively hit 53 long balls and own a team batting average of .305.

In the circle, Melanie Nichols is 21-2 on the season with a 1.83 earned run average. She has also struck out 129 batters on the season. As a pitching staff the Buckeyes possess a 2.28 team ERA and have struck out 237 on the year.

The top 16 teams were seeded in order, and the remaining teams were placed in regional brackets to create balanced competition and avoid conference match-ups, when possible. The regional winners will advance to super regional competition for a best-of-three series at eight campus sites.

The eight teams that win the Super Regionals will advance to the WCWS, an eight-team, double-elimination tournament. The championship final will be a best-of-three-series. The WCWS will be conducted May 28 to June 3 at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.

Stay tuned to UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information about the Wildcats at the NCAA Tournament.

COLUMBUS REGIONAL SCHEDULE

Friday (times subject to change):
Game 1: California vs. Bucknell - 5 p.m.
Game 2: Ohio State vs. Kentucky - 7:30 p.m.

Saturday (times subject to change):
Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner - 2:30 p.m.
Game 4: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser - 5 p.m.
Game 5: Game 4 winner vs. Game 3 loser - 7:30 p.m.

Sunday (times subject to change):
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner - 2:30 p.m.
Game 7, if needed: Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser - 5 p.m.