Comeback Cats Take Two at UNLV Tourney
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The University of Kentucky softball team moved to 3-1 on the year after they won a pair of games today, Feb. 11, at the UNLV Alexis Resort Kickoff Classic. The Cats defeated Illinois-Chicago (0-3) by a final of 3-2 and downed Long Beach State (2-2) in dramatic fashion by a score of 6-4 to earn the sweep.
Sophomore Alli Eckman picked the perfect moment to hit her first collegiate home run as she delivered a bases-loaded shot over the right field fence to give UK a 5-4 lead over LBSU in the top of the sixth.
The Cats led early against the 49ers. Brooke Marnitz drew a walk to lead off the game. She moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Miller, went to third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch to put UK on top 1-0.
UK trailed 4-1 after the 49ers scored three in the third and added a run in the bottom of the fifth.
Lori Melchi singled to second to lead off the sixth inning and start the Wildcat rally. Marnitz and Miller each drew walks to load the bases for Eckman whose grand slam put UK on top by a run. Junior Ashley Fertic followed with a solo shot to center to make it a 6-4 Wildcat advantage.
Freshman Lindsay Brogdon tossed 4.0 innings after relieving starter Amy Kendall. A one-out double by the LBSU first baseman in the bottom of the seventh sent head coach Eileen Schmidt to the bullpen for game-one winner Jessica Trueblood. The freshman got an infield pop-up for the second out of the inning. Fertic made a diving catch as she dove on a quick-dropping ball in shallow left field to preserve the 6-4 Wildcat win.
Eckman finished 1-for-3 with a run scored and four RBIs, while Marnitz was 1-for-2 with two runs scored. Brogdon (1-1) earned her first win after giving up one run on five hits in four innings of work, while Trueblood earned her first career save.
In the day’s first game, Trueblood continued to impress in the circle. The starting pitcher sat down the first six batters she faced and was perfect until a leadoff walk in the fourth. Trueblood moves to 2-0 with the win and struck out a season-high eight batters in her second complete-game effort of the year. She gave up one earned run on two hits and walked just one UIC batter.
The Cats took the early lead Marnitz drew a leadoff walk and stole second. She moved to third on a flyout by Eckman and scored on Fertic’s single to right field.
UK added to its lead in the third. Lori Melchi reached on an error by the Flames’ second baseman and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Gina Florence. Marnitz followed with her second two-run homer in as many days. The shortstop from Lexington sent a delivery from UIC’s Kelly Cross to the deepest part of the park and over the center field fence to put UK on top 3-0.
The Flames erased the shutout in the fourth as Sarah Clynes drew a lead off walk and moved to third on an error. She would score on a single through the right side to cut the UK lead to 3-1. Trueblood ended the UIC rally, retiring the side in order with pop-up and a pair of strikeouts to strand runners at the corners.
UIC added it second and final run in the sixth on a double and an RBI groundout but Trueblood and the Wildcat defense held the Flames the rest of the way and held on for the 3-2 victory.
Marnitz finished 1-for-2 with two runs scored and two RBIs, while Fertic was 2-for-3 with an RBI against the Flames.
“We started off a little slow this morning, but we got a win even when we didn’t play very well and that’s the sign of a good team,” said Schmidt. “In the second game, we weren’t really catching any breaks but they stuck with the game plan and Melchi singled to start that rally and then the floodgates opened. Alli had struggled in this tournament so it was nice to see her come through. This was a total team effort today. Tonight, we did exactly what Oklahoma did to us yesterday and they’re a nationally-ranked team. It’s great to get a win like this and, hopefully, it will work as a springboard for us.”
The Wildcats return to action Sunday, Feb. 12, as they face host-team UNLV. Game time is set for noon ET.