Softball Selected for Third Straight NCAA Tourney
May 15, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. - A mark of a program is measured in continued success stories. The 20th-ranked Kentucky softball team's third consecutive bid into the NCAA Tournament announced Sunday solidifies UK as no longer a team on the rise, but one of the best programs in the nation. The Wildcats earned their third consecutive at-large bid and will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich. for the opening round of the tournament.
The Blue and White will be a part of a region that will be featured on ESPN and ESPN2, one of only two first round tournament sites set air on the ESPN family of networks. UK's opening game with 18th-ranked Notre Dame is slated for Friday, May 20 at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
The host team and the No. 10 overall seed in second-ranked Michigan will host the four-team double-elimination bracket. Western Michigan makes up the fourth team in the bracket.
Kentucky (36-14) has set new milestones in the 2011 season. The Blue and White have matched a program record with 36 wins and have been among the nation's ranked teams for 13 consecutive weeks reaching its highest ranking in school history at No. 15. For the first time in school history the Wildcats claimed five series against Southeastern Conference opponents.
The Wildcat offense stormed onto the forefront shattering five single-season records in the 2011 campaign. The bats have come alive for a program-record 62 home runs led by junior Brittany Cervantes (14) and seniors Samantha DeMartine (10) and Megan Yocke (10). The trio is the first in school history to chart 10 or more homers in a season. UK has also eclipsed new highs in RBI, runs scored, walks and total bases.
The Kentucky pitching staff provides depth with four players making at least five starts on the season. Juniors Chanda Bell and Rachel Riley have guided the UK program to the most wins in school history for a pitching tandem. Both players have notched post-season victories in their careers. Freshmen Lauren Cumbess and Ellen Weaver provide additional depth and different looks for opponents in aiding UK's dynamic.
UK will compete in a double-elimination format among the Ann Arbor Regional for a chance for a Super Regional Bid.
Kentucky's first round match-up features Notre Dame (45-9). The Fighting Irish are making its 10th consecutive bid into the NCAA Tournament under head coach Deanna Gumpf. Notre Dame is also heading north to Ann Arbor for the fourth consecutive season. UK and Notre Dame have just one similar opponent on the season in Louisville. In the regular season, Notre Dame took two of three games in the series from the Cardinals. However, Louisville topped the Irish in the opening round of the Big East Tournament. UK and Louisville split matchups in their regular season home-and-home series.
Notre Dame is led by Alexa Maldonado who is batting .420 on the season with 14 doubles and 19 stolen bases. Two players have hit 10 or more home runs for Notre Dame led by 12 from the bat of Heather Johnson. As a unit, Notre Dame is batting .334 on the season with 321 runs scored and 71 stolen bases. In the circle, Laura Winter owns a 24-3 overall record with a 2.22 ERA and 208 strikeouts on the year.
Friday night's meeting will mark just the second time in program history the two teams have faced. Notre Dame claimed an 8-0 victory over the Wildcats in 2000 in an early season tournament in Bristol, Tenn.
Michigan earns the host site as the tournament's No. 10 overall seed with a 51-4 overall record after earning an automatic bid into the tournament thanks to its fourth straight Big 10 title.
The Wolverines are paced at the dish by Amanda Chidester's .433 average to lead six players batting .300 or higher. Ashley Lane leads the power game with 17 long balls, while Jacyln Crummey is the squad's top base threat with 10 stolen bases. Michigan is using a .332 batting clip on the season with 54 home runs and 363 runs scored on the year.
Jordan Taylor leads the pitching rotation with a 29-3 overall record and a 1.29 ERA. Stephanie Speiman owns a 1.90 ERA and an 18-1 record on the season. Michigan faced just one Southeastern Conference team on the season and downed Arkansas by an 8-0 score in five innings of action.
Michigan and Kentucky have met on the field just twice in program history with both meetings coming in 2010. UK traveled to Ann Arbor for a non-conference series a season ago with the Wolverines claiming both matchups.
Western Michigan advances to the NCAA Tournament owning a 22-28 overall record and advanced to the national stage behind an impressive run in the Mid-American Conference tournament. The Broncos captured the title for the first time since 2003 and were the regular season and tournament winners for the first time in school allure.
The Broncos are led at the plate by Gracie Barstad's .362 clip and 11 doubles on the season. Western Michigan uses a .258 batting average as a team and have pounded 31 homers and scored 184 times in 2011.
Meredith Whitney leads the pitchers with a 14-13 record and a squad-best 3.40 ERA. She has struck out 160 batters on the season and limits opposing batters to a .224 batting average.
UK also played Western Michigan in 2010 for the only meeting in school history. UK captured a 5-1 victory over the Broncos in an early season tournament in Tempe, Ariz.
The SEC earned seven bids into this year's field. In addition to the automatic qualifier in Tennessee, the league's conference tournament champion, the SEC will field Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia and LSU as well as Kentucky.
Stay tuned to UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information about the UK softball team.]
ANN ARBOR SCHEDULE
Friday, May 20
Saturday, May 21
Sunday, May 22