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Kentucky Softball

Huskies Blank Wildcats in Game One of Seattle Super Regional, 3-0

May 25, 2019
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SEATTLE, May 24th-Kentucky took on the University of Washington on Friday night in Seattle in Game One of the best-of-three Super Regional, facing the Huskies for the first time ever in NCAA Tournament play. It was a match-up of one of the best run-scoring lineups in the country, ranked eleventh in the nation, versus the fifth-ranked staff ERA of Washington.

This time, it was Washington who would come out on top, beating the Wildcats, 3-0.

The third-seed Huskies (48-7 entering Super Regional Play) previously faced the Wildcats (36-22 entering SR play) in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, defeating them, 4-2. Washington finished the season as co-champion of the PAC-12 with UCLA, compiling a 20-4 conference record. Among games vs. SEC opponents in 2019, their only loss was to Florida, who beat Tennessee 3-0 on Friday night in Game One of the Gainesville Super Regional.

UK has appeared in seven NCAA Super Regionals over their program's history, all of which have occurred under Head Coach Rachel Lawson's tenure. Their only Women's College World Series appearance was in 2014, but they have played in the tournament every season since 2009, two seasons after Lawson was named to the Head Coach position. This is their third-straight Super Regional appearance.

In to start for the Huskies was RHP Taran Alvelo (25-4 this season), who pitched 183 1/3 innings in 2019, walking 41 and striking out a ridiculous 267 batters. She would give way to fellow righty Gabbie Plain (21-2 this season), who combined with Alvelo to form a true pair of aces to lead this Washington staff. Plain pitched in 162 1/3 innings, allowing only 85 hits, walking 35, and striking out 218 in the process.

An injured Grace Baalman (10-9) got the start for Kentucky, backed by glove-work highlighted early on by SS Katie Reed's heads-up play in the first inning. Reed ranged beyond second base to snag a grounder that grazed the glove of 1B Mallory Peyton and rolled out of reach of an off-balance Alex Martens at second, throwing out C Morganne Flores at the plate as she tried to score on the play.

If her triceps injury caused her any trouble, Baalman never made it seem obvious, though her velocity was noticeably down, sitting at 61-63 MPH. After a first-inning double by lead-off hitter Sis Bates and a wild pitch that advanced her to third, Baalman walked Flores. Sami Reynolds flied out deep to left, allowing Flores to advance to second and Bates to score. Baalman recovered and struck out Kaija Gibson, then Madison Huskey reached on the E-3 that nevertheless ended in the exceedingly-rare 3-6-2 putout at home.

To start the top of the second, a walk to Kayla Kowalik led to a 4-3 fielder's choice off the bat of Lauren Johnson, advancing Kowalik into scoring position. A fly-out to right by Peyton moved Kowalik to third, but Kelsee Henson struck out looking to end the threat.

With Emma Helm striking out looking to begin the bottom half of the second, Taryn Atlee smacked a hard grounder to Reed, who managed to cut down Atlee at first on a very close play. It was Reed, once more, when Huskies' 3B SilentRain Espinoza hit a bouncer to the right of Baalman that appeared to graze her glove, but Reed immediately sprinted to her left for the grounder and threw Espinoza out at first, turning what could have been an infield single into out number three.

Alvelo got two quick outs in the top of the third, but Reed almost put a liner to left over the head of Reynolds on a middle-in fastball. The Washington left fielder tracked back on the drive and stretched to snag it at the last moment for the third out.

CF Amirah Milloy crushed a low liner to right to lead off the Washington half of the third, advancing to third as the ball skipped under and past the glove of Johnson. Bates dropped the bat on a 53-MPH 1-1 change-up that caught a bit of the inner-third of the plate, knocking a quick grounder to the left of a diving Martens, driving in Milloy to make it 2-0, Washington. A walk to Flores followed, but a comebacker to Baalman led to a 1-5 fielder's choice to get Bates at third. Kaija Gibson lined to Reed, who tried to double off Flores at second, but the Huskies' catcher was back on the bag well before the toss from Reed. Huskey followed with a slow grounder to Reed to end the threat.

In the top of the fourth, 3B Abbey Cheek flew out to Milloy in center on a 71-MPH 1-2 fastball at the shins. While Alvelo sat 68-71 throughout the game, she dropped a 53-MPH 1-1 change-up just low and outside vs. Martens (which was very close to the zone, but called a ball). Martens would end up reaching on a 2-2 fastball that appeared routine but made it through the right side of the infield on a surprising error by Washington's second baseman Atlee. UK inserted Jaci Babbs to pinch-run for Martens.

Now with two on and one out, Johnson took a 2-0 fastball that appeared well off the outside corner, but was called strike one, nevertheless. Johnson fouled off multiple fastballs before grounding into a 6-4 fielder's choice. The combination of a slow grounder and a fast base-runner left two outs and runners at the corners. Plain took over for Alvelo at this point, who finished the day having allowed only two hits and one walk, striking out three in 3 2/3 shutout innings.

Coming off her fourth-career no-hitter, Plain dealt rising, cutting and sinking fastballs in the low-60's, finishing off Peyton quickly and stranding the UK runners.

The bottom of the fourth started with a bit of controversy, as Helm hit a laser beam to Peyton at first base that bounced inside fair territory before Peyton scooped it as it passed just over the first base bag and dropped onto the base for the 3-unassisted putout. First-base umpire Scott Mair made the “fair” call, immediately, though Washington appealed the call to home-plate ump Tracy Laycock, unsuccessfully. Baalman would set them down in order, ending the inning with a one-hopper that hit her right leg and bounced to Cheek for the unconventional 1-5-3 putout.

Henson beat out a slow grounder to short to start the top of the fifth, on what at first appeared to be an extremely-close out. Kennedy Cowden came in to pinch-run for Henson. Vick attempted to bunt her over, but ended up striking out while trying to simply put the barrel on the ball on a pitch at eye level and well outside the plate. Schaper also struck out swinging, this time on a low-and-away pitch that had good sink and run on it. Cowden advanced to second when Plain's 2-2 pitch hit the dirt in front of Flores and bounced about ten feet behind her and to her right. Reed ultimately drew a walk and UK had the tying run on board with Cheek at the plate. She worked the count full, but ended up grounding out to first on a fastball off the plate for the third out.

Milloy popped up to third to start the bottom of the inning on a bunt that was in the air for a fraction of a second, but which Cheek charged and caught barely eight feet from the plate. After Bates popped up to short, Flores hit a 3-1 fastball at the knees on a high arc that just cleared the LF wall near the foul line to make it 3-0, Washington. Reynolds followed that with an opposite-field double that eluded the outstretched glove of Vick.

The inning ended somewhat awkwardly, when Gibson grounded to Peyton, who scooped it halfway down the first-base line, tagged Gibson, then threw to Martens who was still about three feet from the first-base bag. Martens then threw home in an attempt to catch the still-running Reynolds, but the third out had already been made on the original tag of Gibson.

Martens led off the top of the sixth with a hard-hit single through the right side of the infield. Kowalik took a short swing on a 1-1 fastball down the heart of the plate, grounding back to Plain, who threw it wide of Atlee at second in an attempt to turn the 1-4-3 double play. Now with two on and nobody out, Johnson dropped an excellent bunt to move both runners, seemingly catching everyone by surprise as she didn't show bunt until the pitch was almost halfway to the plate.

With two in scoring position and only one out, Peyton grounded into a 5-3 putout, the runners holding. Henson then grounded out to second and UK left two more on the bases.

Megan Schorman took over for Baalman to start the bottom of the sixth, and Tatum Spangler entered the game at first base. Schorman was called for an illegal pitch on her third pitch to the Washington catcher as she appeared to crow-hop off the slab, but it didn't make any difference as Huskey struck out on a high fastball for the first out. Vick chased down a fly-ball into the left-center alley for out number two. Atlee took first base as an 0-1 fastball up and in grazed her right elbow, but Espinoza left her there when she flied out to left.

Down to their final three outs, Vick led off the top of the seventh. She grounded back to the pitcher on a 2-2 outside fastball and was quickly thrown out at first. Schaper pulled a grounder to third for the second out. Reed was hit in the left shin by a running fastball and once again UK had the tying run at the plate when Cheek stepped in. She absolutely crushed an 0-1 fastball down the heart of the plate, but pulled it foul. The next pitch ended in a 1-3 ground-out, and a Game One victory for the Huskies.

UK was able to put at least one runner on base in all but the third inning, leaving a total of nine runners on base by the end of the game.

Plain finished off her relief stint having gone 3 1/3 innings, allowing two hits and one walk while striking out three. For the Wildcats, Baalman gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits and two walks, striking out two in five innings, while Schorman pitched a hit-less, scoreless inning in relief. Baalman took her 10th loss of the season against 10 wins, while Plain picked up her 22nd win of the year against two losses.

Game Two will be televised tonight on ESPN2 at 10 PM EST (7 PM PST). 

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Huskies Blank Wildcats in Game One of Seattle Super Regional, 3-0

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