UK takes on roleas underdog inSuper Regional

Published 4:59 pm Wednesday, May 23, 2018

LEXINGTON (KT) — Kentucky hopes to continue its postseason momentum against top-seed Oregon in the Super Regionals set for Thursday-Saturday in Eugene.

The Wildcats rolled to wins over the University of Illinois-Chicago and a pair of victories over Notre Dame in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last weekend at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington. The opener is set for 9 p.m. Thursday and will be televised on ESPN2.

Kentucky scored 28 runs against the two teams and disposed of the Flames and Irish in six innings or less in all three contests. The offensive showing wasn’t typical of past showings by the Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, where the Wildcats have relied more on pitching and defense than offense.

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“In the postseason, typically what we do is we dominate on the mound, we play good defense and then we stay in the game long enough to win it,” Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson said. “But then, after our first game, I started to understand, wow, this team is really getting it done offensively. I didn’t worry about winning. I just wondered how long it was going to take us to get the eight runs.”

Although Kentucky lost to Arkansas in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament nearly two weeks ago, the Wildcats weren’t hindered by the loss and stayed focused on the task at hand.

Kentucky pinch hitter Rachael Metzger said the loss served as a learning tool for the Wildcats.

“I think that just means that everyone is buying in,” she said. “We write on our wrists ‘together’ and this has been a complete, 100-percent together process from everyone. From our starters to our bench players, everyone’s in this and if our entire lineup is buying into the process, that means everyone’s committed to our one goal: going to the World Series and doing the best we can do.”

Lawson said the Wildcats will need to adjust to Oregon’s pitching staff, which they faced on a two-game sweep in the second round last season. The Ducks’ staff will be anchored by Megan Kleist, Miranda Elish and Maggie Balint, who all have posted an earned run average of less than two runs per game.

“It’s kind of what you need to do in the postseason,” Lawson said. “Obviously pitchers have tendencies and things like that, but when you’re facing a team like Oregon who’s very deceptive – they have three different pitchers who do a little bit different stuff – you have to be able to flip depending who they put in there.”

Oregon defeated the Wildcats 6-5 in last year’s Super Regional and are familiar with what they will be facing against this season.

“Oregon has a great pitching staff. I think that, since we went there last year, we’re kind of familiar with their pitching staff, so I think that makes us all kind of excited,” center fielder Brooklin Hinz said. “Oregon has a great environment there. Their fans are probably some of the best in the country, so I think that just makes more excited. We feel more prepared, especially after how we did last weekend. I can’t wait to see what we do.”

Although Kentucky’s offense is at its best, the Wildcats will be considered an underdog this weekend.

“It feels like four years that I’ve been here, we’ve never not been the underdog,” Pitcher Erin Rethlake said. “We have always been the underdog and we play well that way. It’s not about the expectations so to speak, but it’s fun to prove people wrong.”

— — —

Super Regionals

At Eugene Oregon

Best of three

Thursday’s game

Oregon (50-7) vs. Kentucky (34-19), 9 p.m.

Friday’s game

Oregon vs. Kentucky, 11 p.m.

Saturday’s game

Oregon vs. Kentucky, 9 p.m., if necessary