Temperatures may reach 90 this weekend in Lexington, but the Kentucky softball team won’t mind as they hope they’re the ones bringing the heat as a host in the opening round of the NCAA softball regionals.
These ladies hope to follow in the footsteps of the other spring women’s sports where the Wildcats made history by winning the volleyball national title just three weeks ago as well as the NCAA Rifle Team Championship in March with Mary Tucker winning individual titles in both air rifle and Smallbore.
The No. 14 seeded Wildcats (39-13) will host the 2021 NCAA Softball Lexington Regional this weekend at John Cropp Stadium as Notre Dame, Miami of Ohio, and Northwestern travel to the Bluegrass for the double-elimination tournament.
Now it’s onto the diamond where the UK has hosted a regional the past five years and advanced on from there four times. There was no tournament in 2020 due to Covid.
Kentucky softball ready to kick off regionals
It will be a pair of Wildcats kicking it off with Kentucky opening against fourth-seeded Northwestern on Friday at Noon on ESPN2, ESPN3, and the ESPN app. The opening game is officially a sellout.
So how did these four end up in the regional?
Kentucky actually finished fifth in the Southeastern Conference and Miami won the Mid-American Conference getting an automatic league bid. Notre Dame who hails from the Atlantic Coast Conference and Northwestern from the Big Ten each earned at-large bids by being one of the 30 best non-conference winners.
The format means Friday’s winners and losers will face off Saturday afternoon before a third Saturday game that will eliminate a second team. Potentially both remaining teams now may be forced to play two games on Sunday to decide who moves on and who goes home.
We know Big Blue Nation loves its Wildcats no matter what sport. Those who weren’t familiar with volleyball latched onto that team and now should also with the softball team, they have just as storied of a program to get behind on their quest for the College World Series which they made in 2014 winning 50 games.
Coach Rachel Lawson always has her squad ready to take on anyone. In her 14th season at the helm of the Wildcats, she is the winningest coach in program history. They have made seven super regionals as well in the past eight seasons and have not missed an NCAA tournament in the past 12 years.
Kentucky is 12-5 at home this season but started 19-0 and was 25-1 against non-SEC schools with the only loss coming 2-1 to Western Kentucky who is playing in the Athens Regional. Eastern Kentucky is in the Knoxville Regional.
They then went 13-11 against SEC schools, of which all but South Carolina were strong enough to make the NCAA field. Vanderbilt does not play softball.
The Wildcats were equally as hot to close out the season going 8-2 marking the best 10-game record to close a regular season in program history. They did drop the final game to Alabama, but more of note was they were never swept in an SEC series all season a first in program history.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility Kentucky could play host to the Super Regionals if they advance but would need host Alabama to be eliminated in their home regional. In this wacky past year, anything is possible the Cats just need to do their part and see what happens in Tuscaloosa.