LEXINGTON, Ky. -- For the fifth time in program history, the Kentucky softball team is off to the NCAA Super Regional round, claiming a sweep of the 2017 NCAA Lexington Regional thanks to a 4-2 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini on Sunday afternoon at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington.
The Super Regional appearance for Kentucky is its fifth in the last seven years, and fourth in the last five years under head coach Rachel Lawson. The Wildcats won all three games of the regional which began on Friday, sweeping a home regional for the first time in program history.
The Wildcats will face the winner of the Eugene, Oregon Regional next weekend in a best-of-three series that will be three games over three days. Currently, Oregon is in the driver's seat as the 2-0 team. Should Oregon win the regional, UK will travel to Jane Sanders Stadium in Oregon for the super. If Wisconsin wins the regional, Kentucky will host the super regional.
Kentucky broke the ice with a three-run first inning, as Brooklin Hinz tripled to CF with two outs to score Abbey Cheek, and then Alex Martens hit her fourth home run of the season to straight-away center to make it 3-0. The Wildcats got an insurance run in the top of the third to make it 4-0 after an Abbey Cheek lead-off triple.
With the tying run on deck in the sixth inning, Meagan Prince came on and shut the door on her fifth save of the season, tying the Kentucky single-season record, and career record as Sunday was her ninth-career save in the blue and white.
Erin Rethlake earned the win in the circle, throwing 5.2 brilliant innings, allowing just one run on five hits to the 22 batters she faced at the plate. She moved her overall record to 10-5 on the season and dropped her season ERA to 1.82, which leads all Kentucky pitchers.
Key Stat: Eight. Kentucky mustered eight hits in the first four innings off Illinois pitcher Breanne Wonderly.
Key Play: The key play in the game was in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Katie Reed layed out with a diving stop deep in the hole at shortstop and denied lead-off batter Stephanie Abello of a base hit to start the inning. That kept the basepaths clear and Rethlake retired the side in order to put UK up 4-0 going to the sixth.
Key Player: The key player in the game was Alex Martens. The freshman second basemen went 1-for-2 on the day with a home run, and three RBI. On the weekend, Martens hit .714 with 5 RBI, a home run, two runs scored, a double and five hits.