UK Softball makes program history with walk-off win

The UK Softball team advanced further than it ever has before in a walk-off win Sunday.

Needing a win against No. 10 Michigan to advance — the same team UK upset earlier in the Regional bracket by one run — UK entered the final inning scoreless and down a run. Senior Meagan Aull hit a game-tying home run over the right field fence. UK then loaded the bases, and Annie Rowlands hit a one-out bases-loaded single that sent UK to the Super Regional for the first time in program history.

Rachel Riley pitched the whole game, allowing one hit, and the Michigan run was unearned from a defensive error.

UK will now play the seventh-seeded University of California (which beat Louisville in their Regional final) in the Super Regional. Due to a scheduling conflict for Cal, the lower-seeded Cats will host the games at the UK Softball Complex on Saturday, starting at noon.

(Side note: Here’s why Cal — which was also on the road, playing in Louisville this weekend, can’t host: “inadequate facilities.” An excerpt from a Silicon Valley Mercury News article:

The Bears are unable to host NCAA regional games because Levine-Fricke Field fails to meet the necessary criteria. The facility, built in 1995, doesn’t have lights, a press box or enough seating capacity.

Cal has been one of the top programs in the nation for years. The Bears are in their 26th straight NCAA tournament and have advanced to the Women’s College World Series in seven of the past 12 seasons.

Still, the program hasn’t had much success raising money from private donors to get its facilities upgraded.

“After we won in 2002, nobody stepped up,” Cal coach Diane Ninemire said. “I thought that was my ticket. I thought that showed people how serious we are about this program. We are no better off than the day we won the World Series.”

The Super Regionals are, essentially, a Sweet Sixteen of sorts. Eight different head-to-head matchups between Regional winners are played, with the winner in each advancing to the College World Series. Here’s the bracket (UK is on the right side, second-from-bottom):