Cheek and Martens break out of hitting slump in Regional Final win


Kentucky senior Abbey Cheek gets a hit during the game against Virginia Tech in the NCAA tournament Regionals on Saturday, May 18, 2019, at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Mohammad Ahmad

If you look at Abbey Cheek’s and Alex Martens’ overall statistics, they might impress you.

But that may not have been the case entering Sunday’s NCAA Lexington Regional Final.

Cheek and Martens each entered Sunday’s contest bating .143 at the plate in the first two regional games. While Martens had a two-run home run on Friday and Cheek had a two-RBI double that same day, neither player had any hits on Saturday. 

So, how did Martens go 4-for-5 at the plate on Sunday with five RBIs and a home run, while Cheek went 3-for-4 in the 11-1 run-rule routing of Virginia Tech?

“I think Abbey would say, ‘Stay in the moment,’” Martens said laughingly with Cheek by her side after the victory. “No but really, staying in the moment and taking each game at a time is what you have to do.”

The synergy between Martens and Cheek first shone in the top of the third inning. With one out, Cheek doubled to left field and advanced Katie Reed to third base. Martens then stepped up and hit a double that scored Cheek and Reed, increasing the Cats lead to three.

“I think we just really just focused on being short to the ball today because yesterday and today we faced [Carrie] Eberle and we knew what she had,” Cheek said. “We really focused on that and swinging at good pitches.”

As exciting as Martens’ RBIs may have been for the Cats, there was something that may have been more exciting. Those two RBIs made Martens the all-time leader for most RBIs in a season by a Wildcat, surpassing Brooke Marintz’s 2007 record of 61 RBIs. She was tied with Marintz prior to Sunday’s game.

“Me, Katie [Reed] and Jenny [Schaper] were talking about the record. I have to give them all the credit. If you look at the stats and numbers of this team, they are drastically growing and changing. And it has to do with them getting on base, that’s how RBIs happen,” Martens said.

Cheek would single in the fifth inning and advanced Reed once more, setting up Lauren Johnson who brought them home on a two-RBI double. An inning later, Martens would tie ribbon on the tournament present. She blasted a three-run home run that helped run-rule the game.

“Prior to this [recent recruiting] class, we were known solely for our defense. We were that ‘scrappy team.” We still want to be scrappy, but I love that they’ve taken pride in becoming an offensive team,” UK head softball coach Rachel Lawson added.

The Cats are headed to their third consecutive NCAA Super Regional and their seventh in nine years, but with only Women’s College World Series appearance in that span. Lawson acknowledged the losses and said that “no one will put more pressure on herself to succeed than her.” 

“I don’t want to let them down,” Lawson said.