Cheek runs rampant in Eugene as UK softball takes Super Regional opener


University of Kentucky junior Abbey Cheek makes it to third base during their home opener against the University of Dayton on Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

UK softball took the first game of the Eugene Super Regional series Thursday evening against the No. 1 overall Oregon Ducks, 9-6

Coming into the game, the Ducks had the lowest ERA in the nation (1.06), had only one loss at home and had never lost when scoring at least four runs. They led the all-time series with the Cats 4-2 after sweeping UK in last season’s Super Regional round in the same location. Before the game, all signs pointed to the Ducks having a significant advantage.

Unfortunately for them, Abbey Cheek wanted to hit the softball unbelievably hard.

Cheek finished with five RBI on two homeruns, both of which cashed in multiple runs. Cheek accounted for nearly half of UK’s scoring as she drilled uncharacteristically easy pitches from Oregon’s starting pitcher, Megan Kleist.

Sophomore second baseman Alex Martens also wanted in on the action, starting the Cats off with a three-run shot to put them ahead for the entire game.

Kleist never really regained her command as the game progressed, and Oregon head coach Mike White decided to substitute Maggie Balint into the game to start the fifth inning. She only gave up two more runs by the Cats, Cheek’s second.

After Cheek was returning to the dugout from this homerun, she was playfully splashed with water by All-SEC shortstop Katie Reed, who also had a great day at the plate, registering hits nearly every time up.

After the Cats got put out of the sixth inning is when the game got incredibly bizarre quickly. The Cats had grounded out Haley Cruse with Grace Baalman as their pitcher. Except Baalman wasn’t supposed to be pitching.

At the top of the inning, Mallory Peyton was the designated pitcher for the Cats. It was fine for her to do that at-bat, but since Baalman was a relief pitcher, she couldn’t re-enter the game. Because of this, the Cats had to reach deeper into their staff for Autumn Humes, the second-year pitcher from Arkansas. The out was taken away, and Cruse turned out to be Oregon’s last run of the game as she circled the bases on a double from DJ Sanders.

Neither team scored in the seventh as UK won their first game against the Ducks in the last four attempts, setting them up only one game away from a second trip to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The second game of the series will be played Friday evening at 9 p.m.

CORRECTION: The second game of the series will take place at 11 p.m. ET.