Kentucky’s season concludes with loss in Super Regional

Published 1:35 pm Sunday, May 27, 2018

It took just five innings for Oregon to end Kentucky’s season.

DJ Sanders hit a grand slam in a seven-run second inning to propel the Oregon softball team to the women’s College World Series following an 11-1 run-rule victory over the Wildcats Saturday night in the deciding game of the Eugene Super Regional.

“Somebody pinch me — I couldn’t believe this in my wildest dreams, that we would come out and score that many runs,” said Oregon coach Mike White, whose team scored just 12 total runs over three games in the opening round round. “(It’s) just a tremendous achievement.”

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Shannon Rhodes hit a solo home run and Jenna Lilley added an RBI single to put top-seeded Oregon (52-8) up 2-0 in the second before Sanders’ home run with the bases loaded. Rhodes added another RBI double before the inning was over to make it 7-0.

Gwen Svekis added a two-run triple and Haley Cruse had an RBI double in the third to pad Oregon’s lead.

Brooklin Hinz hit a solo home run for No. 16 seed Kentucky in the fourth. Lilley added another RBI single for the Ducks in the bottom half.

Miranda Elish (24-1) got the win, going five innings and allowing one run on one hit. Erin Rethlake (11-5) took the loss for the Wildcats.

“This team can do it,” Elish said. “We can win a national championship. We’ve got to take it game by game, but I know we can do it.”

It was the second straight season Oregon has hosted Kentucky in the Super Regional round. The Ducks dropped Thursday night’s opener to the Wildcats 9-6 before winning Friday’s second game 6-1.

Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson praised Oregon’s ability to bounce back from a five-run setback in the Super Regional opener.

“They’ve done a great job,” she said. “I know they’re ready for Oklahoma City.”

Oregon filled the stands to capacity during the finale as 2,522 attended the decisive contest. Overall, 15,132 fans attended the team’s six postseason encounters.

“For somebody who’s been doing this a long time, to see this kind of fan base at a college is awesome,” Lawson said. “It wasn’t too long ago we were begging for this many people to come to the World Series. To see this on a college campus, here in Oregon, is really cool.”

The contest marked the final collegiate game for Kentucky seniors Hinz, Rachael Metzger and Erin Rethlake. The graduating class made four NCAA Tournament appearances, won 38 games over Top 25 opponents and won more than 150 games, including 62 victories at John Cropp Stadium.

Kentucky (35-21) is one of nine schools — one of four in the Southeastern Conference — to win three straight games open the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats are just one of 19 teams in the nation that have reached the Big Dance for the past decade.