UK Athletics/Britney Howard

Kentucky Wildcats unable to stage another late comeback, fall to Utah in NCAA Tourney

Kentucky's ability to come from behind carried it into the Lexington Regional finals of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, but the Wildcats were not able to summon one more rally.

Utah held off the 9th-ranked Wildcats for a 5-3 victory at John Cropp Stadium, advancing to the Super Regional next weekend in Tallahassee, Fla.

Kentucky saw its season end at 46-14 after the program's record second-place finish in the SEC.

“I thought today was a great day for softball," UK coach Rachel Lawson said. "Both teams played really hard. We played well. Both teams had their backs against the wall several times and it was a back-and-forth battle both games, so I think that both teams need to feel really good about what they accomplished here. I feel like it was one of the most evenly matched regionals in the country in terms of two teams.

"... We are disappointed we are not moving on, but we want to congratulate Utah and we wish them the best.”

The No. 25 Utes (36-20) broke through against UK starter Meagan Prince for three runs in the fifth inning after the Cats had retired the first two batters. Four consecutive two-out hits gave Utah a 3-0 lead.

Kentucky cut the deficit to 3-1 in the bottom of the fifth on a solo home run by Jenny Schaper.

After Utah went up 4-1 in the top of the sixth, UK answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning when Katie Reed launched an RBI double off the wall in left field and Brooklin HInz plated another run on an infield single. However, the Cats left the bases loaded when Kelsey Nunley was called out on strikes on a pitch that drew protest from the UK dugout.

Utah added an insurance run in the top of the seventh when Hailey Hilburn drove home Kay Kay Fronda, who had doubled, with an RBI single. 

The Cats were unable to mount a threat in the bottom of the seventh against Utah starter Katie Donovan, who had re-entered the game after a brief relief appearance by Miranda Viramontes to escape the fifth-inning jam.

Donovan (20-10) earned the win, allowing only one earned run on four hits and a walk over 6.2 innings in the circle. Prince (21-6) took the loss for UK, allowing three earned runs on six hits and two walks over 6.2 innings in the circle.



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