LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Meagan Prince gave Kentucky just what it needed Friday in its opening game of the NCAA softball tournament.
The senior left-hander tossed six efficient, shutout innings -- allowing only two hits and a walk -- as the 14th-seeded Wildcats cruised to a 6-0 win over DePaul in the Lexington Regional at John Cropp Stadium. She needed only 65 pitches, making quick work of the Blue Demons.
Kentucky (37-17) will face Illinois on Saturday at Noon ET. The Illini advanced with an extra-inning victory over Marshall in Friday's first game that, unlike UK's matchup, taxed both teams' top pitchers with more than 170 pitches apiece.
The Wildcats made it easy for Prince (20-7), supporting her with a five-run outburst in the first inning that featured RBI singles by Abbey Cheek and Alex Martens, followed by RBI doubles from Breanne Ray and Jenny Schaper.
"I have been happier and happier with our offense every time we go out," UK head coach Rachel Lawson said. "We seem to be doing a little bit better and a little bit better every weekend, so I wasn’t as surprised that we came out so strong in the first inning. I wish we would’ve continued that. One, it would’ve made a statement, and two, the more runs that we put up, I am able to go a little bit deeper into the pitching staff earlier. That was something I wish we would’ve kept doing."
From there, Prince was never threatened. She retired the first 10 batters in order with the Blue Demons (29-22) failing to get a ball out of the infield. Only one DePaul runner reached second base during the game.
Erin Rethlake pitched a perfect seventh inning to close out the win for
DePaul starter Missy Zoch (14-8) took the loss, allowing six runs on seven hits and three walks during her five innings in the circle.