Photo by Keyli Chisesi | Go Big Blue Country
Abbey Cheeks Walk-Off Sends Kentucky Softball to Familiar Place
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Erin Rethlake tossed six scoreless innings and Rachael Metzger delivered more pinch-hit magic to lead Kentucky to an 8-0 win vs. Notre Dame in the Lexington Regional championship.
Kentucky defeated the Irish for the second time in less than 24-hours behind another strong pitching performance. Rethlake stepped into the circle and shut down the Irish bats, the same way Grace Baalman did on Saturday. The senior left hander only surrendered one hit and two walks in six innings while striking out three.
Rethlake didn’t find out she was starting until a few hours before the game and it was a text message from Coach Rachel Lawson that let her know.
“I felt great about Erin,” said Rachel Lawson. “I woke up this morning, watched a little video, and knew she had this.”
“Coach Lawson obviously knows the pitch calls because she scouts a crazy amount,” said Rethlake. Today was just about trusting whatever she called and believing my stuff was good enough, and then relying on the defense to make the plays behind me.”
Offensively, the bats were alive for the third consecutive game for Kentucky. Alex Martins and Brooklin Hinz led the Wildcat attack with two hits each.
Kentucky got started fast in the first inning with a two-run home run off the bat of second baseman Alex Martens. After Jenny Schaper and Lauren Johnson had RBI hits in the second and third innings, Metzger delivered another huge swing in a pinch-hit role. The senior found the gap in the right center field, clearing the bases to give Kentucky a 7-0 advantage.
In three at bats over the weekend, Metzger drove in seven runs, including a Grand Slam in Saturday nights 10-0 win vs. the Irish. She doesn’t receive many at bats, but the senior has bought into her role in the Wildcat lineup.
“Throughout the year we’ve had different people step up in different moments, and now it’s Metzger’s moment,” said Lawson. “She’s feeling it, she’s confident, and she’s working her approach. She’s reaping the benefits of it.”
Metzger wasn’t the only Wildcat to deliver fireworks of her own as third baseman Abbey Cheek sent the Wildcats to the Super Regionals in style. Cheek blasted a walk-off home run in the bottom of the sixth that hit off her face on the scoreboard in left field.
Kentucky outscored their opponents 28-1 over the weekend to dominate UIC on Saturday morning and Notre Dame in consecutive outings to wrap up a Regional championship.
“One thing we do focus on is passing the bat down,” said Cheek. “It can’t be just one person in the lineup doing it. We have multiple people stepping up and doing what we are supposed to be doing.”
Kentucky enters familiar territory in the Super Regionals. The Wildcats will head to Eugene (OR.) for a matchup with the top seeded Oregon Ducks. Last season ended with a Super Regional loss to the Ducks.
“We’re going to be really good against Oregon if we keep on passing the bat down,” said Cheek. “It’s not just one person that’s going to win the game for us.”
Oregon is deservingly the number one seed, but Rachel Lawson’s club is hitting their stride at the perfect time.
“Personally, I always think we play well as the underdog,” said Rethlake. “It’s fun to be the underdog and nobody expects us to come out. It’s not about Oregon, it’s about us.”