Host Kentucky starts NCAA play against DePaul today

Meagan Prince

LEXINGTON, Ky. – After another banner year for Kentucky softball under head coach Rachel Lawson, the Wildcats were selected as a regional host site for the fourth time in the last five years, as UK will welcome Illinois, Marshall and DePaul to Lexington for a spot in the Super Regionals.

All games of the double-elimination bracket will be shown live on the ESPN family of networks with Jenn Hildreth (pxp) and former Purdue head coach Carol Bruggeman (color) on the call from John Cropp Stadium in Lexington.

Kentucky earned the No. 14 overall seed from the NCAA selection committee on Sunday night, the same seed that UK earned when it made its 2014 run to the Women’s College World Series. The Wildcats were one of all 13 Southeastern Conference teams to make it to the NCAA Tournament, as the SEC became the second conference of all time, and the first since 2007, to send all of its teams to postseason play.

UK will open up regionals on Friday afternoon against fourth-seeded DePaul at 2:30 p.m. ET live on ESPN3. Illinois, the second seed, and Marshall, the third seed, will square off on ESPN2 at Noon ET. The winners of both games will play at Noon ET on Saturday for a spot in the regional final, with the losers entering the elimination game.

The No. 4 seed in the Lexington Regional, DePaul enters the weekend with a 29-21 overall record and champions of the Big East Conference. The Blue Demons have three players hitting above .300 on the season paced by Jessica Cothern, who has four home runs and 24 RBI. In the circle, DePaul is led by Missy Zoch who has a 2.86 ERA.

The Wildcats and Blue Demons are tied 3-3 in the all-time series. UK hosted DePaul in the 2014 NCAA Lexington Regional, where UK beat DePaul 10-1 (5 inn) on the Regional Final day to advance out of the bracket to the UCLA Super Regional. Oddly enough, UK was also the No. 14 national seed that year, and ended up advancing to the Women’s College World Series that year.

Led by Tyra Perry in her second year with the Fighting Illini, the Illinois softball program is back in the NCAA Tournament, and returning to the Lexington Regional for the second year in a row. Illinois finished the 2017 season with a 37-18 overall record, including 14-8 within the Big Ten Conference. The Fighting Illini are led at the plate by Nicole Evans, who is hitting .361 this season with 17 home runs and 55 RBI. There are six Illinois players hitting over .300 on the season. In the circle, Breanne Wonderly has thrown a majority of the innings for Illinois, with a 2.73 ERA and a 20-14 record on the season.

The third seed in the Lexington Regional, the Marshall Thundering Herd enter the weekend as the champions of Conference USA with a 41-10 overall record. The pitching coach for the Herd is former UK softball legend, Chanda Bell, who guided UK to the 2011 NCAA Super Regionals. Marshall leads the country in stolen bases with 157, and is led offensively by Morgan Zerkle, who is hitting .484 on the season. She is one of two players hitting above .400 on the year and one of six players hitting above .300. In the circle, Jordan Dixon leads the way with a 1.73 ERA and 31-8 record.

2017 NCAA Softball Tournament – Lexington Regional

John Cropp Stadium // Lexington, KY

Friday, May 19

Game 1 – Marshall vs. Illinois – Noon ET – ESPN2

Game 2 – DePaul vs. Kentucky – 2:30 p.m. ET – ESPN3.com

Saturday, May 20

Game 3 – Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 – Noon ET – TV TBD

Game 4 – Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 – 2:30 p.m. ET – TV TBD

Game 5 – Loser Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4 – 5 p.m. ET – TV TBD

Sunday, May 21
Game 6 – Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5 – Noon ET – TV TBD
Game 7 – (If necessary) – 2:30 p.m. ET – TV TBD

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