By LARRY VAUGHT
Junior Abbey Cheek hit two home runs to center field to drive in five runs and help visiting Kentucky shock No. 1 Oregon 9-6 in the NCAA Super Regional Friday.
What made the win even more special was that UK coach Rachel Lawson made a rare substitution error that forced her to remove pitcher Grace Baalman from the game in the sixth inning and insert Autumn Humes — who was pitching in Division II a year ago.
Humes gave up a run in the sixth but retired the Ducks in order in the seventh to touch off a victory celebration for UK. A year ago Oregon ended UK’s season when it overcame a three-run deficit in the seventh inning of game two in the Super Regional.
Alex Martens blasted a three-run homer in the first inning — the first run Oregon had allowed in the last 30 innings. But it was the heroics from Cheeks, UK’s leading home run hitter, that saved this game after Oregon managed to get back into the game against starting pitcher Erin Rethlake.
Cheeks insisted after UK’s three-game regional sweep that Kentucky could compete with Oregon and had an offense (UK scored 28 runs in three regional wins) that could cope with Oregon’s highly-touted pitching staff.
“One thing we do focus on is passing the bat down. So, it can’t be just one person in the lineup doing it. If we have multiple people stepping up and doing what we’re supposed to be doing, we’re going to get far,” Cheeks said after the regional. “We’re going to be really good against Oregon if we keep on passing the bat down because not just one person is going to win the game for us.”
True but one person — Abbey Cheek — sure did more than her part Friday night.
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Cheek’s heroics got a lot of attention on Twitter.
“ABBEY KILLING IT!! #HOMERUN2,” tweeted UK basketball player Maci Morris.
“@AbbeyCheek is the ￼￼￼￼￼ 2 bombs on the day!!!!!!!￼￼￼” UK baseball pitcher Justin Lewis posted.
“Abbey is absolutely murdering the ball. Amazing to watch,” Kentucky fan Rick Parsons tweeted.
“Abby Cheek has now hit the two highest softball home runs I’ve ever seen. Both in this game,” WLAP Sunday Morning Sports host Mark Beurger tweeted.
“@AbbeyCheek is our HERO!!! Let’s go, @UKsoftball!” was posted by the Kentucky women’s basketball twitter account.
Perhaps my favorite tweet was this one from Dick Gabriel of Big Blue Insider on WLAP: “Abby Cheek is hunting Ducks in Eugene,” Gabriel tweeted.
Or maybe this one from my buddy, Gary Moyers, of the The Cats’ Pause was the best:
“Back when I still squatted behind the plate, I’d have told my pitcher if he threw @AbbeyCheek anything she could reach, I’d hit him right in front of everybody. And I didn’t believe in intentional walks,” Moyers tweeted.
Guess here is that Cheeks will get very few pitches she can hit out of the park from Oregon pitchers Friday night.