By LARRY VAUGHT
Abbey Cheek was so good for so long that it might be next year when Cheek is no longer playing for Kentucky that we can truly appreciate just how good she was.
She not only was fearless at third base, but she was lethal at the plate during her four-year career. This year she had 20 home runs, drove in 53 runs, walked 64 times and hit .436 to earn Southeastern Conference Player of the Year honors.
Cheek leaves UK with 61 home runs, 202 RBI’s and a .330 career batting average that included 116 walks. She started all 203 games Kentucky played during her four years with the Wildcats.
Cheek’s career ended with a 5-0 loss at No. 3 Washington Saturday in the Super Regional. She seemed to crying as she shook hands with the Huskies after the game and again when she was consoled by junior teammate Bailey Vick after the game.
“First and foremost I want to thank God and my family! Wearing this Kentucky jersey for the last 4 years has been the best experience of my life! I never thought the moment would come,” Cheek posted on social media the day after the loss.
Then she added this message:
“So grateful to play with such amazing group of girls and an amazing coaching staff!”
Praise poured in for Cheek and her senior teammates — Katie Reed, Jenny Schaper, Sara Rainwater and Kelsey Henson — on social media, too.
“You are a true role model and someone both young boys and girls should look up to!!!” James Butters posted on Twitter.
“Thank you Abbs, granddaughter is your #1fan, thanks for coming to Ky. Good luck and God bless your future,” Karen Cooper added on Twitter.
Then there was this emotional tweet from Jenifer Kowalik, the mother of freshman outfielder Kayla Kowilak, to all the UK seniors:
“Thank you for being a role model and mentor to my fishy (freshman). You leave the program better than you found it and that’s an amazing thing. Good luck.”
That’s the key to remember about Cheek, and her senior teammates. They did leave the program in great shape and raised expectations with three straight Super Regional berths.
Cheek was the best player in the always loaded SEC this year but again I still think he might be next year before any of us expect maybe Cheek’s teammates and coaches will really understand just how good she was.