LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Sandy Pearsall is hoping her Louisville softball team responds to an underdog role this weekend much like they did last weekend.
The Cardinals were the third seed in the American Athletic Conference Tournament in Houston, knowing they had to win the event to advance to the NCAA tournament for the 11th straight time. And they felt the heat.
"Oh yes, so much pressure," said Senior Katie Keller. "I think we heard it from Coach P every day. She just wanted us to know, 'don't let this happen'. I think our senior class really stepped up. That's exactly what we needed. Now that our underclassmen know what it's like to win a championship, I don't think it's going to stop here."
Keller led the charge during the Cardinals three straight victories to claim the AAC title. She went 5-for-5 with three home runs, a triple, six RBI, and six runs scored. She also walked four times and was hit by a pitch. With their season on the line, Keller was never retired in the three games. She was an easy choice for USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Week. ?
"This is a well-deserved honor for Katie," said Pearsall. She had a great weekend and was impressive both offensively and defensively. She definitely set the tone for our team and played a huge role in winning the conference championship."?
Next up is LSU in the Tucson Regional. It's an 8:00 pm Eastern start with Boston University and the host school Arizona meeting the nightcap in the double elimination format.
"I'm super excited, said Senior Pitcher Rachel LaCoq. "I've never played in Arizona and I get to play a college from my home state, LSU. I already have people at home talking smack."
"It's kind of a monkey off your back," said Pearsall of keeping the NCAA tournament streak alive. "You hate to be the team after ten straight to not make it, so I think now they're feeling good. I think they're going to be very loose. We're certainly not picked to win that regional, so we go in, play great ball and whatever happens, happens."
The University of Kentucky is in the NCAA's for the sixth consecutive season. The Wildcats are the number 14 national seed and one of 16 schools hosting a regional."For Kentucky to be able to host a NCAA Regional for the second consecutive season, speaks to the hard work and dedication from our student-athletes, coaches and administration," UK head coach Rachel Lawson said. "We will host some really good teams this weekend at John Cropp Stadium and we will need the Big Blue Nation to come out in full force to help create a home-field advantage."
UK opens against Ohio University, 7:30 pm Friday. That follows game one between James Madison and DePaul at 5:00 pm.