The ‘Cats hoped to get the brooms out on Sunday against Ole Miss.
Following two successful days in Oxford to begin the series, Kentucky softball (24-10-1; 7-5 SEC) had one final game on Sunday as they looked to sweep the Rebels (23-18; 3-9 SEC). After having large leads going into the bottom of the seventh in both of the previous games, the ‘Cats have struggled to close things out.
UK was hoping for an easier finish on Sunday, but couldn’t muster up enough offense to close out the series in style.
Strong start for the ‘Cats
Star graduate student Kayla Kowalik was up first at the plate for UK. Kowalik was able to land on base along with junior powerhouse hitter Erin Coffel, who was intentionally walked for the seventh-straight time this weekend.
With bases loaded and one out, graduate student Kennedy Sullivan came up with a single that brought in two runs for the ‘Cats. Although the rest of the offense was unable to additional runs, it was an early 2-0 UK lead going into the bottom of the first.
Up-and-coming sophomore pitcher Izzy Harrison started out on the mound for Kentucky. In the bottom of the first, Harrison showed some sophomore nerves as she gave up three hits to allow the Rebels to load the bases with only one out against them. After pitching over 30 balls in the bottom of the first, Harrison was able to get the ‘Cats out of a bind and hold Ole Miss to zero runs heading into the second.
Ole Miss picking up momentum
Offensive momentum declined quickly for UK in the top of the second as no runs were scored, however, the Rebels’ momentum was on the rise. Harrison gave up five runs in the bottom of the second which made it a 5-2 lead in favor of Ole Miss with only one out on the board for the ‘Cats.
The bleeding continued for Kentucky as Sullivan came in to relieve Harrison. Power-hitting and a struggling UK defense allowed Ole Miss to score two more still in the bottom of the second. The score was now 7-2 as Kentucky made another pitching change. Freshman Taylor Hess came in for Sullivan.
Hess changed it up for Kentucky and luckily sent the ‘Cats into the third after a detrimental second inning. UK found a little success at the top of the third. A Rebels’ error allowed a run to score which made it a 7-3 game still with Ole Miss in the driver’s seat.
The bottom of the third was an important inning, as Kentucky was able to slow down the Ole Miss offense. Hess was impressive as she looked calm, cool and collected on the mound. The freshman pitcher even tallied her first career strikeout to send the ‘Cats into the fourth.
Unfortunately, the UK offense had no luck from the plate on the top of the fourth, failing to add any more runs. The positive was that Hess continued to have success from the mound as she remained calm. Along with a strong Kentucky defense, she did not allow Ole Miss to score.
But with the score still at 7-3 in favor of the Rebels, the ‘Cats needed to get the bats working in the top of the fifth to fuel a comeback attempt.
Two ground outs and a line drive that was robbed by the Rebels’ shortstop was a nail in the looming coffin that seemed to be sneaking up on Kentucky. Now with just six more outs standing between them and a loss, it was feeling like now or never for the Wildcats’ offense.
The defense wouldn’t hold up for Kentucky though. UK had two outs in the bottom of the fifth with two Ole Miss players on. It was simply not the Wildcats’ day as a double allowed the Rebels to score two more and make it a 9-3 game. The UK offense continued to struggle in the top of the sixth as no scores were brought in.
By the bottom of the sixth, the energy was deflating for Kentucky as the Rebels had two on and no outs against them. If Ole Miss was able to bring in one more run, the game would be over due to the mercy rule. But Hess was able to get out of the inning and head into the seventh with one last hope of a comeback for the ‘Cats.
But it was the same old story for Kentucky in the top of the seventh as they could not get past offensive struggles. Although UK still took the series, due to bad offense and defense, they couldn’t lock up the sweep, falling by a final score of 9-3.
Up next on the schedule for the ‘Cats is a matchup with Bellarmine in Louisville on Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. EST.
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