A short trip west turned out to be the cure for what ailed the UK softball team after a tough stretch last week.
Behind a strong outing from starting pitcher Meagan Prince and a rejuvenated offense, No. 20 Kentucky routed Louisville 10-1 at Ulmer Stadium on Wednesday, snapping the Cats’ four-game losing streak. UK has now won six of its last seven against the Cards.
Kentucky (25-11, 5-7 SEC) dropped three games to visiting Tennessee last weekend, marking the first time the Cats had been swept in more than a year. After suffering two losses in the series against the Vols, Prince bounced back in a big way against the Cardinals, allowing one run on four hits while striking out six.
UK took a 1-0 lead in the first as Katie Reed scored on Abbey Cheek’s groundout. The Cats added a run in the second as Brooklin Hinz scored on an error when Louisville’s Jamie Soles couldn’t handle Erin Rethlake’s hard grounder.
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“I felt great on the mound, especially after we came out and got that first run. That really gave me some momentum on the mound,” Prince said. “It was a huge weight off my shoulders because when you have that run support you’re allowed to throw more pitches and you can throw off the plate and try to get them to chase some balls.”
The UK offense, which was shut out twice during the four-game slide, broke things open in the third as Jenny Schaper slapped a double to the center-field wall then scored on Cheek’s single. After Breanne Ray doubled and Alex Martens walked, another Louisville error allowed a run to score and the inning to continue. Rethlake made the Cardinals pay with a two-RBI single for a 6-0 UK lead.
UK Coach Rachel Lawson was happy to see the Cats reap the rewards of hard work during their skid.
“We’ve had a rough stretch and we’ve been working really hard on a couple of things and tonight a lot of things we were working on actually came true in the game,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of excitement, not only for beating your rival, but also because we’re working so hard on some things and it came to fruition.”
Louisville (22-13, 6-5 ACC) finally got to Prince in the fifth as Megan Hensley led off with a double then scored on Jenna Jordan’s single. But Prince (12-6) retired three straight to end the threat.
“It’s so nice to end that (losing) streak, and especially to do that against your rival school,” said Prince.
The Cats added another four-run frame in the sixth inning, punctuated by Ray’s three-RBI double.
Ray said Kentucky rediscovered its offensive identity against the Cards.
“Tonight felt great, that was the UK team that I know,” she said. “That just proves that we’ve been here the whole time. We lost our focus for a little bit but we’ve been working hard and sticking to our plan and it’s showing.”
Kentucky faces a stiff test this weekend as it hosts a three-game series against No. 2 Florida beginning Friday at John Cropp Stadium. Ray said the win over Louisville put the Cats in the right frame of mind heading into the showdown with the Gators, who lead the Southeastern Conference with a 13-1 record.
“Our team definitely has a lot more energy now. We know that we can do it this weekend,” she said. “After Tennessee, everyone’s heads were a little down but we knew if we worked hard we’d come out with a win today, and it proves that we can hold our own against Florida.”
Florida at Kentucky
6 p.m. Friday
Louisville at Virginia Tech
6 p.m. Friday