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Kentucky softball comes up short against No. 1 seed Alabama in SEC semifinals

Kentucky softball aims for OKC

Kentucky softball’s Katie Reed and Jenny Schaper have high expectations for the Cats this season.
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Kentucky softball’s Katie Reed and Jenny Schaper have high expectations for the Cats this season.

The University of Kentucky softball team had the number of highly ranked Alabama during the regular season, but the Crimson Tide have turned the tables in the postseason.

No. 1 seed Alabama knocked off fourth-seeded Kentucky 6-3 in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament in College Station, Texas, on Friday to advance to Saturday night’s championship game.

Ranked No. 23 in the latest coaches’ poll, the Wildcats were the only team to win a series at No. 4 Alabama this year, taking two of three games from the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa in late April. UK held Alabama (51-6) to three combined runs in both of those wins, but the Crimson Tide’s bats came alive for one big inning to make the difference in Friday’s matchup.

A former Kentucky high school star struck the first blow against the Wildcats in a second inning that saw the Crimson Tide bat around. Madisonville-North Hopkins alum Kaylee Tow led off with a single and scored the game’s first run three batters later on a bases-loaded walk. Kentucky’s Larissa Spellman took over in the circle for starting pitcher Meghan Schorman and gave up a single for a 2-0 Alabama lead, then K.B. Sides followed with a three-RBI double to the left-center field wall to push the advantage to 5-0. Sides scored on a one-out fielder’s choice, and the Crimson Tide led 6-0.

UK got one run back in the top of the third on Jenny Schaper’s two-out single up the middle, but two Cats were stranded on base when Abbey Cheek struck out. Kentucky cut the deficit to 6-2 in the top of the fourth on Mallory Peyton’s sacrifice fly.

Kentucky mounted its biggest threat in the top of the sixth. Lauren Johnson’s two-out RBI double got the Cats within 6-3 and brought the tying run to the plate, but Autumn Humes struck out on four pitches. UK again had the tying run at the plate after back-to-back walks in the top of the seventh, but Alabama reliever Krystal Goodman drew two pop-ups to end the game.

Now, the Wildcats must wait to learn their postseason fate during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show, which will air on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. Sunday. Kentucky (32-22) was No. 15 in the most recent RPI rankings, making the Cats a strong contender to host an opening-round regional in the 64-team tournament.

Last year the Wildcats fell one win short of making it to the College World Series for the second time in program history, dropping the final two games of a three-game series against Oregon on the Ducks’ home field in the Super Regional round. Kentucky’s only College World Series appearance came in 2014, when the Wildcats were eliminated by eventual national runner-up Alabama.

Sunday

NCAA Division I Softball Championship Selection Show

9 p.m. Sunday (ESPN2)

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