As a grim-faced Rachel Lawson approached her post-game interview duties Tuesday, someone handed her the box score. Did the Kentucky softball coach really want to look at the details of an 8-0 loss to in-state rival Louisville?
"No," she said before addressing head-on the trepidation in the air. "You've probably never seen me this angry before."
Lawson never looked at the box score. She folded the ugly details in half and then in quarters, then tucked the offending sheet of paper under an arm. The Adolph Rupp of UK softball did not need numerical confirmation of what she just saw and, maybe more importantly, felt.
"This is not our team . . . ," Lawson said. "To watch us walk around and fold the way that we folded is really disappointing."
Louisville outplayed Kentucky every which way in rolling to its most-lopsided victory in the series since 2001. Sophomore right-hander Maryssa Becker, the Atlantic Coast Conference Pitcher of the Week two weeks earlier, limited UK to one hit. Nikki Sagermann led off Kentucky's first inning with a hard single to right field.
Then 18 of the next 20 batters made outs. Only once did UK hit the ball out of the infield (Griffin Joiner lined out to center in the fourth), a particularly noticeable shortcoming with the wind blowing out to left field at 18 mph and gusting close to 30.
The only other ball UK got in the air? A weak pop out to third in the fifth inning.
What was working for Becker? "Everything tonight," she said with a bright smile.
Becker, a pre-med major from Medford, Ore., also got the rout started by hitting a two-run homer over the left- field fence in the first inning.
"I didn't think we were very tough in the box," Lawson said after lauding Becker's performance. "When hitters are facing a tough pitcher, and they're not equally as tough, they're not going to come out on the winning end. ... I did not think we swung at good pitches. I think we let good pitches go by. It's not about taking pitches. It's about swinging at good pitches. I didn't think we did that at all. So she didn't have to throw very many."
With her team having lost its sixth game in the last seven, Lawson talked about re-evaluating each player.
"I think I have to put the toughest players out on the field, regardless of their age," she said. "I think I have to make sure I play the people with the most heart. I think I have to make sure I play the people who have bought into what I want, which is just a tough softball team that plays the game the right way. That respects the sport and plays hard every single play whether they're up by eight or they're down by eight."
Less than a month earlier, Kentucky was riding high after winning two of three from No. 1 LSU.
Lawson balked at the idea of the floor falling out from under UK since that weekend series. For instance, UK played competitively while getting swept at No. 3 Florida two weekends ago.
"I think the problem is maturity," Lawson said. "I think when you see a team as inconsistent as ours, I think I have too many immature players on the field. So it's my responsibility to make sure they grow up in a hurry, and make sure I put the players who are mature out on the field."
Lawson rejected the notion that a bid to the NCAA Tournament or a chance to play host to a regional was slipping away. She reminded reporters that Kentucky (28-17) still has a healthy Ratings Percentage Index (No. 14).
"I feel confident in the postseason," she said. "With that said, that's not my focus right now. My focus is on becoming a good softball team."
Kentucky plays such a team Wednesday when Western Kentucky (27-8) comes to John Cropp Stadium.
"Western is an awesome team ... ," Lawson said. "They're senior-laden. They're tough. They're everything a good softball team is."