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Homer in 11th gives Kentucky softball doubleheader split with No. 5 UCLA

Coach Rachel Lawson’s Kentucky team is off to a 4-3 start this season after Wednesday night’s doubleheader split at No. 5 UCLA.
Coach Rachel Lawson’s Kentucky team is off to a 4-3 start this season after Wednesday night’s doubleheader split at No. 5 UCLA. palcala@herald-leader.com

Sophomore catcher Jenny Schaper crushed a home run over the wall in deep center field in the top of the 11th inning on Wednesday night to give the University of Kentucky softball team a doubleheader split at UCLA.

The home run was Schaper’s third of the young season for the Wildcats (4-3) and provided Kentucky the lead it needed to secure a 2-1 victory. Senior Meagan Prince closed out the Bruins in the bottom of the frame to finish a complete game and pitch 11 innings for the first time in her career.

The loss was the first of the season for UCLA (7-1) which is ranked No. 5 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll and No. 6 in the USA Today/Coaches poll. Kentucky is rated No. 23 and No. 22 in the two polls.

The teams originally were scheduled to meet Wednesday and Saturday but the games were condensed to a doubleheader because of the threat of inclement weather this weekend. UCLA won Wednesday’s opening game 6-2.

In the nightcap, Prince allowed one run and scattered eight hits. She struck out six and walked three.

Kentucky scored its first run in the third inning when Abbey Cheek drove home Brooklin Hinz with an infield single with the bases loaded. UCLA answered in the fourth, also scoring on an infield ground ball. The game remained knotted until Schaper smacked her third home run of the season in the 11th.

In Wednesday’s opener, UCLA blew things open quickly, scoring two in the first and three in the second off Kentucky starter Larissa Spellman (1-1). Erin Rethlake came on in relief in the third and kept UCLA largely in check but the Cats could not overcome the early deficit.

Katie Reed had a pair of hits to lead Kentucky’s five-hit attack. Alex Martens and Cheek drove in Kentucky’s two runs.

The Wildcats are taking part this weekend in the Mary Nutter Classic at Cathedral City, Calif. UK plays Cal-Davis and Oregon on Friday and Cal-Northridge on Saturday.

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