Kentucky softball aims for OKC
A six-run explosion in the bottom of the third inning propelled Kentucky to a run-rule, 8-0 win in five innings over Mississippi on Friday in the Southeastern Conference Softball Tournament semifinals in College Station, Texas.
With two on and one out and a 2-0 lead in the third, UK’s Mallory Peyton fought through a 13-pitch at-bat to double down the left-field line, scoring two runs and providing the game’s key moment.
Peyton fouled off nine of those pitches. During her at-bat, Kentucky got its first run of the inning via a passed ball with the bases loaded. Peyton’s double made it 5-0 UK, and the Cats weren’t done.
With two outs, Bailey Vick, hitting just .186 on the season, beat out a bouncing ball to short and knocked in the sixth run. Jenny Schaper and Reed each singled in a run to put the Cats up 8-0.
Kentucky sent 12 batters to the plate in the third, led by Katie Reed’s double to get things started. After seeing Abbey Cheek launch a two-run homer, her 20th of the season, in her first at-bat in the same scenario in the first inning, Ole Miss walked Cheek to put two on with no outs. A bunt-single by Alex Martens loaded the bases, and a Kayla Kowalik fielder’s choice set the scene for Peyton.
UK pitcher Autumn Humes (13-10) got the shutout win, allowing six hits. Though she put two runners on in the first, second and fourth innings, she worked out of each jam.
Auburn’s Brittany Finney (15-9) took the loss after the Cats chased her and reliever Molly Jacobson off the stripe in the third.
With the win, UK advanced to face the tournament’s No. 1 seed, Alabama, at 7 p.m. Friday in the semifinals.
The Cats’ eight runs against Mississippi were the most UK has scored in the SEC Tournament.
Cheek, recently named Southeastern Conference’s player of the year in a league that features 10 nationally-ranked teams out of the 13 playing the sport, came into the day leading the nation in on-base percentage (.631) and was seventh in batting average (.454), second in slugging (.977) and 12th in home runs (19).
Kentucky, ranked No. 23 in the nation in the coaches’ poll but the No. 4 tourney seed, had lost the season series to No. 17 Mississippi. The Rebels won two of three early April games in Lexington.
UK stunned No. 4 Alabama two weeks ago by taking two out of three games in Tuscaloosa, including at 13-inning, 3-2 victory in the finale.
The Cats were ranked 15th in the latest NCAA Women’s Softball RPI rankings, making them a likely host for at least one round of the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
NCAA Division I Softball Championship Selection Show
9 p.m. Sunday (ESPN2)