Three takeaways from Kentucky softball’s 8-0 win over Louisville on Wednesday:
1. Kentucky’s freshmen come through in win over Cards
Getting a week’s respite from SEC play, Rachel Lawson’s club followed Tuesday night’s 10-0 win over Eastern Kentucky with a six-run fifth inning that activated the run-ahead rule -- the losing team has completed five innings and the winning team leads by eight runs or more.
Freshman first baseman Mallory Peyton went two-for-three and drove in a career-high three runs. Fellow freshman Lauren Johnson, the team’s right fielder, was also two-for three and drove in a run as UK piled up 15 hits on the Cardinals.
Peyton’s hot shot skipped off Louisville’s third baseman in the second inning to drive in the game’s first run. Johnson followed with a single off the pitcher, scoring Brooklyn Hinz to make it 2-9.
Peyton’s two-run single in the fifth scored both Jenny Schaper and Alex Martens to extend the lead to 5-0.
“With those two, the bigger game the better they are,” Lawson said. “So I had no doubt they were going to be ready for the game. It’s something that I had planned out on Monday. I knew they would be able to come in and get it done.”
2. The Cats did it on the defensive end, as well
Offense wasn’t the only story. UK turned in several excellent defensive plays behind the four-hit pitching of Erin Rethlake.
In the third inning, third baseman Abbey Cheek made a nice play hugging the line to throw out Louisville’s Jenna Jordan on a ground ball.
In the fifth inning, Rethlake made a nice play on a comebacker by Louisville’s Jordyn Wolfe. Next batter, Katie Reed threw out Jordan from deep in the hole at shortstop.
“I think this year our defense is playing well together,” Lawson said. “We’ve always had a scrappy defense and our defense has always come up with big stops for us, but this year it seems to be an extra level. I think we’re figuring out how to play together and position themselves with the pitcher and a lot of other things. I think that’s been a real boost.”
3. Speaking of boosts, UK needed one
Never mind the chilly conditions at John Cropp Stadium, after a tough stretch, the Cats needed these non-conference games to get hot again.
Now 22-11 on the season, Kentucky entered this week after being swept by Auburn and losing two out of three at home to Alabama last weekend in SEC play, leaving Lawson’s team 3-8 in the conference.
Given the strength of the conference -- much like in baseball -- Kentucky is still ranked 21st in the latest USA Today/NFA Coaches poll.
Beating in-state rivals is big, of course, but the Cats have ground to make up in the conference where they are currently 12th, a half game ahead of Ole Miss and Missouri.
After a doubleheader against Middle Tennessee on Friday -- Saturday’s single game is being moved to Friday because of the forecast of inclement weather -- and a road game at EKU on Tuesday, the Cats return to conference play on Friday, April 13 at Texas A&M.
Kentucky softball next game
Friday: Doubleheader vs. Middle Tennessee starting at 3 p.m. at John Cropp Stadium