In what started out as a chilly Wednesday night at the UK Softball Complex, UK (19-22, 6-8 SEC) and Arkansas (20-19, 4-15 SEC) heated up with their 11 combined home runs in the double-header of the conference foes.
Trailing 6-5 entering the home half of the seventh inning, the Cats were looking at a bases loaded opportunity.
Head coach Rachel Lawson chose to bring in sophomore Krystal Smith, who has had only 11 hits on the season.
Facing a 3-1 count, the sophomore grounded a ball to the second baseman, which missed the tag at second to end the inning.
Sophomore Ginny Carroll broke for first on Smith’s hit to score the game’s tying run.
One failed at-bat later, the Cats were heading to extras.
“Krystal’s a gamer,” Lawson said in response to why she used her as UK’s pinch hitter. “She does a really good job with that type of pitching, so it makes a lot of sense to bring her in during a situation like that.”
Arkansas’ fourth home run of the game gave them a 7-6 advantage, but UK would rally again.
Presented with one out and having sophomores Lauren Cumbess and Emily Jolly on base, senior Erika Silence sent a pitch from Razorbacks’ pitcher Kimmy Beasley to deep center for a walk-off three-run home run to give UK the 9-7 victory.
The home run fest started early with Arkansas leading off with a homer for a 1-0 advantage in the top of one.
Unlike the at-bats that followed her, UK’s play was under way with a strikeout of senior Brittany Cervantes, despite being ahead 3-1 in the count.
After having junior Kara Dill reach on an error, UK’s inning was ended on a double play by the Razorbacks.
The non-home run highlight of the game came resulted in the second inning on a diving catch by Ginny Carroll to get the inning’s second out.
A pop out soon after ended the inning with UK still trailing by a run.
But UK got on the scoreboard in the home half of the second with three hits by the Cats that ended with a RBI double by Carroll to score Lauren Cumbess from third.
Arkansas retook the lead an inning later on freshman Devon Wallace’s second home run of the game — a solo for a 2-1 lead.
A two run fourth put UK in front 3-2 with help from three consecutive hits from the bats of Cervantes, Dill and senior Rachel Riley.
Brittany Cervantes’ 10th double of the season scored junior Alice O’ Brien from second base. Cervantes then came in on a single by Dill, her team-high 54th hit of the season.
Jolly’s homer to left-center gave the Cats some cushion in the fifth, but Arkansas came up big with a three-run home run by sophomore Jayme Gee to give the Hogs a 6-4 lead.
Cervantes drew the Cats closer once again in the bottom of the sixth with her leadoff homer for the fourth consecutive game.
Senior Chanda Bell replaced Riley in the top of the seventh and put the Razorbacks down in order before the Cats did their damage in extras for the win.
“The fan in me absolutely loved game one,” Lawson said. “For us, I was excited because we put so many hits up on the board and we got hits throughout the entire lineup.”
Bell used the late-inning relief-turned-win into a chance to warm up for the second half of the double-header.
Similar to Riley’s opening inning, Bell gave up a two-run home run early in the first inning to give Arkansas the advantage.
It was the first of many for the Razorbacks in their 7-3 game two victory.
Before they continued their slew of home runs, Cervantes hit a two-RBI double in the bottom of the second to tie the game.
A two-run home run an inning later, however, gave Arkansas a lead they wouldn’t look back on.
Sophomore Jennifer Rambo’s homer to center scored a runner that was on second gave them that 4-2 lead.
Riley led off the third with the Cats final score — a solo shot to center field to cut the deficit to one.
Lawson said she had hoped the Cats would use the momentum from game one in their favor heading into game two, but they lacked the hits that helped push them over the top in their game one win.
“Sometimes there’s a letdown when you have a double-header and something so exciting happened in the first game,” Lawson said, “so I was a little disappointed we didn’t do a better job of taking the momentum into game two and generating some offense early on in the game.”
UK will now move on to No. 10 Georgia for its next three game set. Game one will take place Friday at 8:15 p.m. Eastern time on ESPNU.