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No. 18 Kentucky softball wins two games in ESPN Shriners Children’s Invitational

Jack Weaver
Kentucky Wildcats infielder Erin Coffel (21) throws the ball to first base during the No. 16 Kentucky vs. Louisville softball game on Wednesday, March 29, 2023, at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 7-4. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

No. 18 Kentucky softball (6-2) participated in the ESPN Shriners Children’s Invitational in Clearwater, Florida, beginning on Feb. 15, playing three games and winning two of them.

The tournament began with a matchup against North Carolina, consisting of three hours of back-and-forth action.

The first inning saw half of all the runs in the game scored, six by Kentucky and five by North Carolina.

Kentucky fifth-year Rylea Smith kicked off scoring with an RBI triple. Immediately afterward, freshman Ally Hutchins brought Smith home with an RBI single.

Hutchins then scored on a wild pitch that also allowed senior Grace Lorsung to advance to third. Lorsung then scored on a double by sophomore Karissa Hamilton.

Senior Margaret Tobias helped the Cats add two more runs to their total, as a fielding error on a ball she hit brought both Hamilton and redshirt sophomore Jenna Blanton home.

In the bottom of the first, North Carolina was able to catch up to Kentucky, scoring five runs on a two-run single and a three-run homer.

The Tar Heels took the lead in the third, scoring four runs to take a 9-6 lead.

After a scoreless fourth inning, Kentucky completed a comeback by scoring two runs in each of the last three innings. 

Junior Taylor Ebbs drove in three of those six runs, two from a home run in the fifth and one from a single in the sixth.

North Carolina added a run of its own in the bottom of the seventh but could not overtake the Cats, as the game ended 12-10 in Kentucky’s favor.

Senior Stephanie Schoonover pitched the majority of the game for the Wildcats and was credited with the win to stay undefeated on the season.

Later that evening, the Wildcats took the field again, this time against Wisconsin.

The Badgers got off to a hot start with a three-run shot in the first inning, but Kentucky tied the game in the second after a sacrifice grounder by Ebbs and a two-run homer by Hamilton.

The Cats added one more run in the third and another two in the fifth while fifth-year pitcher Jaden Vickers helped the defense prevent Wisconsin from catching up.

Freshman Sydney Langdon was brought in to pitch in the seventh inning and picked up a save after not allowing any runs.

Despite the wins on Thursday, Kentucky’s good fortune could not carry into Friday morning’s matchup against No. 6 Washington.

The Wildcat offense massively struggled throughout the game, only recording three hits and scoring a lone run from an RBI double by senior Erin Coffel.

Washington started off slow but put up six runs in the fifth inning en route to an 8-1 victory.

Schoonover, Vickers, Langdon and senior Alexia Lacatena all pitched for the Cats during the game. 

Kentucky was scheduled to face UCF and No. 3 Texas on Saturday, Feb. 17, but those games were canceled due to inclement weather.

The Cats will return to the field for the Wings ETC Classic tournament beginning on Friday, Feb. 23, on the campus of USC Upstate in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

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