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Kentucky softball outlasts No. 7 Georgia to claim thrilling series win

Christian Kantosky
Kentucky infielder Margaret Tobias (12) runs towards first base during the No. 21 Kentucky vs. Bellarmine softball match on Wednesday, March 6, 2024 at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 3-1. Photo by Christian Kantosky | Staff

In a showdown between SEC powerhouses, Kentucky softball (26-15, 5-10 SEC) earned a series win over No. 7 Georgia on Sunday, April 14, at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky.  

After the Wildcats secured its third top 10 victory of the season on Friday, defeating Georgia 7-5, they looked to close it out on Saturday. 

The Bulldogs, led by ace pitcher Madison Kerpics, took to the field with determination, claiming an early lead over the Wildcats despite a late-inning rally by the home team.  

Sara Mosley’s powerful solo home run in the second inning set the tone for Georgia’s offensive ability, followed by Dallis Goodnight’s grand slam that extended its lead to 5-0.  

However, Kentucky refused to back down, mounting a comeback fueled by Grace Lorsung’s stellar performance at the plate. 

Lorsung’s leadoff double and subsequent aggressive baserunning sparked the Wildcats’ offense, narrowing the gap to 5-1. Her two-run homer in the fourth inning further closed the deficit, igniting hopes of a comeback. 

Despite Georgia’s early dominance, Kentucky’s resilient defense, led by pitcher Alexia Lacatena and later Jaden Vickers, kept the Bulldogs at a standstill, preventing further scoring opportunities.  

In a dramatic final inning, Kentucky attempted to mount a comeback, starting with a Margaret Tobias single to left field. Following that, Rylea Smith reached base on a fielder’s choice. Erin Coffel then singled to right field which scored Tobias to narrow the gap to 6-4.  

However, Georgia’s defense held firm, securing the win with back-to-back strikeouts to end the game. 

Kentucky infielder Grace Lorsung (33), left, and infielder Lauryn Borzilleri (88) look into the crowd during the No. 21 Kentucky vs. No. 3 LSU softball match on Friday, March 8, 2024, at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky lost 6-2. Photo by Samuel Colmar | Staff (Samuel Colmar)

“We had a lot of good defensive plays, we had a lot of good hitting, we just didn’t really string it all together when we needed to,” Lorsung said. “That’s something that we have kind of struggled with a little bit.”   

On Sunday, in the series finale in Lexington, Stephanie Schoonover delivered a masterful performance on the mound, securing her third-straight complete game win. 

The Vicksburg, Mississippi, native smothered Georgia’s formidable offense, allowing just two runs on nine hits while striking out nine batters.  

Schoonover’s dominance earned her the team-leading 16th win of the season, solidifying her reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the circle. 

Offensively, it was Taylor Ebbs and Smith who led the charge for the Wildcats. 

Smith’s perfect 4-for-4 performance at the plate, accompanied by two runs scored and one RBI, showcased her offensive effectiveness.  

Ebbs contributed with a crucial two-run homer in the second inning, propelling Kentucky to an early 4-0 lead.  

Lauryn Borzilleri’s solo shot in the fifth inning proved to be a pivotal moment in the game, extending Kentucky’s lead and providing crucial insurance runs.  

With Georgia mounting a late comeback attempt, Schoonover showcased her composure, pitching out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning to seal the win and the series for Kentucky. 

“Feels great,” head coach Rachel Lawson said. “You know, anytime you can win an SEC series, it’s so hard to do in the sport of softball, it helps you get momentum moving forward. Also, really proud of my team for just a total team effort, getting great production from so many people.” 

As the weekend sun set on John Cropp Stadium, the victory not only secured Kentucky’s eligibility for the 2024 NCAA Softball Championship, but also highlighted its resilience and determination throughout the season. 

With momentum on their side, the Wildcats will look ahead to future matchups beginning with Western Kentucky in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on Wednesday, April 17, at 7 p.m. EST.

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Samuel Colmar, Assistant Photo Editor

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