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Kentucky softball falls short in Stillwater Regional, ends 2024 season

Samuel Colmar
A Kentucky player slides into home 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

Kentucky softball suffered consecutive losses in the 2024 Stillwater Regional in the NCAA Tournament, ending its 2024 season.

The Kentucky Wildcats softball team began their 2024 NCAA regional journey against the Michigan Wolverines on Friday, besting the Wolverines 4- 3 after a back-and-forth battle for the win, but Oklahoma beat Kentucky 6-2, sending it to the elimination bracket early on Saturday.

The elimination round against Michigan ended in a 4-2 loss and ended the Wildcats’ regional journey and their season. The victory against Michigan marked the 11th straight NCAA Regional opening round win for Kentucky.

At the bottom of the seventh inning against the Wolverines, the two teams were tied 3-3 until Rylea Smith and Erin Coffel singled with one out to put two on. Both Smith and Coffel were named to the 2024 All-SEC softball team on Friday morning.

After this game-changing play for the lead, Grace Lorsung was strategically placed on the bases to load them for Ally Hutchins with two outs. Afterward, Hutchins sent a 2-2 pitch sailing just over the second baseman’s head and into right field, allowing Coffel to sprint home from third for the walk-off win.

It was a notable win for Stephanie Schoonover, marking her 19th of the season. She went 7.0 innings and allowed just three runs on a total of six hits with five runs and four strikeouts.

“What I was really impressed with her about was that she maintained her composure and she continued to battle through the entire game,” head coach Rachel Lawson said.

The game had everyone in attendance on edge with three lead changes and three ties before, eventually, the Wildcats clutched the winning run in the final frame, granting them access to the winner’s bracket.

“I thought today would be a pretty even match and I don’t think you get much more even than what you saw today on the field,” Lawson said.

The next day the Wildcats go on to play Oklahoma State — the hosts — and the Cowgirls came out swinging. After scoring twice in the top of the first inning, OK State scored six times and Kentucky was unable to respond.

Kentucky’s first five batters reached base in the top of the first inning, racking up four hits while benefiting from an error to take a quick 2-0 lead with the bases still loaded and no outs.

Facing National Player of the Year finalist Lexi Kilfoyl, Kentucky seemed poised for a big inning, but the ace Kilfoyl shut down the rally, allowing no further runs and retiring 21 of the final 22 batters in order, tallying 12 strikeouts—a new season-high against a Lawson-coached team in any postseason game.

In the second and final game against Michigan, the Wolverines avenged themselves with a 4-2 win. The Wolverines secured their four runs with a pair of two-run home runs, one in the bottom of the second inning and another in the bottom of the third.

The Wildcats scored twice in the game as Grace Lorsung beat out an RBI single and Margaret Tobias added another RBI single, making it 4-2. but they couldn’t score any more runs in the game.

Kentucky’s season concluded with a 31-24 record and its 15th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, making it one of only 14 teams in the country to achieve the streak.

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Samuel Colmar, Assistant Photo Editor

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