Kentucky scores Senior Day sweep over South Carolina in Saturday doubleheader


Kentucky Wildcat Mallory Peyton (13) hits the ball during the UK vs. Eastern Kentucky game on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, at Cropp Softball Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 6-5. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Barkley Truax

No. 17 Kentucky (38-12) swept the South Carolina Gamecocks (25-24) in their final regular season series, as well as the doubleheader (6-3, 3-2) on Saturday afternoon.

“Obviously a very long day,” head coach Rachel Lawson. “What a good day for our seniors. I thought they played well all weekend.”

Prior to game one, Kentucky honored their senior class with a senior day ceremony. Lauren Johnson, Mallory Peyton, Autumn Humes and Grace Baalman had their contributions to the program recognized under the Lexington sun (potentially) one last time; all seniors were starters in game one. 

“These are four of the steadiest players you can meet. . . they’re also incredible leaders,” Lawson said. “Throughout the whole COVID thing they kept themselves organized. . . they’ve they’ve kept us together all year. . . they’re the reason why we put up another 30-win season.”

Baalman started on the mound for the Wildcats in game one. She would finish allowing seven hits on 86 pitches, recording 50 strikes and three strikeouts in four innings pitched.

After allowing a base hit in the first, a line drive from South Carolina’s Mackenzie Boesel hit Baalman right in the hand, who made the heads up play throwing to first for the double play. 

Kentucky had a busy inning batting in the bottom of the first, scoring two runs with the bases loaded off a Peyton RBI single and a RBI sac fly from Renee Abernathy. 

Bases were loaded once again in the bottom of the second for Kentucky, Lauren Johnson and Erin Coffel both brought runners home on fielder’s choices to give the Wildcats a four run lead before the side was retired. 

South Carolina found themselves right back in the game after a three-run homer to center field by Kenzi Maguire, bringing the Gamecocks back to within one run in the top of the fourth. Kentucky’s Peyton answered right back in the bottom of the inning with a two-run home run to center and extended the Wildcat lead back to three runs which was the deciding factor in the matchup as Kentucky took game one, 6-3.

Kentucky finished game one with eight hits resulting in six runs with no errors; the Gamecocks would finish with nine hits despite the loss. Mallory Peyton finished with three hits on three attempts with one home run. 

Game two began approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of game one. Autumn Humes would make the start at pitcher for Kentucky. She pitched six innings recording 98 total pitches with 66 strikes allowing five hits and one home run.

Lauren Johnson would help the Wildcats get on the board early with a RBI single in the bottom of the first for the one run lead. 

Both teams would remain relatively quiet for the next several innings. Neither team was able to get on the board until the bottom of the fourth when Stoddard hit a line drive RBI double to left field. Abernathy went home and Kentucky went up two runs.

South Carolina’s Boesel went yard on a 1-2 count with two outs to keep the Gamecocks’ hopes alive in the top of the fifth, bringing South Carolina back to within one. 

The Gamecocks tied the game on a controversial call where the runner was apparently in the way of the Kentucky fielder, who couldn’t come up with the ball while the tying run went home. After a lengthy review, the call of the field stood, much to the dismay of an unhappy Rachel Lawson.

Kentucky had a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the seventh but had no luck getting them home as game two headed to extra innings. 

Peyton did it again, this time with a walk-off homer to center field in the bottom of the eighth, giving the Wildcats the doubleheader and series sweep.

“It felt really good. . . It didn’t feel much different. . . I feel really proud that we came up on top,” Peyton said.

The Wildcats finished with eight hits, bringing home three runs while hitting .258 (8-31). The homer was Peyton’s first of the game (1-4) after her perfect hitting performance in game one.

Kentucky’s next matchup will be in the first round of the SEC tournament this Wednesday, May 12 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The time and opponent will be announced at a later date.

“I think our chances to win the SEC are really good,” Peyton said post-game. 

“Whichever one of our teams is the one to win the SEC tournament will be a special one,” Lawson said.