Humes, Baalman shutout Notre Dame, ‘Cats advance to Super Regional


Kentucky Wildcat Autumn Humes (7) pitches 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. 14 Kentucky shutout Notre Dame twice Sunday (7-0, 4-0) to advance to the Super Regional tournament against Alabama.

The victory marked the first time in program history that Kentucky advanced to the Super Regionals from the losing side of the bracket.

“Today we dominated all phases of the game, we pitched well, we did a great job offensively, we created some pressure base-running and overall good defense,” head coach Rachel Lawson said post game. 

In their previous matchup Saturday afternoon, the Wildcats suffered defeat by mercy rule in five innings to the Irish, falling 12-3 in the largest margin of loss for Kentucky the entire season.

“At that point when you play that bad you have nothing to lose,” Lawson said about Saturday’s performance. 

Game one:

A different Kentucky team showed up at noon Sunday for game one of the regional final as it was all No. 14 Kentucky in game one against Notre Dame.

Kentucky took no time lighting up the scoreboard as Erin Coffel singled up center for an RBI, forcing the anxious, rowdy crowd to their feet. Mallory Peyton, the MVP of Saturday’s must-win victory over Northwestern (double, HR, three RBI’s) kept her hot streak alive as Coffel was brought home just as quickly with an all-too familiar Peyton double. 

The Wildcats weren’t done yet as Renee Abernathy went yard to bring home two more runs and just like that, it was 4-0 Kentucky 11 minutes after first pitch, bringing on an Irish pitching change once again after the first inning. 

Points were coming fast and furious for Kentucky early on. The nation’s batting average leader Kayla Kowalik (.497) doubled to left center which brought another run home in the top of the second, immediately followed by an RBI-single.

Just as Kentucky’s offense slowed down, their defense was on lock-down all afternoon. Despite Humes’ not throwing a single strikeout in game one, she only allowed three hits and no walks on 65 total pitches.

“She was incredible,” Lawson said about Humes’ performance in game one. “She just had total command. She was changing speeds when she wanted to, the ball was really jumping when she wanted to throw rise and she created matchup problems for them.”

The Wildcats’ defensive prowess was on show when the Irish’s Purcell fouled into a double play where Alexis Holloway was called out at second, erupting the crowd who had been sitting on their hands for the last few innings. 

Just as the Wildcat bats cooled down, Tatum Spangler hit one over the fence for her second homer of the season in the sixth, extending Kentucky’s run lead to seven and kept Kentucky’s season alive, advancing to game two.

Kentucky finished game one scoring seven runs on 12 hits and no errors while leaving six runners on base. 

Game two:

Game two was for all the marbles; win or your season is over for both squads. 

After her very impressive outing in the circle in game one (Grace Baalman started game two), Autumn Humes went yard on a solo shot to left field and Kentucky was on the board first in the second inning. 

Miranda Stoddard, Kentucky’s ninth batter showed off her skills hitting a long single down the left field line to bring home two more Kentucky runners in the fourth, pumping life into the crowd who have been eager to see their ‘Cats run up the scoreboard for the second game in a row. A sacrifice fly by Spangler gave Kentucky a four-run lead moments later.

Kentucky’s outstanding defensive performance carried over into game two as Baalman was just as impressive as Humes on the mound earlier in the day. She didn’t give up a hit until the fifth when Leea Hanks hit a triple to right center.

She recorded two strikeouts, only giving up that one hit with one walk on 57 total pitches before being relieved by Humes in the seventh (she came back in to finish the last .1 inning). Kentucky finished with four runs on seven hits and two errors on a .304 (7-23) team batting average.

Kentucky advances to the Super Regional tournament to face the No. 3 seeded Alabama Crimson Tide in a best of three series next week. The winner will go onto the 2021 College World Series tournament.