‘Cats crushed 12-3 by Irish in regional semi


Kentucky Wildcat junior Kayla Kowalik (99) beats a throw to first base during the UK vs. Morehead State game on Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at Cropp Softball Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 13-1. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Barkley Truax

Another beautiful day under the blue sky in Lexington began with all the confidence in the world, but was quickly shattered by the bats of the Fighting Irish.

No. 14 Kentucky (40-14) was mercy ruled after five innings by Notre Dame (33-13) 12-3 in the NCAA Lexington Regional semifinals Saturday afternoon at John Cropp Stadium.

If you’re a fan of scoring, this was the softball game for you. Notre Dame scored twelve runs on twelve hits while Kentucky recorded six hits on three runs. 

The ‘Cats bats were blazing after a RBI bunt in the first inning from freshman ace Erin Coffel; Kayla Kowalik beat the tag at home plate that signaled the roar of the crowd. Tatum Spangler was able to steal home after Notre Dame’s catcher Shelby Grimm bobbled the pitch.

Kentucky was just getting started in the first as Mallory Peyton recorded a RBI single, bringing in the third run of the inning. A double from Renee Abernathy left two runners in scoring position for Kentucky which forced the Fighting Irish into a pitching change (Alexis Holloway relieved by Morgan Ryan). 

Miranda Stoddard lined out to Ryan with the bases loaded, getting out of the jam with only three runs scored in the first. Kentucky’s hopes for a one-sided game ended there, Notre Dame would score nine runs in the next two innings, all but sealing their spot in the regional championship game. 

The Irish began their tear with a three-run homer to left field from Ryan, tying the game and negating the busy first inning Kentucky had just strung together. Katie Moreno’s two-run double gave Notre Dame their first lead of the day in the second. 

Autumn Humes found herself struggling after her quality start against Northwestern Friday (two runs, four K’s). After allowing five runs in the second, she walked the first batter in the third and gave up another RBI double, this time to Chelsea Purcell.

Despite hitting a batter with the pitch with two outs, head coach Rachel Lawson kept Humes in the ballgame. Another two-run double forced Lawson’s hand and Miranda Stoddard came in to relieve Humes but the damage had already been done. 

Three more runs in the fifth gave the Fighting Irish a 12-3 lead and Kentucky lacked all confidence they showed in the first. With a mercy rule looming over their head, Grace Baalman was brought onto the circle for a last-gasp effort, but it was all for not as Kentucky fell on their home field.

The Fighting Irish batted an impressive .414 (12-29) compared to Kentucky’s .273 (6-22). 

The No. 14 overall ranked regional hosts will have one more opportunity to make it to the championship game, facing the winner of Miami (OH) and Northwestern following their matchup later this afternoon.