Kentucky (39-12) defeated the No. 11 seeded Georgia Bulldogs (29-21) 3-0 Wednesday night behind Autumn Humes’ stellar shutout on the mound, her third of the season.
“I saw a lot of fight and a lot of energy out of Autumn [Humes],” Kowalik said. “She never ceases to amaze me. I’m absolutely proud of her today and she really showed out. It was very impressive.”
It was a 10 p.m. start for Kentucky and Georgia following a full day of SEC softball action in Tuscaloosa, AL in the second round of the SEC Tournament. Coming into this one, Kentucky swept their last two series while the Bulldogs have lost their last six matchups to wrap up their regular season action.
“It was really hard,” Kayla Kowalik said about the late start. The game wouldn’t end until close to midnight. “We got here at 4 o’clock. We did our hit around and we had to sit and wait for four and a half hours so we just kind of regrouped and talked about how much energy we would have and just play our game.”
That energy was apparent from the first pitch.
Humes was awarded the start on the mound for the Wildcats, recording two quick K’s and retiring the Georgia side 1-2-3 in the first inning. Kentucky’s bats were hot to begin this one, recording three early hits, including an Erin Coffel RBI single that gave the Wildcats an early lead.
Humes’ pitching prowess continued through the end of the fourth inning, bringing her total strikeout numbers to six while only allowing two hits for Georgia up to that point. She would go on to pitch a complete game, recording 10 strikeouts on 87 pitches, while allowing three hits and two walks, forcing Georgia to hit .125 (3-24) overall Wednesday.
“[Humes] has really just bought into mixing her speeds, mixing her pitches,” Lawson said during the game. “She’s spinning the ball really well. She’s on fire, she’s stronger, she’s throwing it a little bit harder as well.”
Back to back hits in the bottom of the fourth, one by Coffel and another by Mallory Peyton put both runners in scoring position. A pop up by Renee Abernathy on the next at bat allowed Coffel to steal home and force the two run Wildcat lead.
Kentucky’s bats stayed on fire as we headed to the bottom of the fifth inning. Miranda Stoddard homered off her first pitch swinging, breaking a UK single season team home run record with 72 on the season and the Wildcats would go on to advance to the quarterfinals behind strong bats and even better pitching.
The Wildcats finished with three runs on nine hits, zero errors and left five runners on base while batting a collective .360 (9-25). Kowalik, the division one batting average leader (.514) went 2-3 at the plate with a double.
“I always try to be a competitive out,” Kowalik said post-game. “Even if I’m not getting on base, I’m making sure the defense is working hard. I never want to get out twice in the same way.”
Kentucky will play the No. 3 seeded hometown Alabama Crimson Tide tomorrow night in the quarterfinals approximately 35 minutes following the conclusion of Arkansas vs. Tennessee on the SEC Network.