Kentucky keeps season alive following 7-2 victory over Northwestern


Kentucky junior Mallory Peyton hits the ball during the game against Marshall on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 16-15. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Barkley Truax

It was a win or go home game for both teams in the elimination round of the NCAA Regional Softball Tournament. 

The No. 14 seeded hometown Wildcats sent the Wildcats of Northwestern packing with a 7-2 victory, advancing to the regional championship game on Sunday.

Kentucky’s (41-14) second game of the day, and second game against Northwestern (30-17) in just over 24 hours was set in stone after Kentucky fell to Notre Dame 12-3 earlier Saturday afternoon and Northwestern routed Miami (OH) 7-1 in game two.

The first matchup between these squads Friday afternoon ended with a Kentucky victory 3-2 in round one of the regional tournament. 

Northwestern rattled the scoreboard first with a sacrifice fly to right field from Mac Dunlap in the bottom of the second inning. Kentucky remained scoreless after two as their struggles in the batting box carried over from their loss to the Fighting Irish earlier in the day.

Those struggles ceased once bases became loaded with two outs in the top of the third, Big Blue Nation leapt to their feet to cheer on their desperate ‘Cats. Mallory Peyton delivered for the fans with a two-RBI double that gave Kentucky their first lead. 

Kentucky had the bases loaded once again in the next inning, but came up empty. They would eventually leave 12 total runners on base on the evening. 

Peyton delivered once again, this time with a home run to left field that nearly went out of the park. On the very next pitch Renee Abernathy doubled to center to get the crowd back on their feet, who was eventually brought home by Autumn Humes on a sac fly to center to extend their lead to three runs.

“For [Peyton] to come up, she had so much confidence in the box and she was very smooth. . . When she got up to the box, she was so confident, she knew what she was trying to do and everything was really pretty to watch,” head coach Rachel Lawson said post-game. 

“Not only did she come up with big hits, but it gave confidence to the rest of the hitters, calmed them down and allowed them to do better moving forward.”

Kentucky’s sixth inning started out just as strong as they scored yet another run on a sac fly RBI, this time by freshman slugger Erin Coffel. Abernathy doubled for the second time later in the inning for an RBI and just like that, the score tilted 6-2 in favor of the regional host Wildcats, which would prove to be the winning effort.  

Lauren Johnson brought home Kowalik on a single to right field in the seventh to add to Kentucky’s total. The sixth and seventh inning stretch for Kentucky won this matchup and secured their spot in the championship game.

Kentucky totaled 10 hits, leaving 12 runners on base with two errors while batting .345 (10-29). 

The Wildcats will face Notre Dame Sunday at noon in the regional championship game. Rachel Lawson’s squad will have to defeat the Fighting Irish twice to force their way into a super regional.

“Fortunately softball teams are used to playing doubleheaders,” Lawson said. “We have a pretty deep pitching staff and our pitchers are very strong and very tough. Our team itself was very resilient to bounce back all year.”

Game two, if necessary, will begin approximately 35 minutes following game one.