Defensive struggles highlight UK softball’s series at Ole Miss

Chase Campbell

Friday started a three-game series between two top-25 SEC schools at the Ole Miss Softball Complex, putting the No. 16 UK softball team against No. 24 Ole Miss. The Rebels took the series 2-1, totaling 11 runs to UK’s two over the weekend. This was the first time since 2006 that UK softball has lost a series to Ole Miss.

Friday’s game was a 7-1 thumping by Ole Miss, as the team’s speed and defensive hustle that this year’s Cats are known for was silenced. The Rebels seemed to score with ease, only netting three more hits than UK, but capitalizing on the extra bases repeatedly. Two home runs by Ole Miss also doomed the Cats.

As a silver lining, however, UK pitcher Larissa Spellman struck out four batters while allowing five hits, an equal tally to Ole Miss’s pitcher Kaitlin Lee. The Cats have consistency at the mound, but their main struggle was their field defense, which they’ll likely be extremely focused on following this series.

Saturday’s game brought UK’s lone win in the series, a 1-0 nail biter led by Meagan Prince’s outstanding pitching. She struck out a third of the batters that went up against her, evening up the series by putting the struggling team on her back. The Cats only managed one run in their 23 at-bats, but the important statistic is the tally in the win column for the Cats.

Erin Rethlake scored the lone run that gave the Cats the win, continuing her quality junior campaign for UK. The southpaw pitcher has seen drastic improvement since her sophomore season, when she batted .127.

Sunday brought the same defensive woes from Friday, especially without star pitcher Prince on the mound for most of the game. Ole Miss took the game 4-0, not allowing the Cats an inch. The Rebel that hit two homeruns in the first matchup, Sarah Van Schaik, batted in the first run for Ole Miss in the top of the first, and they never looked back.

The Cats didn’t give up another run until the sixth inning, where the Rebels poured in three more to cement their win in the series over the Cats. UK continuously struggled at the plate, only batting an average of .208 at the plate, compared to Ole Miss’s .333. Freshman Bailey Vick, however, had a good game for the Cats, getting into scoring position after a double, going 2-for-2 in the game.

The main issue with the Cats during this game was their inconsistency in generating offense. Vick was one of five runners left on base in the game, as UK could never seem to string together multiple hits to push any runner all the way home.

With these losses, UK drops to 24-8 overall, and 5-4 in SEC play. Ole Miss improves to 2-7 in SEC play, their only conference wins being against the Cats.

The Cats will be back in action Wednesday at 7 p.m., as they face off against Western Kentucky in Lexington.