UK Softball falls just short against No. 3 Florida

Kentucky Wildcats catcher Jenny Schaper throws the ball to first base during the second inning of the game against the Florida Gators at John Cropp Stadium on Friday, April 14, 2017 in Lexington, KY. Photo by Addison Coffey | Staff.

Chase Campbell

Friday brought about the beginning of one of the most anticipated series of the season for UK Softball, as they hosted the No. 3 Florida Gators in a defensive SEC battle. The Cats played excellent, but fell just short as Florida notched a few runs to cement the 4-0 win over the Cats.

From the first pitch, it was obvious that the game wouldn’t be handed to the leaders of the SEC, as the Cats ended the top of the 1st with a double-play while the Gators had the bases loaded, stranding three runners.

Both coaches also earned warnings before the end of the inning, adding another competitive tone moving forward to the rest of the series.

Unfortunately for the Cats Florida pitcher Kelly Barnhill continued her dominant, undefeated sophomore campaign as she threw 15 strikeouts, one shy of her season high. UK was only able to notch two hits in the contest.

Cats pitcher Erin Rethlake suffered her first loss of the season, as she threw a tiring 117 pitches against the Gators, netting three strikeouts and giving up two runs.

“Obviously, this isn’t the outcome we wanted,” Rethlake said, “now we’ve seen what it’s going to be like and we know what we need to improve on.”

During the bottom of the 7th inning, there was a controversial call in which right fielder Breanne Ray appeared to get hit in the hand by a pitch, but the ruling was that the pitch was a foul ball, as the ball had also appeared to bounce of the bottom of Ray’s bat. Controversy ensued, and UK head coach Rachel Lawson rushed onto the field in defense of her senior leader.

“Our hitter got hit by a pitch, but the umpire didn’t see it that way,” said Lawson.

Overall, however, Lawson was impressed with the improved defense, after surrendering nine runs twice in their last series against Tennessee.

Lawson remarked that she was “really proud of Alex Martens, she’s put in a lot of work, a lot of extra time to make sure that she stood up her defense.”

The SEC heavyweight series will continue Saturday, as the Cats look to even up the series.