No. 8 Kentucky routed 9-1 at home by No. 1 Oklahoma


Kentucky catcher Kayla Kowalik (99) looks towards the dugout during the UK vs. Oklahoma softball game on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. Oklahoma won 9-1. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke

No. 8 Kentucky (20-6) was defeated 9-1 inside John Cropp Stadium by No. 1 Oklahoma (26-0) on Tuesday, suffering its first non-invitational home loss of the season.

The loss was given to junior pitcher Miranda Stoddard, who started in the circle for the Wildcats, though three of the four Kentucky pitchers were guilty of giving up at least one Sooner run during their pitching tenure.

“That is by far the best team we’ve faced all year,” Kentucky head coach Rachel Lawson said. “I don’t think we played our best game, but I also think they had a lot to do with it, I mean they’re very physical, they’re very dominating. My message to the team afterwards was, ‘You need to understand what you just saw because that’s how it looks to do certain things right. That’s what it looks like to dominate’.”

Stoddard pitched 2.2 innings, giving up six hits for six runs, including three home runs, with no strikeouts and one walked batter.

She was eventually relieved in the third inning by senior Kennedy Sullivan, who pitched just two-thirds of an inning, giving up two hits and one run with no strikeouts.

Sullivan would be relieved by freshman Izzy Harrison who, to her credit, recorded three strikeouts during her two innings in the circle, including forcing Oklahoma to endure its only scoreless inning of the night in the fifth.

Unfortunately for Harrison, things went awry in the sixth, as she quickly allowed two solo homers to the first and third batter she faced in the inning.

Sloan Gayan was brought out to relieve Harrison and escape the inning for Kentucky, with the junior pitcher allowing just one hit before securing the third and final out, with the sixth inning going down as the final of the night due to the eight-run deficit.

Kentucky’s lone run on offense came from senior outfielder Renee Abernathy, who notched a solo home run to left field in the fourth inning to prevent the shutout.

“I didn’t think it was high enough to get out,” Abernathy said. “I was also hoping it wouldn’t tail out because it had a curve to it, but it got out pretty fast, I hit it pretty hard.”

Despite Abernathy scoring the run, the deep shot served as her only hit of the game, as only one Wildcat, senior catcher Kayla Kowalik, recorded more than one hit.

By the end of the contest, just four Wildcats recorded any hits at all, with sophomore Meeko Harrison and junior Rylea Smith each picking up a hit.

While the final product was a dominant win for Oklahoma, Kentucky had its chances throughout the night, namely when it loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning but failed to produce a run.

Kowalik hit a single to the left side before a pair of throwing errors by Oklahoma loaded the bases for UK. Sophomore Erin Coffel reached first base on a fielders choice that saw Kowalik out at home plate, before two consecutive strikeouts shut the door on the Cats early.

The Sooners combined for six home runs on the day, with redshirt seniors Jocelyn Alo and Lynnsie Elam, as well as sophomore Alyssa Brito, all hitting a pair of deep balls.

On the mound for the Sooners, freshman Jordy Bahl pitched all five innings against Kentucky, notching 12 strikeouts with the aforementioned five hits and one run allowed.

“She’s got three speeds,” Lawson said about Bahl. “In softball, people don’t use the fastball very much and she didn’t use it very often, but when she did, it was awesome, it’s 68-69 miles per hour. She was incredibly dominating. In my opinion she’s the best pitcher we’ve faced all year.”

While the result was not the desired one for the Cats, the night was not entirely a bad one, as 2,117 fans showed up to John Cropp Stadium, making the matchup the first sold-out regular season game in program history, and first sold-out game since the 2013 SEC Tournament Championship game.

Fans were asked to park at Kroger Field and take shuttles to the stadium as the main complex parking lots quickly filled up with a baseball game also going on at the same time.

While it would be expected that many of those fans would depart early due to the nature of the final result, the vast majority remained seated until the final pitch had been thrown, a testament to the interest Kentucky has garnered this season.

“I’m actually a Title IX baby,” Lawson said. “When I was little, women and girls were trying to get access just to play on a softball or baseball field, or get time in the gym that wasn’t midnight. Fast forward to now, we’re playing on a Tuesday night and you had [Oklahoma] charter to get here, we’re playing in a stadium, you’ve got media here, it’s just awesome. If you told my younger self this I would’ve said you guys were nuts.”

Kentucky returns to play this Friday, March 25, for game one of a three-game series against No. 18 Auburn, with the game serving as Kentucky’s SEC home opener. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. EST.