Are alarm bells beginning to sound for UK softball?


Kentucky infielder Alexia Lacatena (35) makes a throw to first base 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

Kentucky softball currently checks in at No. 8 in the USA Today softball top 25, but looking at its recent stretch, is it time to start sounding the alarm?

The team made headlines over the weekend for its walk-off grand slam, courtesy of Renee Abernathy, to win the series over No. 18 Auburn, but the bigger picture is not as rosy.

Since March 16, Kentucky has gone 3-6, with the Auburn series being the only light in the darkness and, though the result was a win, it could have just as easily been a loss with a big hit required to secure the win.

Apart from taking the Auburn series 2-1, Kentucky’s only other win since the 2022 Bluegrass Classic was a 9-4 win over then No. 3 Alabama, in the last game of a three-game series.

Looking at the loss column, many of the losses are easily explainable, such as the two in the aforementioned Alabama series and a 9-1 blowout loss to No. 1 Oklahoma, which is par for the course when facing the Sooners.

If that were all the losses Kentucky had taken, there would not be a cause for any immediate concern, but the Wildcats have now also dropped one-off games to Miami Ohio and Ohio State.

The loss to Miami Ohio undeniably is the worst loss of the season for the Wildcats, falling 7-5 in Oxford, Ohio, with the Redhawks currently checking in at 13-10 on the season with losses to the likes of Tennessee State, Bradley and Troy.

The problem in that game was starting pitching, with Miranda Stoddard, who is often sturdy, only pitching one inning with five earned runs against her before Kennedy Sullivan entered the game.

Most recently, Kentucky played Ohio State who, while receiving votes in the polls, is also unranked in the USA Today top 25 as well as the D1 Softball top 25.

Ironically, the issue against the Buckeyes on Tuesday was the polar opposite of the issue against Miami just two weeks prior.

Kentucky’s starting pitcher, Alexia Lacatena, did not have the best start she could have hoped for, but her three runs allowed generally would not lose the game for a Wildcats team that has shown little issue putting up high run totals throughout the season.

Unfortunately for Lacatena, the night was not a usual Kentucky softball night, with Ohio State starter Lexie Handley notching a complete game shut-out, not allowing a single Wildcat run.

Several high caliber hitters for the Cats struggled at the plate, such as senior catcher Kayla Kowalik, who went 0-3 inside the batter’s box.

Co-home run leader Erin Coffel also went 0-3 at the plate against Ohio State, with the team as a whole only notching five hits across three batters.

While two bad games should not normally be cause for concern, especially with only one of those games being a truly bad loss, it must be at least considered after Kentucky finished its “tournament” portion of the schedule 19-2, with its only two losses to then No. 13 Virginia Tech and then No. 19 Michigan, with the latter game even being avenged just days later.

Looking at the record now, Kentucky is 22-8, which while still being a good record, is a drop-off from where it was.

The Wildcats are still ranked within the top 15 and should not be given up upon this early in the season, but can not continue down its current path if it hopes to make a splash in the postseason.

Kentucky plays No. 20 LSU in Baton Rouge to start the month of April, and will need another bounce back series that it can point to when questions start getting posed about the team’s validity that isn’t just the Auburn series.

Game one of the series against LSU is scheduled for Friday, April 1, with first pitch being planned for around 7 p.m. EST.