Kentucky softball sweeps second doubleheader in Hillenbrand Invitational


Kentucky Wildcat Erin Coffel (21) throws the ball towards home during the University of Kentucky vs. Alabama softball game on Saturday, March 27, 2021, at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. UK lost 11-6. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Cole Parke

No. 16 Kentucky softball swept its second doubleheader of the 2022 Hillenbrand Invitational, defeating Long Beach State and No. 9 Arizona on Saturday.

With the wins, Kentucky is just one game away from sweeping the invitational.

In its first game of the day, Kentucky knocked off Long Beach State 5-0, its third shutout victory in nine games.

Junior pitcher Sloan Gayan earned her first win of the season, starting in the circle for the Wildcats.

Gayan pitched four innings, recording one strikeout and forcing eight groundouts while allowing just three hits.

Freshman Olympian Alexia Lacatena entered the game in the top of the fifth inning to relieve Gayan, just one day removed from her save to secure Kentucky’s extra-inning win over Loyola Marymount on Friday.

Lacatena pitched the remaining three innings of the game, recording one strikeout and forcing five groundouts without giving up any hits.

Despite the 5-0 win, only three Wildcats recorded a hit in the ballgame, with just one Wildcat, sophomore infielder Erin Coffel, recording more than one hit in the winning effort.

Coffel recorded two doubles, securing three of Kentucky’s RBIs, while senior pitcher Kennedy Sullivan notched the other two RBIs with a two-run homerun in the bottom of the second.

In Kentucky’s ranked matchup with No. 9 Arizona, the game was much closer, coming down to the wire with the Cats claiming victory 7-6, needing another clutch pitching performance to secure the win.

Starting in the circle for UK, sophomore Stephanie Schoonover looked to build off of her complete game shutout against UCSB to start the tournament in Tuscon.

Unfortunately for Schoonover, fate would not be on her side again as she pitched for just three innings, allowing three hits and four runs, also walking four batters.

While Schoonover managed to secure two strikeouts in the effort, she was pulled by UK head coach Rachel Lawson in the fourth inning.

In her relief, Sullivan took the circle, going on to pitch for 3.2 innings, and ultimately claiming the win for the Cats.

Sullivan allowed two more Arizona runs, though neither were earned runs against her, and managed to strike out two batters as well.

Lacatena returned to the circle for the final inning, with UK needing her clutch ability to close out the game and secure the win. 

In her second game of the night, Lacatena secured the final two outs of the night against two batters, gaining a strikeout in the process.

On offense, Kentucky’s bats were hot, with four different Wildcats recording two or more hits, a stark contrast to the game prior that saw just three total hitters.

Coffel continued to shine on the day, going 3-4 from the batter’s box, though she would not rack up anymore RBIs against Arizona.

Sullivan hit her second home run of the day, with both deep balls being worth two RBIs, this time scoring freshman catcher Hallie Mitchell.

Sullivan wouldn’t be the only Wildcat to go yard in the winning effort, with Miranda Stoddard also sending one beyond the wall in the top of the fourth that was also for two RBIs, ironically scoring Sullivan herself as well.

Freshman infielder Taylor Ebbs was the final Cat to secure more than one RBI in the win over Arizona, with her double to center field driving in both Coffel and Lauren Johnson, who recorded the final RBI for Kentucky as well.

The Wildcats will look to sweep the 2022 Hillenbrand Invitational on Sunday, Feb. 20, in a rematch against UCSB. The Cats will duel the Gauchos at 11 a.m. EST inside Hillenbrand Stadium in Tucson, Arizona.