No. 20 Kentucky softball defeats Wisconsin 5-2 in season-opener


Kentucky Wildcat sophomore Miranda Stoddard (1) pitches during the University of Kentucky vs. University of Georgia softball game on Monday, April 12, 2021, at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. UK lost 5-2. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Cole Parke

No. 20 Kentucky (1-0) defeated Wisconsin (0-1) 5-2 in the Northern Lights Southern Lights tournament, officially starting its season with a win on Thursday.

Junior right-handed pitcher Miranda Stoddard took the mound for Kentucky, though she has been known to play third-base as well. Despite going 0-3 in the batter’s box, Stoddard pitched a full seven innings, allowing just five hits and two runs. 

Stoddard also secured five strike-outs in the winning effort, helping Kentucky secure the win on defense.

On the offensive side, four different Wildcats recorded RBIs in the winning effort, with senior out-fielder Renee Abernathy finishing with half of them.

Abernathy went 1-3 from the batter’s box, but her lone single to right field was able to drive home Erin Coffel and Lauren Johnson, who were already in scoring position. 

Johnson, who also went 1-3, marked this game as the one she was most excited to play entering the season.

“I’m definitely excited for Wisconsin,” Johnson said on Tuesday. “Just because they’re the first team we’re playing. That first game, no matter who it is, that’s always one of my favorites [to play].”

Senior catcher Kayla Kowalik, who set the college softball world on fire last season batting .495, went just 1-3 in the contest.

Kowalik struck out swinging in her first at-bat, which doubled as the first at-bat for Kentucky in the game. She then grounded out to third in the fourth inning, after the Wildcats were taken out in order for the first three innings straight.

Kowalik finally recorded a hit in the fifth, with a bunt single to advance her teammate Vanessa Nesby to second base. Ultimately, Kentucky would be unable to drive Nesby home. 

Wisconsin led early in the night, taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the second, off a suicide- squeeze pulled off by pinch-runner Morgan Kummer and hitter Ally Miklesh.

Wisconsin starting pitcher Ava Justman looked to keep the Badgers on top, recording six strikeouts in her 3.1 innings pitched, not allowing Kentucky to get on base for the first three innings.

The Wildcats eventually cracked Justman in the fourth inning, scoring three runs with an RBI from Coffel and Abernathy’s two-run blast to right field.

The three runs-allowed forced Justman to take the loss for the night, though she wouldn’t be the only Badger to get hit, as her reliever, Maddie Schwartz, allowed two runs of her own.

Wisconsin got the game back within one run in the top of the fifth inning, when Ellie Hubbard hit a double to left-center field, which drove in Eden Dempsey.

Stoddard was able to bounce-back in the inning, escaping by striking out Brooke Kuffel swinging.

The Cats would add both of their final two runs in the bottom of the sixth, with a triple by Taylor Ebbs which drove in Margaret Tobias, a freshman infielder who recorded her first collegiate hit to get on base.

Emmy Blane recorded Kentucky’s final RBI with a single to left field which brought home Ebbs.

Kentucky looks to pick up right where they left off on Friday, Feb. 11, with a doubleheader against Michigan State and Liberty. The first matchup against the Spartans kicks-off at 12:30 p.m. EST.