Intrastate rivalry a learning experience for softball team



By Chandler Howard

For Kentuckians, the bitterness between UK and Louisville is learned at a young age, even before one understands sports. It seems everyone has a bias towards one team for one reason or another. UK-Louisville, Cats-Cards, blue-red — the numerous representations of the tradition only confirm its infamy.

Competition between the two largest universities in the commonwealth provides classic bouts of excitement. The most notable annual clashes include the Battle for the Bluegrass between the basketball programs and the fight for the Governor’s Cup trophy on the football field.

But for the vast number of student-athletes who move from other areas to compete for either of the universities, the rivalry is not something of embedded significance.

The UK softball team is no exception.

“Even though (the rivalry) is not something I grew up surrounded by, it is a learned behavior that I am now part of,” sophomore outfielder Macy Allen said. “From the moment we come in we are taught to dislike Louisville. I am part of the Big Blue family now so it is something that is important to me regardless of where I am from.”

Allen, along with 13 of her teammates, was raised somewhere other than Kentucky. In fact, only five of the 19 UK softball players grew up in the Bluegrass State. UK head coach Rachel Lawson can see the distinction in native and non-native players before the game begins.

“The difference is most visible on game day,” Lawson said. “Even though each player has a passion for the sport, you can see the fire burning that much more within the eyes of the players who grew up around the rivalry.”

The timeless battle of blue against red rages on when the UK softball team looks to capture the overall series lead against its in-state rival on Wednesday night. UK (22-15, 7-9 Southeastern Conference) stands deadlocked at 12 victories apiece in the series with No. 23 Louisville (24-12, 4-2 Big East Conference).

The concluding game of the annual home-and-home series between the adversaries begins at 6 p.m. in Ulmer Stadium in Louisville.

Louisville captured the victory on March 10 when the teams played a mid-season match. The game went into an extra inning before Louisville scored on two home runs, enough to power past the Cats. The team has now won the previous six games against UK.

UK is coming off a weekend series win at Mississippi State in which the Cats played their best statistical defense of the season. They now look ahead to a Louisville team that has shown success since the teams’ last meeting.

“The recent games between us and Louisville have all been very close,” Lawson said. “We are so evenly matched now that there is no telling what could happen. Whichever team can come up with the big hits at the right times and string a few good plays together will be the one to win. I am expecting it to be another great game.”