UK softball falls 9-8, unable to overcome Arkansas’ offense

By Chandler Howard

Scoring eight runs would have won each of the 28 games played by the UK softball team to this point in its season, but those eight runs were not enough on Sunday.

Although the Cats (19-10, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) boasted their best offensive performance of the season, the team fell short to the Arkansas Razorbacks (18-10, 3-2 SEC) on Sunday afternoon 9-8. Though UK was behind much of the game, the deficit never reached more than three runs in either team’s favor.

“It was nice to see our offense finally flex its muscles,” UK head coach Rachel Lawson said. “(Arkansas) was able to capitalize on some pitching mistakes we made. That became the difference.”

The Cats fell behind early, when the third pitch from senior Amber Matousek was sent over the outfield wall by Arkansas centerfielder Jessica Bachkora. UK then executed a double play and allowed no additional hits in the inning.

The game remained 1-0 until the top of the third inning. Matousek gave up her second home run of the day to third baseman Sandra Smith, which scored Bachkora, putting UK behind 3-0 early.

The Cats’ first successful offensive punch came in the bottom of the third inning when second baseman Natalie Smith dropped a single into centerfield among three Arkansas players. Catcher Megan Yocke then singled to right-centerfield. With two runners on base, third baseman Brittany Cervantes hammered a shot over the outfield wall, scoring Smith and Yocke and tying the game 3-3.

Lawson made a decision to enter sophomore Rachel Riley as the team’s pitcher. Riley tossed a shutout against Arkansas on Saturday.

Following a fourth inning in which a UK error allowed one Arkansas run to be scored, the Cats found themselves leading 6-4, thanks to the bats of Smith and Yocke, who brought in runs late in the inning.

UK struggled through pitching and defensive woes in the top of the sixth inning, when eight of the nine Arkansas batters reached base. Riley allowed a two-run home run to first baseman Emily Jones and three-run home run to Smith.

“The cardinal sin in this sport is allowing the other team’s best hitters to beat you. That is what we did today,” Lawson said. “We will make the necessary adjustments, which will hopefully lead to a better job in the future.”

Despite a sixth inning home run by Johnson, which scored outfielder Annie Rowlands, UK could not match the nine runs achieved by Arkansas.

Johnson and Smith lead the team offensively, both hitting 2-for-3 with 2 RBI. Rachel Riley received the loss for UK, dropping her record to 6-3.

Arkansas was lead by Jones and Smith, who hit 3-for-4 and 2-for-4, respectively, and combined for 7 RBI.

“We are finally starting to find our groove as a lineup instead of as individuals,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, we just weren’t able to come up with as many runs as they did. We are still working to be where we need to be.”