Softball team thriving on the road

When the UK softball team makes the journey down Interstate 64 tonight to take on in-state opponent Louisville, the Cats won’t be the least bit intimidated.

UK (13-13, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) has a powerful Cardinals team awaiting it at Ulmer Stadium in Louisville, where U of L (13-12, 0-0 Big East) is calling for a “red out” — yet the Cats have as much confidence as ever.

The reason behind UK’s confidence is its success on the road, sophomore second baseman Natalie Smith said.

The Cats have thrived on the road this year, winning eight games away from Lexington. They have lost just five games on the road, compared to a modest 5-8 record at the UK Softball Complex.

“This team has so much heart and fight,” Smith said. “We really strive being the underdog and take that into every game.”

For a team that was picked to finish last in the preseason SEC standings, playing the underdog role, especially on the road, is nothing new. But now that the Cats are stealing games on the road, SEC teams can no longer chalk UK up as an easy win like they used to.

Just ask nationally ranked and perennial powerhouse Tennessee, a team that was upended by the Cats 2-0 on March 15 in Knoxville.

“After beating Tennessee when they were ranked sixth in the nation, we realized that we can compete at the top level and win games,” sophomore pitcher Amber Matousek said. “As each day goes by, the team is coming more and more together and realizing how good we can be.”

The Cats haven’t exactly hit their stride since their win in Knoxville — they’re just 1-5 since the win — but sophomore shortstop Molly Johnson has noticed an improvement in the freshmen’s play since that game.

“We went into Knoxville not knowing what to expect with a really young team,” Johnson said. “The freshman had the jitters, but after we won, everyone knew we could do this against anyone.”

The Cats hope to end their recent slide of late and continue their success on the road tonight at U of L. The Cards manhandled the Cats 6-1 earlier this season at the UK Softball Complex, but UK has won three of its last four games at Ulmer Stadium. UK leads the overall series with U of L 12-8.