No. 17 Kentucky softball sweeps double header in NFCA Leadoff Classic, starts season 2-0 


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

Sara Gibson, Reporter

Kentucky softball opened its season in dominant fashion, defeating both St. Johns and in-state rival Louisville with scores of 14-4 and 8-0 respectively.

Kentucky’s Erin Coffel, who was named to USA softball’s top-50 preseason watch list, led the team against St. Johns with two home runs and two RBIs. Sophomore Taylor Ebbs also played a major role in winning with one home run and four RBIs.

At the top of the first, St. Johns recorded two runs, with another point being added after the Red Storms’ Elanna Lysiak scored on a wild pitch from Kennedy Sullivan.

Despite that, the 3-0 lead for St. Johns did not last long as the Wildcats scored six runs in the bottom of the first.

With one out on the board, senior Rylea Smith was the first to record a hit for Kentucky in the young season with a single. Coffel and transfer Grace Lorsung were then both walked to load the bases. With ducks in the pond, the first homerun of the season would go down as a grand slam hit from Ebbs to give the Cats a 4-3 lead.

The next hit after the grand slam was yet another homerun, this time by Sullivan, who would be followed by Margaret Tobias batting in Karissa Hamilton to r

Kentucky Wildcat sophomore Rylea Smith (19) dives and misses a catch 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

ound out the first in scoring. St. Johns would not score again in the game until the top of the fifth.

In the bottom of second, Coffel hit her first homerun of the year to center field to score the only run of the inning, with the Wildcats recording a scoreless third.

Rediscovering their magic, the Cats began to pour it on in the bottom of the fourth, adding seven runs to St. Johns’ zero.

Coffel began the action by hitting her second homer of the game to right center field before Lorsung recorded Kentucky’s second back-to-back homerun of the game, and her first as a Wildcat.

Chelsea Mack and Vanessa Nesby were then both batted in to extend the lead and make the score 11-3. Tobias then scored after a fielding error and Smith hit a single to send Jenna Blanton home, scoring the Cats final run of the game.

St. John scored its final run on a wild pitch in the top of the fifth inning, which would ultimately be the last inning of the game.

The 14 runs marked a new school record for Kentucky in runs during an opening game, as well as the largest margin of victory in a season opener.  

In their second game of the day the Wildcats shut out Louisville, with Kentucky pitcher Stephanie Schoonover only allowing two base hits all game. With the performance, Schoonover has made it 12 consecutive innings against the Cardinals without a run allowed.

Offensively, the Cats were led by Hamilton, who went 2-3 at the plate with a walk-off homerun in the fifth inning.

Kentucky Wildcat freshman Stephanie Schoonover (23) pitches during the UK vs. Morehead State game on Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at Cropp Softball Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 13-1. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

It was ultimately Lorsung who put Kentucky on the board first in the bottom of the first inning, batting in two runs with a hit to left field. Hamilton added another RBI to finish off the opening inning.  

After a scoreless second inning, Tobias batted in two runs in the bottom of the third after an error thrown by Louisville pitcher Gabby Holloway that missed first baseman Maddi Grant.

Then, in the fifth inning, Hamilton ended the game with her aforementioned home run that scored two after Nesby was hit by a pitch.

Now having started the season 2-0, the Wildcats will be back in action for another doubleheader in the NFCA Leadoff classic at 4 and 6:30 p.m. EST against Pittsburgh and Southern on Saturday, Feb. 10.