Kentucky softball splits doubleheader in Oklahoma Tournament


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

Parker Scott, Reporter

No. 16 Kentucky softball split its doubleheader on Saturday at the Oklahoma Tournament in Norman, Oklahoma.

Both games ended in a score of 7-1, with the first game against the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) finishing in Kentucky’s favor and the second against No. 1 Oklahoma ending in defeat.

Junior Stephanie Schoonover started on the mound for the Wildcats in the first game against UIC, marking her eighth start of the season.

No runners reached base for either team in the first inning as Schoonover struck out all three batters from UIC who came to the plate.

The top of the second ended with two runners in scoring position for Kentucky, but neither ended reaching home.

Graduate student Kennedy Sullivan walked and senior Rylea Smith singled before the latter and redshirt freshman Jenna Blanton, pinch running for Sullivan, advanced on a wild pitch, but a pop fly ended the inning and any scoring hopes Kentucky had.

Schoonover struck out two more batters in the second half of the inning.

The Wildcats scored three of their seven runs in the third inning, the first of which came from a fielding error that scored graduate student Kayla Kowalik.

Sullivan subsequently grounded out, but junior Vanessa Nesby still scored on the play.

The hot streak continued with a single from Smith that brought in junior Erin Coffel, marking three straight plays where Kentucky was able to score.

Schoonover once again struck out the side for the second time in the game in the bottom of the third, giving her eight total strikeouts less than halfway through the game.

Kentucky did not reach base in the fourth and UIC scored its only run of the game on a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the inning.

Coffel and Smith each drove in a run for the Wildcats in the fifth, making the score 5-1 before Schoonover retired the side with two strikeouts.

A series of key plays helped load the bases for the Cats with two outs in the top of the sixth, but a quick out diminished any scoring chances.

Kentucky’s defense then retired the side in the bottom of the sixth, putting the team in a good position to clinch the game going into the final inning.

The Wildcats’ lead was further extended with RBI singles from junior Meeko Harrison and Kowalik, with Harrison and sophomore Hallie Mitchell tallying the runs. 

Overall, Kentucky picked up 15 hits and Schoonover struck out 15 in the 7-1 victory.

Sophomore Alexia Lacatena was the Cats’ starting pitcher for the second game against No. 1 Oklahoma. 

The game started out rather uneventful as Kentucky could not reach base in the first three innings.

The Sooners broke out in the second inning, scoring five runs, three of which came from a home run.

Kentucky made a pitching change after allowing the runs, changing from Lacatena to Sullivan.

Despite the change, Oklahoma made the score 6-0 in the bottom of the third with an RBI single and added another run in the fourth from a sacrifice fly.

The Wildcats finally got on the board in the fifth from an RBI single by freshman Lauryn Borzilleri that scored Smith.

Sullivan was able to hold the Sooners to a scoreless inning in the bottom of the fifth, with all of the outs being groundouts to Coffel at shortstop.

Neither squad scored for the rest of the game, though Kentucky singled twice in the sixth and once in the seventh.

Saturday’s games brought the Wildcats’ record for the season to 11-5-1, giving the team a solid standing ahead of upcoming conference play.

Kentucky will close out the tournament against UIC on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at Marita Hynes Field in Norman, Oklahoma.