Kentucky softball notches seventh straight victory in John Cropp Classic opener against DePaul


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats pitcher Alecia Lacatena (35) pitches the ball during the No. 16 Kentucky vs. Dayton softball home opener game on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Parker Scott, Reporter

No. 14 Kentucky softball (18-5-1) defeated DePaul 11-3 in five innings on Saturday at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington.

The game, which was Kentucky’s first matchup in the 2023 John Cropp Classic, saw the team gather 13 hits, all of which were singles, en route to winning by mercy ruling with no outs in the fifth inning.

Starting pitcher Izzy Harrison, a sophomore from Franklin, Indiana, made her seventh appearance of the season, striking out the side to start the game.

Kentucky pitcher Izzy Harrison (42) pitches during the UK vs. Oklahoma softball game on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. Oklahoma won 9-1. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Kentucky quickly built a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, starting an RBI bunt from junior Vanessa Nesby that scored graduate student Kayla Kowalik.

On the bunt, Nesby advanced to second on a throwing error and later scored on a sacrifice fly by senior Rylea Smith.

Harrison walked three batters in the top of the second, loading the bases, but the Blue Devils could not score, putting Kentucky in a great position going into its half of the inning.

Kowalik struck again for the Cats with two outs in the bottom of the second, smacking a single that drove in freshman Chelsea Mack.

Mack was pinch running for sophomore Hallie Mitchell, who hit a leadoff single to spark momentum in the inning for Kentucky.

After Kowalik stole second, Nesby singled and advanced to second on the throw, allowing Kowalik to score.

Sophomore Alexia Lacatena replaced Harrison on the mound at the start of the third inning and remained there for the duration of the game.

DePaul got on the board with two outs in the top of the third from an RBI single, and, although Smith hit a single to start the bottom of the inning, the third became the only scoreless inning for Kentucky during the game.

Lacatena retired the side in the fourth, notching two strikeouts to preserve the 4-1 lead for the Wildcats.

Kentucky Wildcats infielder Erin Coffel (21) runs towards third base during the No. 16 Kentucky vs. Dayton softball home opener game on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 5-4. Photo by Samuel Colmar | Staff (Samuel Colmar)

Kentucky’s offense exploded after Lacatena’s impressive efforts, scoring five runs from singles in a two-out rally.

After hitting a single early in the inning, sophomore Margaret Tobias was brought home from another single by Nesby, who later stole second.

Two more singles by Smith and Mitchell brought home Nesby and junior Erin Coffel before another single, this time from junior Grace Lorsung, brought in two runners, Mitchell and Smith, bringing the score to 9-1 to close out the fourth.

A two-run home run by DePaul in the top of the fifth cut the lead from eight to six, but this did not hinder the Wildcats, who matched that total in the fifth before the Blue Demons could get any outs.

The first of these runs was scored by redshirt freshman Jenna Blanton when Tobias stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error.

The final run came when Nesby reached on a fielding error and Tobias was able to score on the play.

Lacatena was credited with the win, her seventh of the season, as she and Harrison both combined for eight strikeouts.

Smith and Nesby led the Wildcats offensively with three hits each, while five other players came out of the game with hits as well.

Kentucky will finish out the tournament on Sunday at John Cropp Stadium against Michigan, with that game set to begin at 2:30 p.m. EST.