Pivotal first inning sees No. 11 Kentucky softball defeat Texas A&M 10-2


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats pitcher Stephanie Schoonover (23) 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. 11 Kentucky softball (20-7-1) defeated No. 24 Texas A&M (19-11) by a score of 10-2 in the final game of the weekend series on Sunday.

Junior Stephanie Schoonover returned to the mound to start the game after pitching two innings in the first game of the series.

Schoonover struck out the first two batters she faced en route to holding Texas A&M scoreless in the top of the first.

Kentucky Wildcats outfielder Taylor Ebbs (3) laughs with associate head coach Kristine Himes at first base 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 (Jack Weaver)

Graduate student Kayla Kowalik hit a leadoff single and advanced to third following a throwing error.

The bases then quickly became loaded after juniors Vanessa Nesby and Erin Coffel reached on a bunt single and a walk respectively.

Immediately after, the Wildcats quickly got on the board when senior Rylea Smith reached on a fielder’s choice and Kowalik was called safe at home due to a fielding error.

Kentucky loaded the bases once again when Nesby scored on a passed ball and junior Grace Lorsung, who hit two home runs in the first game of the series, walked.

The next two at-bats saw two singles by junior Meeko Harrison and freshman Karissa Hamilton bring in three runs, while both being able to advance to second on their respective hits as well, though Harrison’s advancement was a result of a throwing error.

Sophomore Taylor Ebbs then hit her third home run of the season, which scored both Harrison and Hamilton, giving Kentucky an 8-0 lead to start the game.

“Obviously no one likes to get mercy ruled,” Ebbs said after the game. “But I really liked the way we responded and kind of went out there and dominated.”

It took until the ninth batter in the first inning for the Aggies to record an out, with Texas A&M making two pitching changes throughout the inning.

The second inning was three-up-three-down for both teams and, although Schoonover walked two in the top of the third, she was able to keep the shutout.

After Kentucky failed to reach base in the bottom of the third, Texas A&M began the fourth with two singles but could not do anything else after that.

Lorsung helped the Wildcats add two more runs in the bottom of the fourth with a two-out triple that scored Smith and Nesby.

Sophomore Margaret Tobias made a diving play at second base for the first out of the fifth inning while Schoonover got the second out with a strikeout to keep the score consistent.

Although the Aggies were able to hit a two-run home run with two outs, Kentucky got the final out to win the game via the run rule.

“I feel like what helped me in the majority was all the run support,” Schoonover said regarding her winning effort. “I had my team behind me the whole time and I knew they were there no matter what they talked to me.”

Schoonover pitched a complete game for her twelfth win of the season and struck out five in the process.

“The fact that she can go in there in tough situations and really give a great effort really says a lot about her character,” head coach Rachel Lawson said of Schoonover after the game.

Kentucky will return to action in the Battle of the Bluegrass against Louisville on Wednesday, March 29, at 6:30 p.m. EST at John Cropp Stadium. The game can be watched live on ESPNU.