No. 16 Kentucky softball swept by No. 6 Tennessee after 15-1 loss


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats catcher Kayla Kowalik (99) catches a pitch during the No. 16 Kentucky vs. Louisville softball game on Wednesday, March 29, 2023, at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 7-4. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Parker Scott, Reporter

No. 16 Kentucky softball (25-13-1) was defeated by No. 6 Tennessee (34-5) at John Cropp Stadium on Sunday, allowing the Lady Vols to complete the series sweep.

The loss marked the first time Kentucky was swept in the 2023 season, with the team’s pitching staff having struggled since injuries to ace Stephanie Schoonover.

Sophomore Alexia Lacatena, seeking her tenth win of the year, was the Wildcats’ starting pitcher for the game.

The game got off to a rough start for Lacatena and the Cats, with Tennessee scoring three runs in the first inning, including one from a leadoff home run.

Kentucky could not answer offensively in the bottom of the first, allowing Tennessee to keep its 3-0 lead.

The Lady Vols then doubled that lead with a three-run homer with two outs and two strikes in the top of the second. The Wildcats once again could not score any runs of their own, with the score staying at 6-0 in favor of Tennessee.

Kentucky Wildcats outfielder Vanessa Nesby (11) bunts during the No. 16 Kentucky vs. Louisville softball game on Wednesday, March 29, 2023, at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 7-4. Photo by Olivia Hall | Staff (Olivia Hall)

Senior Sloan Gayan replaced Lacatena starting in the third inning, which would prove to be helpful as the Cats held Tennessee scoreless for the first time in the game.

After three straight outs in the bottom of the third, Tennessee hit another three-run shot to further extend its lead to 9-0 in the top of the fourth.

Kentucky then brought in graduate student Kennedy Sullivan to pitch, hoping that she would help shut down Tennessee’s offense.

Sullivan allowed a couple baserunners and gave up a run from a bases-loaded sacrifice fly, but struck out two after that to end the inning.

Junior Vanessa Nesby started off the bottom of the fourth with a bang, hitting a triple to center field for her second extra base hit of the season.

The Wildcats got on the board soon after a ten-pitch at bat for junior Grace Lorsung ended in a sacrifice fly that scored Nesby, bringing the score to 10-1.

The Lady Vols started the fifth with a leadoff homer and, after giving up a walk and a single to follow, Sullivan was replaced at pitcher by freshman Taylor Hess.

Hess got off to a shaky start, allowing two singles, one of which brought in two runs to make the score 13-1.

A one-run sacrifice fly and a double that sailed over the head of redshirt freshman right fielder Jenna Blanton scored two more runs for Tennessee.

The game ended by run rule after the fifth inning, when Kentucky’s offense could not get a runner on base.

“I think we just have to do a better job on the mound, commanding our stuff, attacking batters, instead of just trying to place the ball,” head coach Rachel Lawson said after the game.

Kentucky will travel to Highland Heights, Ky. On Tuesday, April 18, to take on Northern Kentucky at 5 p.m. at the Frank Ignatius Grein Softball Field.