Kentucky softball: Wildcats heading to Supers after blanking Notre Dame twice

Kentucky Wildcats (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Kentucky Wildcats (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Every team has a loss they would love to forget but for Kentucky softball, the one Saturday to Notre Dame in the Lexington NCAA Regional left their season on the brink of ending. But the question is always how do you bounce back?

You do it in dominating fashion as the Wildcats shut out the Irish in a double-header elimination game to live on and advance to the Super Regionals in Tuscaloosa next weekend against host Alabama. It will be the fourth straight Super Regional for Kentucky, not counting last year where there was no post-season.

Kentucky beat Northwestern 3-2 in the opener to remain in the winner’s bracket but was completely off its game Saturday against Notre Dame falling 12-3. That sent the Wildcats to the losers bracket where they would send Northwestern home with a 7-2 win.

That meant they had to beat Notre Dame twice Sunday as the Irish had not lost beating both Kentucky and eliminating Miami of Ohio.

Kentucky softball pitchers come through in a big way Sunday

For ace-pitcher Autumn Humes, the loss had to be tossed aside quickly and dismissed as an anomaly even as painful as it was for her in the circle and her fellow Wildcats.

Yet Mallory Peyton who was the star of the game at the plate in eliminating Northwestern knew Sunday the real Kentucky softball team would show up and made that clear. Peyton ended her day with two hits in four at-bats with three runs batted in and a run scored.

That included Peyton accounting for Kentucky’s first three runs as UK trailed 1-0 in the top of the third inning the senior came to the plate with the bases loaded and ripped a double down the left-field line,  driving in Tatum Spangler and Lauren Johnson.

Two innings later she blasted her 12th homer of the year over the leftfield fence and that was all the Wildcats would need.

"“I think, moving forward, facing Notre Dame tomorrow, I think we’re a different team than when we played them this morning. I think we looked drastically different at the end of the Northwestern game. We’re playing much more as a team. I think we can just flush that game and focus on something new tomorrow. I think we’re going to be rolling in hot tomorrow."

A good night’s sleep dreaming of a pair of wins on Sunday and the chance to keep their season going instead of reliving the nightmare of Saturday’s loss did the trick.

Notre Dame only needed one win to advance to the Super Regionals, but it was their bats that were still in a deep slumber thanks to the senior pitching of Hughes and Grace Baalman who singlehandedly kept sending every Irish hitter back to the dugout after they stepped to the plate.

I’ve watched many softball games over the years, but this was as dialed in as any pair of pitchers I’ve seen who were completely in control and determined to send the Irish packing and back to South Bend.

Kentucky’s pitching staff had a 0.00 ERA at the end of two games, all zero runs and allowed a mere six hits, one walk, and needed just 134 pitches to win their

Wildcat coach Rachel Lawson was very impressed with the way her team bounced back.

"“Today, we dominated all phases of the game. We pitched well, we did a good job offensively and overall, we played pretty good defense. I was really impressed with how we came out and dominated from first inning of game one and continued through the second game.”"

Humes (12-3), who got roughed up in the Saturday loss, needed just 65 pitches to sail through game one. Her teammates staked her to four runs in the top of the first and two in the top of the second inning and fifth-year senior from Bald Knob, Arkansas, tossed a three-hit complete-game shutout. Her sixth this season and 28th of her UK career, but thanked the defense behind her.

"“Our defense was totally flying around and making plays and even making plays they shouldn’t be making. I felt really confident with the way they were playing and it gave me more peace on the mound. And when your offense puts up the numbers they did today, it makes my job a lot easier.”"

Renee Abernathy was all the Wildcats needed both at the plate and in the field, going 2-for-4 in the contest with a two-run home run in the top of the first inning she followed that with an incredible running catch in the outfield.

That momentum carried right into the winner take all final game and this time Baalman (6-1) started in the circle and was mowed down hitter after hitter just like Humes. She hurled 6.1 innings, allowing only one hit, walking one, and striking out two.

Miranda Stoddard laced a two-run singled down the left-field line that fell just fair in the fourth inning after Humes cracked a solo home run in the bottom of the second inning.

Smelling another title Humes went to work in the seventh inning, recorded two outs, and gave the ball back to Baalman for the final out of the game.

The win marked the first time Kentucky has come out of the losers bracket to claim the title. A feat that is not easily accomplished.

Super Regional’s this weekend

Kentucky (14) and Alabama (3) will tangle for the fourth time this season in the best 2 of out 3 game series. Kentucky won the first two games earlier this year and the Crimson Tide won the final game of the regular season.

Game 1 – Friday, May 28; 1 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Game 2 – Saturday, May 29; 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Game 3 – Sunday, May 30; 4 p.m. ET (ESPNU) if necessary.

Alabama will be the home team for games one and three while UK will be for game two. The winner moves on to the 2021 Women’s College World Series.

Next. Kentucky softball set to host regionals. dark