When you think about the University of Kentucky, softball is probably not one of the subjects you think about. But it should be. The Wildcats have gone to the post-season every year since 2009, which was the second season with Rachel Lawson at the helm. They have advanced to Super-Regionals seven times in the last nine and made the WCWS in 2014.
Alabama heads to Lexington for a three game set with the Wildcats beginning Saturday afternoon.
Another week, another elite pitcher. Autumn Humes (10-1, 1.84 ERA) is UK’s workhorse on a staff of five. She has started 11 of her team’s 25 games. The super-senior has struck out 56 and walked only 13. Only three opposing batters have gone yard on her but none from the Florida Gators. She is also a decent batter (.269, 4 HR, 11 RBI).
Miranda Stoddard (5-1, 2.78 ERA) and Grace Baalman (4-1, 3.41 ERA) have gotten most of the bulk of the other innings but their ERAs are not great. Starting right fielder Tatum Spangler has also gotten three starts (3-0, 0.55 ERA) against lesser teams. Expect Humes to get the bookend starts. Your guess is as good as mine as to who might pitch the middle game.
Kayla Kowalik leads several offensive category for UK. She is hitting a robust .477 with 36 runs, five HR, three triples, four doubles, five HR and 22 RBI. Erin Coffel is at .402 with ten HR, six doubles and 31 RBI. Mallory Peyton has a .351 batting average with seven dingers and 31 knocked in.
As a team, Kentucky averages .359 (7th best in the nation) and 8.4 runs per game (4th best). They have hit 41 doubles, 12 triples, and a robust 39 round-trippers (tied for 6th most). By contrast, the Crimson Tide have only 32 doubles, 3 triples, and 17 four-baggers. The Bama team batting average is .303. UK has stolen 33 bases in 40 attempts. Alabama is 43 of 52.
UK vs FLORIDA
The ‘Cats (24-2) have played only one Power team so far this season in Florida. Against the Gators two weeks ago, they lost two of three in Gainesville. Both losses were by the score of 3-1 in which UK only recorded three hits in each game. In the 4-2 win, the Wildcats had eight hits in a nine inning victory.
Unfortunately, the Crimson Tide will be without fab freshman Bailey Dowling after she tore her ACL covering first base in last Friday’s game against Tennessee. It is a shame since she was having a fine rookie season leading the team in home runs, RBI, and clutch hits.
As alluded to above, Alabama has had a bit of a power outage this season. The Tide has only 17 homers and Dowling had six of them. Auburn’s 13 home runs is the only team keeping the Tide out of the SEC basement in that category. Oklahoma’s Jocelyn Alo has 19 by herself. When it comes to home runs per game, Bama ranks 117th in the nation with 0.62 per game.
The thing that is winning Alabama games is clearly the pitching. The offense thrives on their relentless attack on the base paths and feeding off their opponents’ mistakes. The latter strategy will not work so well when they face more disciplined and talented teams.
Patrick Murphy has jumped on the safety first base bandwagon and told reporters he is going to fight for its inclusion in college softball. He cited several recent injuries caused by close plays at first base and said he had been thinking about it even before Dowling’s injury injury.
After a slow start, Alabama (25-2) defeated North Alabama (16-6) on Wednesday by the score of 5-0. Kaylee Tow had a double and a triple. Kayla Davis had a pinch-hit double and Abby Doerr got her first hit of the season in the form of a no-doubter 2-run home run to left-center. Jaala Torrence (2-0) was lights out in the circle pitching 6 innings of 2-hit, 9-strikeout ball. Krystal Goodman pitched the seventh in a non-save situation yielding a single and striking out one.
It’s an odd Sat-Sun-Mon series for these two SEC foes. Originally, it was the usual Fri-Sat-Sun but was moved for a reason unknown to this monkey with a laptop.
- Saturday, March 27 at Kentucky 1 p.m. CT - SECN+
- Sunday, March 28 at Kentucky 2:30 p.m. CT - ESPN2 - a nice matinee leading up to Bama-UCLA hoops at 6:15 p.m. CT
- Monday, March 29 at Kentucky 6 p.m. CT - SECN