2022 Kentucky Softball Preview – The Outfield
Speed. Speed. Speed.
When asked her thoughts on the Kentucky Softball outfield for the 2022 season in an interview this offseason, Lawson said it has the chance to be one of the most dynamic parts of the team as the speed and offensive power are both here to stay.
One of the most clutch players, and the Wildcats’ NCAA postseason hitting leader two of the last three years, Lauren Johnson, headlines the outfield with a fifth-year return. Johnson, who hails from Owensboro, Kentucky comes back as the only UK player in this class to use her COVID redshirt year, and will bring back a .344 average with 11 doubles and 42 RBI, defining a three-tool player of hitting for average, power, and the ability to mix things up with speed.
Renee Abernathy returns for her senior year after a breakout junior campaign which saw the left power hitter named to the NFCA All-Region Team for the first time in her career while hitting .357 with 13 home runs and 48 RBI, both career highs.
In right field, expect a heavy dose of slapper Rylea Smith, who is a five-tool player hitting .308 a season ago with three homers, 17 RBI and five doubles. Smith made one of the most dramatic and memorable plays of the 2021 season with her walk-off, series-clinching hit in the bottom of the eighth inning against No. 3 Alabama.
Do-it-all Tatum Spangler, like Abernathy, is back for a senior season after a career-best junior year. Spangler hit .344 primarily in the two spot and had two HR’s with 23 RBI. The Henderson, Nevada native broke out with 53 hits, 12 doubles and seven walks, becoming one of the most feared two-hole hitters in the Southeastern Conference.
Freshman Taylor Ebbs will be contributing both in the infield and outfield this season as one of the most highly-accomplished recruits that UK has ever signed. The Gatorade Player of the Year in Oregon, Ebbs will also see time at first base in 2022 as she will show her versatility.
Also in the outfield for the Wildcats returning with experience are Emma Boitnott, Vanessa Nesby and Jaci Babbs. Jenna Blanton, a freshman out of Chapel Hill, Tennessee, impressed BBN fans in the fall with her exciting playmaking and will look to be a factor for this potent Kentucky Softball outfield beginning Thursday night when the season kicks off.
For the latest on UK Softball, follow the Wildcats on Twitter and Instagram at @UKSoftball.