Homers Carry the Day as No. 17 Kentucky Sweeps Opening Day
CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Kentucky Softball team hit six home runs including a walk-off bomb from freshman Karissa Hamilton in game two as the No. 17 Wildcats took down St. John’s 14-4 in five innings and beat Louisville 8-0 in five innings on Opening Day of the 2023 season.
Alexia Lacatena and Stephanie Schoonover picked up the wins Friday with Lacatena throwing 3.2 innings in game one with only two hits allowed and not surrendering a run, entering the game trailing 3-0 in the top of the first inning in relief. Schoonover pitched a complete-game shutout versus the Cards, allowing just two hits in the entire game, and not allowing a runner past second base in the contest with no walks and two strikeouts.
Offensively, Kentucky set a new school record with 14 runs scored in its opening game of the season in a 14-4 win over the Red Storm, breaking the previous mark set vs. Stephen F. Austin in 2007. UK’s opening-game win also set the program record for the largest margin of a victory in the team’s first game. Seven UK players had multiple hits Friday morning, with Jenna Blanton and Rylea Smith both notching three.
UK used the long ball to its advantage on Friday with six homers in the two games. Taylor Ebbs clubbed a go-ahead grand slam in the bottom of the first inning vs. St. John’s and Kennedy Sullivan followed that up with a solo HR of her own. Erin Coffel went yard twice against the Red Storm and transfer Grace Lorsung hammered her first dinger as a Wildcat in the bottom of the fourth. Hamilton’s walk-off three-run blast to CF was the game ender and the sixth homer by UK hitters on the afternoon.
Kentucky is scheduled to play Pittsburgh and Southern University on Saturday at day two of the 2023 NFCA Lead-Off Classic. Inclement weather is moving into the area, so fans should check @UKSoftball on social media and UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information on the schedule.
Game 1 – Kentucky 14, St. John’s 4
Taylor Ebbs’ grand slam in the bottom of the first inning turned a 3-0 Red Storm lead into a 4-3 Kentucky lead, and the Wildcats wouldn’t look back.
Jenna Blanton was the key player in the game, going 3-for-3 at the plate with three singles, a pair of RBI and also a home-run robbing catch over the center field wall that saved potentially three runs. It was the first game of Blanton’s career after missing 2022 with a shoulder injury.
14. The 14 runs scored is the most for Kentucky Softball in the history of opening day games. All 14 runs came consecutively after SJU put up a three spot in the top of the first.
In the top of the first inning, St. John’s scored three runs on two hits with a walk and wild pitch turning into a quick pair of runs to start the game. Alexia Lacatena then entered to pitch for the Wildcats. SJU 3, UK 0
Kentucky responded with a six spot in the bottom of the first inning, which took nearly a half an hour to complete. Taylor Ebbs drilled a grand slam to straight-away CF to make it 4-3 Kentucky and Kennedy Sullivan then followed with a jack of her own for back-to-back home runs. Meeko Harrison doubled down the line in RF to get into scoring position for Margaret Tobias, who plated Harrison on a single. UK 6, SJU 4
Erin Coffel notched the first home run of her 2023 season in the bottom of the second inning to extend Kentucky’s lead. UK 7, SJU 4
In the bottom of the fourth, Kentucky scored seven runs. Erin Coffel led off the inning with a home run, followed by a homer from Grace Lorsung for back-to-back jacks. Karissa Hamilton walked with the bases loaded to bring in a run and Jenna Blanton then pelted a single back up the box to score Vanessa Nesby. FINAL – Kentucky 14, St. John’s 4
Game 2 – Kentucky 8, Louisville 0
Vanessa Nesby and Meeko Harrison turned an incredibly rare 7-3 double play in the top of the fifth inning. There was a runner on first with no outs as a ball was caught by Nesby right at the ground on a forward slide. She then threw to Harrison, who made a nice pick to solidify the double play.
Karissa Hamilton was the key player in the game, getting her first-career home run to walk off the game, alongside a 2-for-3 afternoon at the plate with four RBI.
12. Stephanie Schoonover has now thrown 12 innings vs. Louisville in her career without giving up a run, and surrendering just two hits in those innings. She pitched a no-hitter in 2022 and did not allow a hit until the lead-off batter in the top of the third inning Friday afternoon.
Kentucky scored three times in the bottom of the first thanks to a two-run double off the bat of Grace Lorsung to left field and an RBI double from Hamilton. UK 3, UL 0
Margaret Tobias benefited from a two-out Cardinal error with runners on the corners to score two runs thanks to the ball getting past the first baseman on a bad throw from the pitcher on a chopper back up the box. UK 5, UL 0
Karissa Hamilton jacked a three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the fifth inning after the first two batters reached to give Kentucky the walk-off win. FINAL – Kentucky 8, Louisville 0
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