Rylea Smith’s Big Day Leads No. 25 Kentucky To Opening Win

Rylea Smith’s Big Day Leads No. 25 Kentucky To Opening Win

SAN DIEGO – Thanks to a big day from fifth-year senior Rylea Smith and clutch pitching out of Stephanie Schoonover and Alexia Lacatena, the No. 25 Kentucky Softball team won its sixth-straight opening day game Friday afternoon as it beat UC Santa Barbara, 5-1.

The Wildcats scored once in each of the second and third innings with a two-spot in the fifth and tacked on an insurance run in the sixth. UCSB’s only run came in the top of the sixth inning.

Rylea Smith was the offensive standout for Kentucky as the St. Louis, Missouri native went 3-for-4 at the plate, a triple shy of the cycle and scored twice. In the third inning, Smith doubled to left center and scored after stealing third and tapping home on an Ally Hutchins’s RBI groundout. In the fifth inning, she hit her fifth-career home run and pushed the Wildcats lead to 4-0.

In the circle, Stephanie Schoonover got the win, going 5.1 innings allowing just one run on three hits with nine strikeouts in 121 pitches. Alexia Lacatena entered in the sixth inning with two on and one out, slamming the door on the Gauchos with a strikeout and a lineout, earning a save on 1.2 innings and two strikeouts.

Friday was also UC Santa Barbara’s opening game of the season as UCSB moves to 0-1 and Kentucky levels up to 1-0. The Wildcats face No. 3 Stanford at 4 p.m. ET Friday afternoon to close out its opening day slate of games.

Key Play 

Rylea Smith’s home run in the fifth inning was the key play in Friday’s game as Kentucky’s lead of 2-0 ballooned to 4-0 as Smith launched her fifth-career homer over the wall in right center to give the Wildcats the two spot in the inning.

Key Player  

Stephanie Schoonover was the key player in Friday’s season opener, going 5.1 innings, only allowing one run in just three hits with nine strikeouts. Her nine strikeouts are a new career-high for her first game of the season. She walked just two Gaucho batters.

Key Stat 

11. Kentucky pitching had 11 strikeouts in the game with Stephanie Schoonover logging nine in the start and junior Alexia Lacatena recording two Ks in her relief effort.

Run Recap 

Kentucky scored first in the bottom of the second inning as Karissa Hamilton led off the Kentucky frame with a walk. After freshman Peyton Plotts was walked to put two on with two outs, Erin Coffel deposited an RBI single into right center on a changeup and pushed Hamilton home to make it a 1-0 lead for the Wildcats. UK 1, SU 0

In the bottom of the third inning, Rylea Smith doubled and scored after advancing to third on a stolen base and jogging home on an Ally Hutchins RBI groundout in the infield. UK 2, UCSB 0

After Margaret Tobias led off the bottom of the fifth with a 3-1 hit by pitch, Rylea Smith followed with her fifth-career big fly and first of the 2024 season for UK as the Wildcat lead was doubled. UK 4, UCSB 0

Back-to-back doubles in the top of the sixth inning gave UCSB their only run of the day as the Gauchos chased Schoonover from the game and pulled to within 4-1. Alexia Lacatena came in and slammed the door shut on the threat with a strikeout and a lineout to end the frame. UK 4, UCSB 1

In the bottom of the sixth, the Cats answered back with a run in a rundown as Jenna Blanton scored. FINAL – Kentucky 5, UC Santa Barbara 1

For the latest on UK Softball, follow the Wildcats on Twitter and Instagram at @UKSoftball.

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