Seniors Lift Softball Cats Past Gamecocks on Saturday

Seniors Lift Softball Cats Past Gamecocks on Saturday

by Tim Letcher

The Kentucky softball program honored its 2024 senior class prior to Saturday’s game against South Carolina. Later in the afternoon, with the Cats trailing 1-0 in the sixth inning, a number of those seniors delivered, lifting UK to a 3-1 win.

Senior Grace Lorsung got the rally started with a double down the left field line. Lorsung would get to third on a ground out before senior Jaden Vickers slapped one to the left side that the Gamecocks booted, allowing Lorsung to score and tie the game.

Next, senior Vanessa Nesby drove a ball to the right-center field gap for a double, scoring Vickers to give Kentucky the lead, 2-1. It was Nesby’s second extra-base hit of the season, and it could not have come at a better time for the Cats.

The next batter was, of course, another senior in Rylea Smith, who drilled one off the wall in deep right field. It was a triple that scored Nesby, extending the UK lead to 3-1. It was the third hit of the day for Smith.

UK head coach Rachel Lawson thought it was appropriate that the senior class essentially won the game for the Cats.

“To have your senior class step up in such a big way in the sixth inning of their senior day was awesome,” Lawson said. “I don’t think you could have scripted it any better.”

Nesby agreed with her head coach.

“It’s exciting. You always want to play in that big moment,” Nesby said. “So, I just took advantage of getting that first pitch strike. Coming in clutch for the team is awesome. I love it and I’m glad that it happened that way and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Meanwhile, senior pitcher Stephanie Schoonover was solid for Kentucky all day. She went the distance, allowing only one run on seven hits, walking three and striking out four. The Vicksburg, Mississippi, native won her 18th game of the season. Lawson was impressed with her right hander.

“She’s awesome. Any time she gets on the mound, she gives you a chance to win,” Lawson said. “I can’t say enough about her. The fact that there were a couple of moments when things didn’t go her way and she was able to get on the mound and calm herself down, get her team out of some big situations just shows how tough she is.”

Despite trailing for most of the game, Schoonover was confident that her offense would come through.

“I knew they were going to do it,” Schoonover said. “We’re always working together. It was just a matter of having the big inning. I knew if I could take care of my business, they were going to do theirs, too. I had confidence the entire game.”

Like her coach and her classmates, Schoonover loved that it was the senior class that stepped up to bring home the victory.

“It’s amazing. It’s so much fun,” Schoonover said. “This is one of our last games here at John Cropp Stadium and for every senior to go out there and do their thing, it was very rewarding.”

It was a memorable senior day for the softball Cats, a memory that they produced themselves.

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