An early deficit and spotty pitching proved too much for No. 14 UK softball to overcome as they dropped game one of today’s double-header to no. 15 LSU, 10-7, despite another record-setting performance from Kayla Kowalik. The game was a makeup of yesterday’s matchup, which was postponed due to the inclement weather.
The game started off particularly rough for starter Tatum Spangler, who gave up two singles, a home run and two walks to the first five LSU batters. By the time Coach Rachel Lawson pulled the plug and brought in Friday’s winning pitcher, Grace Baalman, the ‘Cats were in a 3-0 hole and they hadn’t even recorded an out.
Fortunately Baalman got things under control, and before long UK was right back in the game. They got a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first from their do-everything catcher Kowalik, her 12th of the year, extending her school record hitting streak to 23 games. They got another an inning later off the bat of Mallory Peyton, her ninth. However, Baalman ran into trouble in the third in the form of a two-run shot from Morgan Cummins that made it 5-2.
Nothing if not consistent, Kentucky struck back with another run in the bottom half. Once again the rally was started by Kowalik, who hit a one-out single —her D-I leading 80th hit of the year — and came around to score on an error, making it a 5-3 score, but that was as close as this game would get.
Baalman allowed a walk and a single to lead off the fifth inning, at which point she was removed in favor of right-hander Miranda Stoddard. The Tigers promptly welcomed her with a double and sacrifice fly to expand their lead to four runs. The ‘Cats would poke another through in the bottom to cut it to three again, but LSU followed with a decisive three-run sixth inning against Stoddard, the final blow a two-RBI double from Shelby Sunseri that made it 10-4.
UK’s last chance came in the bottom of the seventh, and they certainly made things interesting. A hit by pitch, an error and yet another hit by Kowalik loaded the bases with one out for Spangler, who had a hit and an RBI in the game already since moving to DH. She came through with a sacrifice fly to bring one run home, then Lauren Johnson brought in the other two with a ringing double to right centerfield. With two outs, the tying run stood in the on-deck circle for the ‘Cats, trailing 10-7; but a pop-up from Erin Coffel ended the game before they got a chance.
With her three hits on the day, Kowalik officially set new single-season program records in both hits (82) and total bases (139). Yeah, she’s like that.
Sunseri earned the win pitching for the Tigers (27-15, 9-8 in SEC play), while Spangler took the loss for Kentucky (32-11, 7-10). As of this article’s publication, game two is already in progress at John Cropp stadium, as the two teams battle to take the win in a huge series. As always, its available to stream on ESPN+.