After never leading, UK softball tops Louisville with walk-off run in extras

Josh Moore
·4 min read

After never leading the whole way, Kentucky defeated Louisville in walk-off fashion — and in extra innings, to boot — to reclaim the lead in the schools’ all-time softball series on Wednesday night.

A flyout to right field by Lauren Johnson brought home Jaci Babbs to cap a 6-5 decision in the Wildcats’ favor after nine innings at John Cropp Stadium. UK improved to 31-10 overall on the season, and to 21-20 against U of L. Kentucky won for the fourth time in their last five meetings; Louisville evened the series with a win in 2019, the last time the two played (a scheduled game in Louisville on April 7 was canceled due to weather earlier this year).

Johnson, who also delivered the tying run in the seventh to force extra innings, led the Cats with two RBI. Kayla Kowalik, the NCAA leader in batting average, was 3-for-5 with a run scored and a team-high seven putouts.

How it happened

Louisville’s Camryn Greenwood singled a 2-2 pitch to get aboard out of the gate before a ground out moved her to second. Taylor Roby earned a walk, but went out on an unassisted double play by Mallory Peyton at first after she snagged a ball that Rebecca Chung hit her way.

UK went down in order to quickly put the Cards back up, and Makayla Hurst wasted no time; she belted her seventh home run of the season to put U of L ahead 1-0 before UK swiftly retired the next three batters. Peyton and Renee Abernathy grounded out but Erin Coffel knocked a homer, her 16th, down the right-field line to equal the score through two.

Kentucky infielder Erin Coffel (21) celebrates after hitting a home run during a game against Louisville.
Kentucky infielder Erin Coffel (21) celebrates after hitting a home run during a game against Louisville.

Maddy Newman beat a throw to first to deliver the last of three straight singles to start the third for Louisville. The Cards retook the lead on a fielder’s choice and loaded the bases again with a walk. Hurst got her second RBI on a sac fly to left, and a throwing error could have resulted in another U of L score but Tatum Spangler corraled it in center and delivered it to home plate before Vanessa Miller could reach for the Cards.

A flyout by Spangler brought home Miranda Stoddard, who reached on an error to lead off UK’s third turn, to get UK with 3-2. Kowalik (single) and Johnson (walk) also reached but were stranded after Peyton struck out looking.

Louisville added another run on a flyout by Celene Funke but left two on after a liner to Autumn Humes, who relieved starter Grace Baalman after three innings of work. A strikeout by Babbs left two Wildcats in scoring position to close the fourth.

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The Cards couldn’t extend their lead in the top of the fifth after putting two runners on after a liner to start the frame, a fielder’s choice and strikeout ending at bat. Kowalik doubled to lead off for UK in the bottom, igniting a game-tying turn at the plate; Johnson reached on an error, Rylea Smith singled to bring in Kowalik and Renee Abernathy flew out to score the equalizer before a grounder ended it.

Both teams went down in order in the sixth before Louisville reclaimed the lead in the seventh; a Greenwood single and a Roby walk sandwiched a flyout to start the frame, then Chung brought Greenwood in with a single. A diving catch and toss back to the plate by Abernathy from left saved another run before a grounder brought UK back up. Doubles by Spangler and Johnson allowed the Cats to even it back up before U of L reliever Jennifer Leonhardt struck out the last two to force extra innings.

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Humes struck out her counterpart prior to a pair of ground outs to sit down the Cardinals in order, but Kentucky equaled their effort in the eighth; a long flyout by Humes was the only dangerous ball put into play by either team in the frame.

UK for the first time retired Louisville’s lead-off trio in order after a pair of strikeouts sandwiched a long foul ball snagged by Johnson in the top of the ninth, enabling the winning rally.