Rylea Smith’s homer and walk-off hit steers Kentucky past Alabama

Wildcats pick up 5-4 win over Alabama to clinch series with Tide


LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Athletics) – Sophomore outfielder Rylea Smith hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the seventh inning and had a walk-off infield single in the bottom of the eighth to steer No. 7 Kentucky back from a four-run deficit in the sixth inning to stun No. 3 Alabama and capture the series over the Crimson Tide with a 5-4 win in extra innings on Monday night at John Cropp Stadium.


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Alabama intentionally walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning with one out as Smith approached the plate in a 4-4 game, as Stoddard and Abernathy were sent to the basepaths. With Tatum Spangler, who led off the inning with a walk, standing on third, Smith sent a high chopper to the left side that shortstop Claire Jenkins played well and threw to catcher Bailey Hemphill at the dish. Spangler was a forceout with the bases loaded, but slid to Hemphill’s left and Spangler’s left foot beat the throw to walk off the game for Kentucky.


With the win on Monday night, Kentucky takes the series with No. 3 Alabama, its second-straight series win over the Crimson Tide. UK is now 3-3 in Southeastern Conference play, having played No. 5 Florida and No. 3 Alabama with a nationally-ranked Tennessee team on the horizon next weekend in Knoxville. UK’s season record improves to 25-4 and the third-ranked Tide falls to 26-4 on the year and 6-3 in SEC action.


Alabama scored a run on a RBI double in the top of the third inning, and padded its lead to 4-0 with a three spot in the top of the sixth inning. Going into the bottom of the sixth inning, Kentucky got two runs on a monstrous home run off the bat of Erin Coffel to score two and cut the Alabama lead in half before back-to-back homers by Renee Abernathy and Rylea Smith in the bottom of the seventh inning tied the game.


Autumn Humes picked up the win in the circle for Kentucky, upping her record to 12-1 on the year. Lexi Kilfoyl suffered the loss, as she falls to 10-2.


Kentucky will play host to in-state foe Morehead State on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET at John Cropp Stadium. The game will be shown live on the SEC Network, ESPN3 and the ESPN app with Tiffany Greene and former Tennessee All-American Madi Shipman on the call.


Key Stat

  1. Kentucky overcame a four-run deficit, its largest of the season to win a game as UK won its first game of the season in extra innings.


Key Player

Rylea Smith was the key player in the game, going 2-for-4 with the game-tying home run in the bottom of the seventh inning, and the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to walk off the series win for Kentucky.


Key Play

The key play in the game came as Grace Baalman struck out swinging in the bottom of the eighth with Tatum Spangler on first. A dropped third strike wild pitch got away from Hemphill, and Spangler scooted to second, while a throwing error complicated things and sent Spangler into third as the ball went into foul territory in right field. Baalman was called out, as she can not advance with the base occupied – but Spangler’s situation was a live ball, and she represented the winning run on third with one out.


Run Recap

Savannah Woodard scored the game’s first run in the top of the third inning on a double down the left-field line by Madi Morgan. ALA 1, UK 0


Alabama got a sac fly from Morgan to double its lead and a two-out, two-RBI double from Bailey Hemphill in the top of the sixth to make it a four-run lead. ALA 4, UK 0


In the bottom of the sixth, Kayla Kowalik singled and Erin Coffel hit her team-leading 11th home run of the season to cut the lead in half. ALA 4, UK 2


As Kentucky was down to its final three outs, Renee Abernathy hit a solo home run on a 3-2 count to left field to make it a one-run game, and the succeeding batter, Rylea Smith, hammered her second-career home run over the wall in RF as it hit the top of the fence and bounced over to tie the game. UK 4, ALA 4


After Spangler led off the eighth with a walk, she advanced to third on a wild pitch and a throwing error, and scored the game-winning run ahead of the Jenkins throw to Hemphill to win the game and walk off a top-five series win over Alabama in front of a raucous crowd at John Cropp Stadium. FINAL/8 – Kentucky 5, Alabama 4

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Bryan Kennedy hails from the Bluegrass State. He was born and raised in Owensboro, KY where he graduated from Apollo High School in 2006. Bryan graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Spanish in 2010. He also received his master's degree in Sports Media and Branding from Western Kentucky University. While at UK, Bryan was the general manager of the on-campus TV station. He also did sports reporting, anchoring, producing and even the weather for UK Student News Network. While working for UKSNN, he also had the pleasure of covering Coach John Calipari's first press conference when he was introduced as the new head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats; easily one of his favorite moments as a young sports reporter. Before coming to ABC 36, Bryan was a morning anchor and reporter at WXXV News 25, our sister station in Gulfport, MS. He anchored more than four hours of news every day, including morning shows on NBC and Fox. While down south, Bryan had the opportunity to cover the Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans. After spending a little more than two years at WXXV, Bryan is extremely excited to return home. In his spare time, Bryan enjoys playing sports, especially rugby. He also enjoys crossfitting and watching sports (obviously). He's extremely excited to cover Central Kentucky. Feel free to say hello and send story ideas toBKennedy@wtvq.com