Cats survive elimination in 7-2 win; Must beat Irish twice to advance to Super Regional
LEXINGTON, KY (UK Athletics)- The Kentucky softball team was facing elimination on Saturday afternoon in the Lexington Regional of the NCAA Softball Tournament. After losing to Notre Dame earlier in the day, the Cats faced Northwestern for the second straight day. But this time, the losing team would see their season come to an end.
Luckily for the blue-clad Wildcats, senior Mallory Peyton was not ready to see her career end. Peyton drove in Kentucky’s first three runs as UK went on to a 7-2 victory at John Cropp Stadium.
With Kentucky trailing 1-0 in the top of the third inning, UK mounted a rally. Peyton came to the plate with the bases loaded and ripped a double down the left field line, scoring Tatum Spangler and Lauren Johnson to give the Cats a 2-1 lead.
Peyton knew what pitch was coming but she was surprised how hard the ball was hit.
“I was expecting an inside pitch because they threw me there last time,” Peyton said. “I wasn’t expecting to hit it on the ground because the third baseman was playing really close to the line so when I did hit it by her, I was surprised because she was playing so close to the line so it must have been hit pretty hard. It was definitely a game-changer for the team going forward.”
UK head coach Rachel Lawson saw Peyton’s double as one of the biggest plays in the game.
“There were a couple of key plays in the game and that big double was a key play in the game because it was kind of like a punch to the other team,” Lawson said. “That was a big deal for us.”
Then in the fifth inning, Peyton pulverized a ball to left field for her 12th home run of the season. This one gave Kentucky a 3-1 lead.
“The home run was just another stepping stone for us,” Peyton said. “Another sigh of relief because 2-1 games can turn around really quickly so we wanted to put as many runs on the board as we could possibly get.”
Lawson was impressed with Peyton in Saturday’s second game.
“She had so much confidence in the box and she was very smooth also,” Lawson said. “When Mal got up to bat, she looked like she was in complete control. She looked like she knew what she was trying to do. It was just really pretty to watch. Not only did she come up with key hits but I think it also gave confidence to the rest of the hitters and calmed them down and allowed them to do better moving forward.”
Overall, Lawson was pleased with her team’s effort against Northwestern.
“Offensively, I thought we did a much better job bouncing back,” Lawson said. “We got some extra-base hits, we stole some bases. We just played good Kentucky softball.”
Peyton ended her day with two hits in four at-bats with three runs batted in and a run scored. Now, she and her team hope to bounce back against a Notre Dame team that beat them 12-3 in Saturday’s first game. But Peyton thinks that the Irish will see a different UK team this time around.
“I think, moving forward, facing Notre Dame tomorrow, I think we’re a different team than when we played them this morning,” Peyton said. “I think we looked drastically different at the end of the Northwestern game. We’re playing much more as a team. I think we can just flush that game and focus on something new tomorrow. I think we’re going to be rolling in hot tomorrow.”