No. 3/4 Alabama softball (26-4; 6-3 SEC) was handed its first SEC series loss of the year at the hands of No. 7/7 Kentucky (25-4; 3-3 SEC), marking the Wildcats second straight series victory over the Crimson Tide dating back to 2019.
An offensive surge propelled Alabama to a 11-6 victory to open its third conference series of the season.
The Crimson Tide offense tallied 13 hits, the team’s second-most in a game this season, and scored multiple runs in a trio of innings. Those quick scores forced Kentucky head coach Rachel Lawson to use three different pitchers in the game. Graduate student Elissa Brown was the offensive catalyst—Brown went 4-for-4 and started the offensive attack in two of the three innings Alabama scored in and tallied a base hit in the final frame. Aside from Brown, three other Alabama players tallied a multi-hit performance: graduate students Alexis Mack and Bailey Hemphill and sophomore Lexi Kilfoyl.
One of Hemphill’s hits was sent over the left field wall, which marked her sixth of the season and 56th of her career. The Louisiana native is now four home runs away from tying Kelly Kretschman’s program record of 60.
Senior Kaylee Tow matched Hemphill’s two-run home run in the third with one of her own in the seventh inning to put Alabama up 8-4. Tow’s run around the bases would end up being the final score the Crimson Tide needed to close out the win.
Junior Montana Fouts (10-2; 1.45 ERA) motored through the Kentucky offense the first four innings of the game, allowing no runs scored, collecting seven strikeouts and giving up three hits. However, the Wildcat offense came to life in the fifth and seventh innings as it scored six runs off five hits. However, only four of Kentucky’s runs were earned. Fouts committed two throwing errors; there was a failed fielder’s choice and a free pass was allotted. Kilfoyl (10-0; .44 ERA) relieved Fouts in the seventh inning to close out the game.
Alabama’s season-high four defensive errors in a game allowed Kentucky to mark a 4-2 win to even the series and force a rubber-match game on Monday night.
Kilfoyl (10-1; .63 ERA) was handed her first loss of the season and was pulled after only 3.2 innings of work. All four runs came against Kilfoyl, but only two were earned, and she surrendered a season-high of seven hits. The sophomore tallied four strikeouts and did not allow a walk.
The key to offensive success for the Wildcats was having its leadoff batter reach safety in five of the six innings the team came to the plate. Three of the five times, Kentucky was able to scratch a runner across the plate. Two runners came to score in the fourth inning. Kentucky got production throughout its lineup—eight of the 10 players to record an at-bat also recorded a hit. Kentucky also put itself in good situations to score, as it was a perfect 4-for-4 in stealing bases that evening.
In contrast, the Alabama offense did not find production through its lineup. Graduate student Taylor Clark was the lone batter in the five through nine spots in the lineup to reach base, via a walk. Senior K.B. Sides and Hemphill each went 2-for-4 at the plate. Hemphill drove in one of the Crimson Tide runs; the other came from Mack. Despite being one of the top base-stealing teams in the conference, no Alabama base runners were put into motion.
Graduate student Sarah Cornell (2-0; 2.68) and freshman Jaala Torrence (2-0; 0.00 ERA) each made their first pitching appearance in conference play when they came in to relieve Kilfoyl. Cornell and Torrenece combined for a scoreless 3.1 innings.
The Crimson Tide was three outs away from clinching its third straight conference series win of the season, but late heroics from the Wildcats allowed Kentucky to capture a 5-4 win to close out the series.
For the second straight game, Kilfoyl (10-2; .82 ERA) took the loss, giving up back-to-back solo home runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and allowing Kentucky to even the game at four a piece. The Wildcats had a walk-off infield single in the eighth inning to close out the game.
The two home runs came from an unlikely place in the lineup: the eighth and ninth batters. These were the first two home runs given up by Kilfoyl this season, which may bring back bad memories for the Alabama faithful. Kilfoyl gave up go-ahead runs in the final frame three times last year, all of which led to Alabama losses.
The Alabama offense found itself on base 14 times throughout the duration of the game and had a leadoff double in three different innings. But the leadoff double only came to hurt Kentucky one of the three times, and Alabama was only able to collect a pair of hits with runners in scoring position on 13 attempts. These hits came off the bats of senior Maddie Morgan and Hemphill.
Woodard was the bright spot in the Alabama lineup. She recorded a career-best three hits in a single game, 3-for-4. However, the rest of the lineup combined for a 4-for-27 mark, .148 batting average.
As in game two, the Kentucky offense was lethal when its leadoff batter reached base on Monday night. It scored in all three innings.
It will be a quick turnaround for the Crimson Tide as the team begins its fourth SEC series of the season on Thursday at 5 p.m. That Alabama-Texas A&M game will be televised on the SEC Network.