6:24:01 Softball vs. EKU

Kentucky Wildcat Autumn Humes (7) slides into home plate during the UK vs. Eastern Kentucky game on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, at Cropp Softball Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 6-5. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Kentucky defeated Eastern Kentucky 6-5 in the home opener of the season for the Wildcats Tuesday night, improving to 21-2 on the season.

Kentucky’s fourth game in five days, the Wildcats went into this matchup dropping two of three games this past weekend in Gainesville against No. 5 Florida. 

Although Kentucky has already played 23 games this season, it was the first game for the Wildcats at John Cropp Stadium since March 11, 2020.

“We’re definitely excited to finally play at home after a year,” senior second baseman Lauren Johnson said after the game. 

“We wish we had a better showing,” head coach Rachel Lawson said post-game. “Just to be back in our stadium again, we love it . . . just to be able to get back out there . . . this was the wakeup call we needed.”

The first inning was dull for both teams, but Eastern Kentucky’s freshman center fielder Jaelyn Sanders bombed a three-run home run to right field to begin the second. An RBI single from senior pitcher Grace Baalman gave Kentucky some life, but Kentucky looked sluggish heading into the third.

Miranda Stoddard replaced Baalman at pitcher during the top of the third, swiftly retiring the inning after two quick outs and leading the way for a Lauren Johnson RBI double later in the inning. 

The Wildcats slowly began to creep their way out of the hole they dug for themselves in the second inning.

Another RBI double, this time from junior right fielder Tatum Spangler tied the game at three in the fourth for Kentucky. The Wildcats put themselves in prime position to take the lead, with two runners on base with one out remaining as senior first baseman Mallory Peyton went up to bat, crushing a three-run home run of her own that gave Kentucky the lead, 6-3.

After a quiet fifth inning from both sides, EKU’s Sanders hit her second home run of the game, a two-run homer that cut the Kentucky lead down to one during the sixth. Kentucky’s sixth inning didn’t go as well, as the Wildcats left two runners on base - something that has haunted them all season.

Despite having the 6-5 lead heading into the final inning, Kentucky acted as though their backs were against the wall. Fifth year pitcher Autumn Humes came in to close the game for Kentucky; three batters and three strikeouts later, the Wildcats would leave the inning victorious.

The Wildcats will host the Dayton Flyers in a double header at home this Saturday beginning at 2 p.m. on SECN+.