A feeling of déjà vu hung around John Cropp Stadium. Just days after the Cats rallied from seven runs down for an incredible victory, it appeared to be the Aggies’ turn for a miracle. But not every comeback story has a happy ending.
Kentucky (19-4, 2-1 SEC) was able to let out a big sigh of relief as it escaped Texas A&M 9-8 on Monday night, notching a series win in their first conference competition of the season.
“It’s a big momentum [boost],” said Meghan Schorman, who picked up her first save of the season. “Taking that over to the next SEC series and just continuing it is huge.”
The Cats did something they hadn’t managed to do over the weekend: begin fast. Autumn Humes – who started the game on the mound for Kentucky – smashed a grand slam to center in the bottom the first.
“They scored two runs I think in both the first games, and they had the momentum the entire time… we were always scratching to come back,” head coach Rachel Lawson said. “So it [was] nice to start this game with the lead.”
The quick start didn’t stop there. Mallory Peyton – who struck out before Humes came to bat in the first – got a second opportunity with the bases loaded the next inning. She worked a 3-0 count, had the green light and took advantage, clobbering a grand slam of her own. The ball sailed over the scoreboard in left-center field, and put the Cats up 9-1 just ten outs into the game.
“She was able to adjust from her first at-bat, and take advantage of what the pitcher gave her in her second,” Humes said.
The score would stay the same until the top of the fifth, where A&M (16-9, 1-2 SEC) would scratch a run across via fielder’s choice. The game would have ended right had the Aggies not scored in the frame. Instead, the stage was set for a wild finale.
Gabi Deters led off the bottom of the fifth with a triple to left center, giving the Cats another chance to end the game. But she was stranded there, and the game moved to the sixth.
Humes retired the first two batters with ease, and appeared to have the final out of the frame when she forced a grounder to third. But Deters’ throw skied over Peyton at first base, spotting A&M a baserunner. Then came a double and a walk, loading the bases for number nine hitter Kyndall Murray. The redshirt freshman had not recorded a hit in her brief career when she stepped in the box. But she got ahead in the count, and sliced a 2-0 pitch over the left field wall to cut the Kentucky lead to three.
“They’re a great hitting team,” Lawson said. “They have a dominant offense right now.”
The Cats mustered only a single in their half of the inning. Miranda Stoddard gave up a walk and a double in the top of the seventh, bringing the tying run to the plate. She retired the next two Aggies before Dani Elder singled down the third base line to make it a 9-8 game. Another single had Stoddard pulled for Schorman, who gave up a third consecutive one to again load the bases for Murray.
She and Schorman battled to a full count, before Murray flied out to Vick in left to finally put a bow on the Kentucky victory.
“Definitely a roller coaster of emotions throughout the whole game,” Humes said. “Sometimes great teams find a way to win when they’re not at their best… I think that’s what we did at least two of the games in this series.”
It was the first time the Cats have hit two grand slams in the same game since a 14-6 victory over New Mexico in 2016.
Kentucky returns to action versus Marshall on Wednesday. First pitch is set for 6:00 p.m. ET on SEC Network Plus.