RedHawks fall to Kentucky in NCAA opener
Early lead not enough as Wildcat offense erupts
By MIKE SMITH
EVANSTON, ILL -- After trailing Miami for four innings, No. 23 Kentucky exploded for nine runs in two innings to post a 9-1 victory over MU Friday in NCAA Regional Tournament action at Drysdale Field.
With the loss, Miami (37-19) will meet Eastern Illinois (34-20) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET. The Panthers fell to tournament No. 12 seed Northwestern 2-0 in Friday's second game at Evanston.
Briana Pratt (30-11) took the loss for Miami, going 5.1 innings. She allowed 10 runs (7 earned) on 10 hits. Laurelai DePew relieved Pratt and coaxed one out before surrendering a solo homer that resulted in a run-rule ending.
The RedHawks came into Friday . . .
. . . ranked third in among NCAA Division I teams in homers, but it was UK who played long ball. Kentucky launched four homers in the decisive fifth and sixth innings. Two of those came off the bat of Taylor Ebbs, who pulled the Wildcats out of a 1-0 deficit with her three-run shot in the fifth.
Like Miami, UK recorded just two hits through the first four frames, but Kentucky stroked nine hits after that -- four of them home runs.
MIAMI SCORES FIRST
Allie Cummins. who had one of two MU hits and also one of two RedHawk walks, got Miami started in the first inning with a double down the left field line. She moved to third on a ground out and came home on Karli Spaid's flyout to center.
The Wildcats threatened in their half, loading the bases on one hit and a pair of walks as Pratt adjusted to a tight strike zone. She got out of the inning unscathed, however, with a flyout to left.
Miami threatened with two outs in the third, getting a walk to Cummins and single over shortstop by Blaska. Spaid, however, was retired on a flyout to left center.
CONTACT BETTER THAN RESULTS
Through three innings, Miami batters had been making pretty good contact, even if the hits weren't falling. Things began to change in the fourth when Kennedy Sullivan replaced starter Stephanie Schoonover on the mound for Kentucky. The latter allowed no runs, no hits and just one walk while facing nine batters over her three innings of work.
Miami was clinging to its 1-0 lead in the fifth when Kate Kobayashi opened with a walk. After a strikeout, Banks hit a grounder over second that UK turned into an inning-ending double play.
Kentucky went to work in its half, putting two runners on with one out on a single and error. Ebbs then went opposite-way with a homer to left. It was an omen of things to come. Although MU got out of the inning without further damage, the Wildcats soon began to mix their speed with power.
Kentucky opened the sixth with an infield single to short. After a force out, Tobias reached on a bunt hit. Erin Coffel brought them both home on a blast that landed on the roof of a building beyond the left field fence. After another infield single, Ebbs lined her second home run off the side of the building.
Pratt had thrown 102 pitches by that point, so with the RedHawks down 8-1, MU turned to sophomore Laurelai DePew. She retired one batter on a popup to second before Grace Lorsung ended the game with a homer to left.
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.