Kentucky Softball Head Coach Rachel Lawson has said many times that it takes a good pitch and good defense to win the playoffs. Her team proved it Sunday at the Lexington Regional of the NCAA Women’s Softball Tournament.
Needing to beat Notre Dame twice, Kentucky got some stellar throwing efforts from Autumn Humes in the first game and Grace Baalman in the second game to sweep the Irish and move on to the Super Regional.
Kentucky won Game 1 7-0 behind Humes, then shut out the Irish 4-0 in Game 2 behind Baalman. It was 14 innings of white softball against a team that scored 12 runs against Kentucky in five innings on Saturday.
When asked if she had ever had such good pitchers in such a pressure situation, Lawson’s response was straightforward.
“No, never,” she said.
Humes went the distance in Game 1, pitching seven innings and allowing just three hits. She didn’t walk or put out a batter in the game, relying on her defense behind her.
Lawson was impressed with Humes on Sunday.
“She was amazing. She was in total command,” Lawson said. “She shifted gears whenever she wanted, the ball really jumped when she wanted to throw. She created match problems for them. Today she trusted her stuff and ordered everything she had. launched then she unbalanced them. “
In Game 2, Baalman pitched the seventh inning before Humes got a pair of strikeouts, and then Baalman came back to get the game final. In total, Baalman pitched six innings and a third, allowing only one hit and one walk while striking out two.
Lawson had praise for Baalman.
“She was also incredibly efficient.”
The Cats also played outstanding defense in both games, with big plays from Emmy blane and Renee abernathy, among others. The pitchers were grateful for their defense.
“Our defense was totally flying and making plays and even plays that they shouldn’t be making,” Humes said. “I felt really confident in the way they were playing and it gave me more peace on the mound. And when your attack increases the numbers they did today, it makes my job a lot easier.”
“It’s a real boost of confidence when you have a ground that you think is going to be hit and you see someone catch it,” Baalman said. “The game on the field this weekend was unreal.”
Voltigeur Tatum spangler knows that playing well behind their pitchers is very important to the Cats’ defense.
“The grass is our region and we have to do whatever we can to protect it,” Spangler said. “It means using your body and doing whatever you can do.”
Overall, it was a total performance all day, according to Lawson.
“Today we dominated all phases of the match. We pitched well, we did a good job offensively and overall we played pretty good defense. I was really impressed with how we came out and dominated from the first set of the first game and kept going until the end. the second game. “
With the win, Kentucky moved on to the Super Regional to face Alabama. The Cats will need an exceptional pitch and defense to continue against one of the best teams in the country.