AP NEWS

No. 13 UK tops Marshall, 9-4

March 21, 2019
Marshall's Abigail Tolbert pitches against Kentucky during a NCAA softball game on Wednesday at Dot Hicks Field in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — As No. 13 University of Kentucky showed Wednesday afternoon, there is a fine line between success and failure in softball.

The Wildcats used a seven-run third inning and never looked back, thwarting Marshall University’s rally attempts in a 9-4 win over the Thundering Herd in front of an announced crowd of 1,000 spectators at Dot Hicks Field.

“Facing a team like Kentucky is something we want to do,” Marshall head coach Megan Smith said. “We want to face teams like that because facing the best is just going to make us better. It’s going to test us and it’s going to show us some areas that maybe we need to work on or improve on. The great thing about our team is that we weren’t intimidated. They put some runs up and we fought and clawed back. That’s good to see.”

Kentucky (21-7) used a two-run home run by Abbie Cheek to jump out to an early advantage and put the pressure on Marshall (19-8), but it was the third inning when the floodgates really opened for the Wildcats, who put up seven runs in the frame.

Making the most of opportunities seemed to be the theme of the day as Kentucky scored three runs with two outs in the third inning to take an advantage the Herd was unable to overcome.

While the final margin was five runs, the game was anything but a blowout.

Kentucky jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but the Herd did not pack it in and allow the Wildcats to run away with the win.

Marshall got a solo home run by Aly Harrell to get on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third inning and added three runs in the fourth inning — two on an RBI single by Briana Daiss — to get back within five.

However, missed opportunities in the next two frames kept the Herd from getting within striking distance.

Katie Adams reached third base with no outs in the fifth inning, but was

stranded and Marshall left the bases loaded in the sixth inning.

While Smith was disappointed with the outcome, she was not disappointed with the resolve of her team as it battled throughout.

Abbie Tolbert came in to relieve starting pitcher Kailee Williamson in the third inning and, after a rough beginning, proceeded to shut the Wildcats down over the final four innings.

Shortstop Sierra Huerta was largely responsible for that when she leaped high in the air to snag a liner off the bat of Alex Martens with the bases loaded in the top of the fifth inning.

“It would’ve been really easy after that first inning to dial it in and coast and our team didn’t,” Smith said. “We had a rough inning in the third, but we fought through it. When they made a switch at pitcher, we were ready to pounce and that was good to see.

“Obviously, I’d have liked a better outcome. I would’ve loved to have not had the seven-run inning happen, but other than that, our team fights and that shows a lot of heart, a lot of grit.”

The game featured an odd flow with 35 players seeing action -- 20 for Kentucky and 15 for Marshall.

Kentucky’s Jenny Schaper was the lone player with multiple hits. She finished 2-for-5. Grace Ballman, who started the game in the pitching circle, also had a two-run single in the third inning for Kentucky.

Williamson took the loss for the Herd, her first of the season.

She is now 6-1.