Aggies fall to No. 10 Kentucky in SEC Opener

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – On the opening day of SEC action, the Texas A&M softball team fell to No. 10 Kentucky 11-9, Saturday afternoon at John Cropp Stadium. The Aggies fall to 15-8 and 0-1 in SEC play, while Kentucky improves to 18-3 and 1-0 in the conference.

The sophomore threat of Makinzy Herzog, Morgan Smith and Haley Lee got Texas A&M on the board first. Herzog extended her hitting streak to 12 games with a single up the middle. She would move to third on a single by Morgan Smith after the right fielder bobbled the ball. Lee came through for the Aggies with her 15th RBI of the season with a flare over the Kentucky third baseman to score Herzog. Jourdyn Campbell loaded the bases with a single up the middle and Kelbi Fortenberry registered her ninth RBI of the year, ripping one up the middle to plate Morgan Smith.

Kentucky answered in the bottom of the frame with one run after Kayla Kowalik walked, stole second, advanced to third on a sac bunt and scored on a Rylea Smith RBI single.

The Aggies would add to their lead with a six-run inning in the top of the third, highlighted by Dani Elder’s grand slam. Morgan Smith and Payton McBride both walked to get things going for A&M. Campbell reached on a throwing error by the UK shortstop and Morgan Smith would run home to score. Fortenberry continued to have a day at the plate with her second RBI of the afternoon with a single up the middle. Fortenberry scored Jatzlau, who pinch ran for McBride and the bases would be loaded for Dani Elder. The junior came up in a big way, with her first home run of the year, clearing the bases to put the Aggies on top 8-1.

In the bottom of the third, Kowalik would once again get on base with a leadoff walk and Bailey Vick singled with a bunt. Martens belted her eighth homer of the season, cutting the Wildcats’ deficit in half, 8-4.

The Texas A&M bats continued to stay hot in the top of the fourth, as Lee hit a solo shot to centerfield for her third home run of the season, putting the Aggies on top 9-4.

Kentucky didn’t let up after Miranda Stoddard walked and Bailey Vick singled to right side. Martens would come through for her team with her second three-run home run of the afternoon to pull within two, 9-7 after four complete.

The Wildcats’ Vick got things started for Kentucky with a single to left field in the bottom of the sixth. A walk and hit by pitch would load the bases for UK’s Lauren Johnson. With one out and the infield in, Johnson hit a flare over third base to score Vick. Kentucky would take the lead after Autumn Humes singled to left center, bringing in two runs. A&M’s Payton McBride entered the game in relief and UK’s Emmy Blane loaded the bases once again after reaching on an Aggie fielding error. A sac fly by Miranda Stoddard put the Wildcats on top, 11-9.

A&M had chances in the top of the seventh after loading the bases, but were unable to get anything across.

Kendall Potts was saddled with the loss to move to 5-4 on the season. The senior scattered 10 hits on 11 runs, 10 of which were earned, while striking out four.

KEY INNINGS

T1 | Herzog ripped a single up the middle. Morgan Smith singled to right field and Herzog advanced to third on the fielding error. Lee scored Herzog with a flare over the Kentucky third baseman. Campbell moved Lee and Morgan Smith to second and third with a single up the middle. Fortenberry plated Morgan Smith with a single up the middle. A&M 2, UK 0

B1 | Kayla Kowalik walked and stole second. She advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Bailey Vick. Rylea Smith singled up the middle to score Kowalik. A&M 2, UK 1

T3 | Walks to Morgan Smith and McBride put runners on first and second for Campbell. Madi Jatlzau pinch ran for McBride. Campbell reached on an error by the UK shortstop, as Jatzlau advanced to third and Morgan Smith would score. Fortenberry hit a shot up the middle to plate Jatzlau. With the bases loaded, Dani Elder hit a grand slam. A&M 8, UK 1

B3 | Kayla Kowalik walked and Bailey Vick reached on a bunt. Alex Martens homered to centerfield. A&M 8, UK 4

T4 | Haley Lee hit a solo home run to centerfield. A&M 9, UK 4

B4 | Miranda Stoddard walked and advanced to second on a Bailey Vick single. Alex Martens hit her second three-run shot of the afternoon. A&M 9, UK 7

B6 | Vick singled to left field and advanced to third on a Renee Abernathy groundout to first base. Martens walked and Mallory Peyton was hit by a pitch. Lauren Johnson singled to left field, plating Vick. Autumn Humes singled to left center to score both Martens and Peyton. Emmy Blane reached on an A&M fielding error and Miranda Stoddard had a sac fly, as Johnson would score. UK 11, A&M 9

Top Offensive Players:

Dani Elder | 2-for-4, HR, 1 R, 4 RBI

Haley Lee | 2-for-3, 2 H, HR, 2 RBI, 1 R

Kelbi Fortenberry | 2-for-4 | 2 H, R RBI, 1 R

Pitching Breakdown:

Kendall Potts (5-4) – 5.1 IP, 11 R, 10 H, 10 ER, 4 SO, 5 BB

Payton McBride – 0.2 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 SO, 0 BB

WHAT THEY SAID

Head Coach Jo Evans

On the fight the team showed…

“I thought we did a great job in attacking early. We’re just such a better team when we can score in the first inning and put some pressure on them. We come out in the first and score two runs on them. The thing Kentucky did well today was that they answered back every time we scored. We got ourselves a sizeable lead and we have to be able to hang on to that. You have to be able to pitch with a lot of confidence and not be afraid of anything. Offensively, I thought our kids did a really nice job and fought hard. We had the one base running mistake when we try to steal third, and that’s just a freshman mistake, which ended up costing us a run.”

On Dani Elder at the plate today…

“I’m really excited for her. She comes out 2-for-4 today and gets four RBI. The kid’s playing really well and doing some good things on defense for us too. I’m really happy for her. It doesn’t feel too big for her and the game hasn’t sped up for her either. She’s just out there playing it the way she’s supposed to play it. We always talk about your golden opportunities and what you’re going to do with them. Dani has come in and made the very most of hers and has really played well. Our ball club is going to be really excited for Dani and what’s she’s doing. She’s really an unselfish player and for her to step up in the bottom of the order is huge for us.”

ON DECK

The Aggies return to action for game two against Kentucky on Sunday at 6 p.m. (CT) at John Cropp Stadium.