Softball vs. ETSU

McKenna Gibson (24) rounds second after hitting a grand slam against East Tennessee State University at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium. Tuesday, Mar. 28, 2023.

After an 11-0 win over No. 17 Virginia Tech on Tuesday, No. 6 Tennessee (30-5, 10-2 SEC) will travel to No. 16 Kentucky (25-10-1, 7-5 SEC) for a three-game series beginning Friday.

The Lady Vols come into Lexington with significant momentum after a run-rule win over Virginia Tech. Head coach Karen Weekly thought that the mentality within the team was necessary to take down the Hokies.

“I think it took us not worrying about the outcomes and being committed to having an attack mentality when we played,” Weekly said. “We let the scoreboard take care of itself.”

The Wildcats won their last series against Ole Miss, taking the Friday and Saturday games before losing on Sunday. Kentucky also won a midweek game against Bellarmine. Signature wins for Kentucky include a neutral site win over No. 10 Washington and a series sweep of Missouri, which received votes in this week’s poll.

Erin Coffel has an on-base percentage of .614, leading the way for Kentucky. She has been walked 42 times, and even though she has started all 36 games, she does not meet the minimum number of at-bats for statistic classification due to her walk totals. Coffel also has 14 home runs on the season.

“In Coffel, they have one of the absolute best hitters in the country,” Weekly said. “Her walks are ridiculous. I know people pitch around her a lot, but she’s a hitter who has a lot of discipline. Once she gets a pitch, she has a lot of power.”

Kayla Kowalik, in comparison, hits for average. She has a season batting average of .434 on the year, which leads all Wildcat batters. Kowalik has also stolen 11 bases in 13 attempts this year.

“Kowalik has been one of the best players in this league since the day she arrived,” Weekly said.

Throughout the lineup, the Wildcats possess plenty of speed. They have stolen 39 bases this season on 48 attempts, good for an 81% conversion rate. Tennessee catcher Giulia Koutsoyanopulos will need to have a strong weekend behind the plate in order to hold Kentucky runners on base.

“They have a lot of speed in their lineup,” Weekly said. “That’s the biggest thing that we need to be ready for. It’s a faster type of offense than most we have played this year.”

If there is any area to critique the Tennessee pitching staff, it is in giving up the free pass. The Lady Vols have walked 58 batters this season and hit 16, which is a good total, but one that Kentucky hitters can take advantage of. The Wildcats have walked 115 times this season, proving that their lineup has the ability to be patient.

The three-game set between Kentucky and Tennessee begins Friday evening in Lexington.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.