WKU Softball came back from a rough start to defeat the UAB Blazers 7-6 in a thrilling Friday night showdown.
The Blazers (20-14, 8-2 C-USA) are ranked first in the west division of Conference USA while the Hilltoppers (26-7, 10-3 C-USA) are ranked first in the east.
The Blazer’s starting pitcher, junior Sarah Cespedes, threw four innings, allowing two runs on five hits before freshman Olivia Valbak stepped in for three innings to allow five runs on four hits.
WKU put three pitchers in the game with fifth-year senior Shelby Nunn earning the start, tossing two innings while giving up six runs off six hits. Nunn was relieved by redshirt freshman Kelsie Houchens, who threw 2.1 innings and gave up zero runs on two hits. Junior Katie Gardner closed out the game, pitching the final 2.2 innings and securing the win in the bottom of the seventh.
The Blazers started the game hot in the first inning, putting up a quick five runs. The first two came off a bases-loaded, two-run RBI single from senior Jolie Readeaux. Freshman Lauren Brock followed with a two-run RBI double before freshman Lindsey Smith put UAB up 5-0 with an RBI single.
In the top of the second, junior Taylor Sanders put WKU on the board after hitting a solo home run, making the score 5-1. The Blazers answered, loading the bases quickly with no outs before tacking on their sixth run of the night on junior Sierra Frazier’s RBI sacrifice fly to put UAB up 6-1. Nunn got out of the game with a double play.
After a quick third inning, the fourth inning brought more excitement. Fifth-year senior Bailey Curry smashed a solo home run to make the score 5-2. The Blazers did not answer this time, going down in order.
WKU finally found some momentum in the fifth inning. WKU loaded the bases without a hit before senior Jordan Ridge reached on an error to score a runner from third base before Sanders crushed a three-run RBI double to tie the game at 6-6. UAB put two runners on base but didn’t capitalize on the opportunity.
After a lackluster sixth inning, The Hilltoppers completed their comeback. WKU put two runners on with one out before Curry came through in the clutch, hitting an RBI double to put her team up 7-6.
The Blazers put themselves in position to tie with a two-out triple in the bottom of the seventh, but Gardner ended the game on a pop-up.
The series against the Hilltoppers and the Blazers will continue Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. in Birmingham, Alabama.
Softball Reporter Lynda Eernisse can be reached at [email protected]