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Smith’s homer and walk-off hit steers Kentucky past Alabama

Wildcats pick up 5-4 win over Alabama to clinch series with Tide
Kentucky's Rylea Smith (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
Kentucky's Rylea Smith (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)(Ben McKeown | AP Images)
Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 11:42 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sophomore outfielder Rylea Smith hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the seventh inning and had a walk-off infield single in the bottom of the eighth to steer No. 7 Kentucky back from a four-run deficit in the sixth inning to stun No. 3 Alabama and capture the series over the Crimson Tide with a 5-4 win in extra innings on Monday night at John Cropp Stadium.

Alabama intentionally walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning with one out as Smith approached the plate in a 4-4 game, as Stoddard and Abernathy were sent to the basepaths. With Tatum Spangler, who led off the inning with a walk, standing on third, Smith sent a high chopper to the left side that shortstop Claire Jenkins played well and threw to catcher Bailey Hemphill at the dish. Spangler was a forceout with the bases loaded, but slid to Hemphill’s left and Spangler’s left foot beat the throw to walk off the game for Kentucky.

With the win on Monday night, Kentucky takes the series with No. 3 Alabama, its second-straight series win over the Crimson Tide. UK is now 3-3 in Southeastern Conference play, having played No. 5 Florida and No. 3 Alabama with a nationally-ranked Tennessee team on the horizon next weekend in Knoxville. UK’s season record improves to 25-4 and the third-ranked Tide falls to 26-4 on the year and 6-3 in SEC action.

Alabama scored a run on a RBI double in the top of the third inning, and padded its lead to 4-0 with a three spot in the top of the sixth inning. Going into the bottom of the sixth inning, Kentucky got two runs on a monstrous home run off the bat of Erin Coffel to score two and cut the Alabama lead in half before back-to-back homers by Renee Abernathy and Rylea Smith in the bottom of the seventh inning tied the game.

Autumn Humes picked up the win in the circle for Kentucky, upping her record to 12-1 on the year. Lexi Kilfoyl suffered the loss, as she falls to 10-2.

Kentucky will play host to in-state foe Morehead State on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET at John Cropp Stadium. The game will be shown live on the SEC Network, ESPN3 and the ESPN app with Tiffany Greene and former Tennessee All-American Madi Shipman on the call.