LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Kentucky softball team entered the NCAA Tournament's Lexington Regional as the top seed and the favorite to advance to the Super Regionals.
But, facing Northwestern in the regional's opener on Friday afternoon, Kentucky fell behind in the top of the second inning when Northwestern's Maeve Nelson hit a solo home run down the left field line, giving the visiting Wildcats a 1-0 advantage.
Falling behind seemed to spark the homestanding Wildcats. Kentucky got aggressive at the plate and on the basepaths on their way to three runs in the bottom of the second inning.
Kentucky outlasted Northwestern 3-2 on Friday afternoon at John Cropp Stadium. By doing so, the blue-clad Wildcats stay in the winner's bracket, where they will face the winner of Friday's Notre Dame-Miami (Ohio) game. And it was the bottom of the second inning, along with the pitching of senior Autumn Humes, that got them there.
UK head coach Rachel Lawson thought the Nelson home run in the top of the second lit a fire under her team.
"I think the home run kind of sparked us and then we got after it," Lawson said. "One of the things that I love about this team is that they've got a big fight mentality, so I think what happened is, when they scored the run, it was like, OK, we've got to answer and that's exactly what happened in that inning. I think we answered back, I think we put pressure on their defense and they ended up making some defensive miscues."
Kentucky got a pair of runs on a Rylea Smith single up the middle to take a 3-1 lead. Smith would later score on a Kayla Kowalik fielder's choice to give UK a 3-1 lead.
Humes admitted that the Cats were motivated by the home run she allowed.
"Yeah, I don't ever want to let the other team score first but definitely, I think that had something to do with the way that we performed in the bottom of the second inning," Humes said. "I definitely felt more motivated to get up there and get the job done at the plate and on the mound."
Once Kentucky took the lead, Humes took care of business. She allowed just one earned run in the game, allowing six hits and a walk while striking out four.
Humes admitted she felt more comfortable on the mound after the home run.
"Oddly enough, after the home run was hit, I felt better," Humes said. "I guess I felt more motivated to go after the hitters and give them my best pitches."
Lawson was impressed with Humes' effort on Friday.
"I thought Autumn was tremendous on the mound," Lawson said. "They started off with that big home run and she was able to calm everything down and when they would put people on base, and they had quite a few, she was able to come up with some big pitches. I thought that was pretty much the key to the game today."
One big inning and Humes' pitching has Kentucky in a solid spot after one day of play in this year's regional.