By LARRY VAUGHT
Having the college softball season halted by the COVID-19 outbreak came as no surprise to Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson.
“March 13, the day it all stopped, was (senior outfielder) Bailey Vick’s birthday. What about that for a present?” Lawson said on WPBK-FM Thursday morning.
“We knew things were lingering but once basketball season ended there was not a part of me that thought our season was not finished. We gathered the team and I told them, ‘Don’t even be hopeful for this to start again. It’s not going to happen.’”
Kentucky was 20-4 when the season ended. Senior Alex Martens led the nation in RBI’s with 47. Sophomore catcher Kayla Kowalik was first nationally with eight triples. Vick was second nationally with a .556 batting average. First baseman Mallory Peyton was first in home runs with 11.
“This team was very interesting. At the beginning of the year not anybody expected much because of the seniors we had graduated. But this team was special. They really played hard and fed off each other,” Lawson said. “I would love to see how the season played out.”
Earlier this week the NCAA granted seniors playing spring sports an extra year of eligibility meaning Martens, Vick and pitchers Autumn Humes and Larissa Spellman, who were a combined 7-0, could all return as some other top seniors across the country have already announced they will do.
However, Lawson noted that not every softball player is on the same type of athletic scholarship as only a select few ever get a full scholarship. Many are also on academic scholarships.
“We try to get you to graduate here in four years while still maintaining excellent academic and athletic performance,” Lawson said. “All four seniors are on track to graduate. We are not sure what they are going to do.”
Vick has already accepted a job. Martens has made plans to enter graduate school.
“Our girls are very loyal. When they make a commitment, they stick by it,” Lawson said. “I don’t know if they will come back or not. Each one has thought about it but these are crazy times. Usually the academic scholarship money is only for four years because they are good students and the assumption is they will graduate in four years.
“It’s just all really messy for them. They love being athletes and students. For it to stop so abruptly just does not feel right. That makes it harder on them all. If I had to guess, though, they are probably all going to go with their original plans (to move on) and I will wish them nothing but the best as they figure all this out.”