Cat Scratches
Interactive Twitter Facebook
Head coach Rachel Lawson


Sophomore Sylver Samuel and Senior Lauren Cumbess



In the midst of a record-setting athletic season, Wildcat student-athletes combined for their best academic semester since 2002-03, the first year for which complete grade information is available.

Continuing to raise the bar in the classroom, scholarship Wildcats combined for a remarkable 3.218 cumulative grade-point average for the spring semester. UK Athletics has now posted GPAs of at least 3.0 in four consecutive semesters.

"We have great expectations for our student-athletes, but to get to this spot is special," Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. "I know how hard our kids work every day and I'm so proud to see it pay off like this. This semester is proof of the commitment they have made in the classroom."

**SEE BELOW FOR COMPLETE GRADE INFORMATION BY SPORT**


Of UK's 20 teams, 18 posted GPAs of better than 3.0. The women's swimming and diving team led the way with a 3.728 GPA, closely followed by women's cross country (3.667), softball (3.599), women's tennis (3.546) and rifle (3.517). Men's tennis (3.401) led all UK men's teams.

Women's swimming and diving, softball and men's and women's tennis were among 13 teams to attain 3.0 GPAs while also competing in the championship portions of their schedule. Included in that group was the men's basketball team, which posted a 3.050 cumulative scholarship student-athlete GPA -- 3.111 including non-scholarship players -- and reached the national championship game in April.

"Balancing schoolwork and competition is not easy," Barnhart said. "Excelling in both is an incredible achievement and the fact that some of our top performers on the field are some of our best students is really special."

In total, 325 Wildcats -- scholarship and non-scholarship -- earned GPAs of 3.0 or better, accounting for more than 60 percent of UK's student-athlete population of 508. Seventy-one of those student-athletes had perfect 4.0 GPAs this spring.

"Our student-athletes get the work done, but our coaches and the staff at CATS (Center for Academic and Tutorial Services) are important pieces of the puzzle," Barnhart said. "I want to thank them for everything they do."

With the streak of four straight semesters of GPAs of 3.0 or better, the Wildcats continue to make progress toward the goals set forth in Barnhart's 15 by 15 by 15 Plan. UK ranks No. 14 in the latest national all-sports standings, on pace for the best finish in the 20-year history of the Directors' Cup, and has 11 conference or national championships since November of 2008.
 
spring 2014 gpas.jpg

Wheels down in China for UK volleyball

| No TrackBacks | Add a Comment
After almost 18 hours of travel, the Kentucky volleyball team landed in China on Wednesday.

The Wildcats arrived in Shanghai around 2 p.m. local time (2 a.m. ET) and took a 90-minute bus ride to their hotel at Shanghai University. They then settled in their rooms, ate dinner at their hotel and took in some of the sights around the world's most populous city.

Still adjusting to the time change, the team was surely in need of some sleep before a busy Thursday when the Cats will study at Shanghai University and train at the school's gym. But before bedtime, they took to social media to update their followers on their first hours in China (and their culinary adventures).




Make sure to check UKVBtoChina.com regularly for updates on the trip.

Highlights


Gary Henderson postgame



A.J. Reed's SportsCenter Top 10 play


A.J. Reed allowed one run over five innings of UK's 7-1 SEC Tournament-opening win over Alabama on Tuesday. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics) A.J. Reed allowed one run over five innings of UK's 7-1 SEC Tournament-opening win over Alabama on Tuesday. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics)
HOOVER, Ala. -- Coaches from around the league spent much of Monday's pre-Southeastern Conference Tournament teleconference heaping praise on A.J. Reed.

They called him the clear-cut favorite for national player of the year awards. They gushed over his power at the plate. They marveled at his excellence on the mound.

Anyone who listened and had not seen the junior lefthander in action surely expected a show with Reed set to pitch UK's postseason opener on Tuesday. What they got instead was a workmanlike effort.

Reed was far from dominant against Alabama after starting on Thursday at Georgia, but the result was just the same as in any of Reed's headline-grabbing performances this season: a win for Kentucky and a win for Reed.

"He's on four days' rest, he goes 92 pitches and he clearly didn't have his best stuff, but he competed really well," UK head coach Gary Henderson said.

UK's two-way star battled through five innings pitched, with the Crimson Tide reaching base eight times. Only once did Reed retire the side in order, but only once did Alabama cross the plate against him.

"I could definitely feel that I was on short rest," Reed said. "I definitely got tired more quickly that I normally would on a full week. I was just going out there planning on throwing up zeroes for five or six innings and hopefully we would have a lead at that time."

UK (33-22) had that lead and kept it en route to a 7-1 victory over Alabama (34-22).

Reed repeatedly worked around trouble to pick up his 11th win, most notably in the second through fourth innings.

In the second, Alabama loaded the bases with one out after a walk, a single and an error by UK first baseman Thomas Bernal. Reed, however, coaxed a harmless fly ball to right from Daniel Cucjen and an inning-ending groundout from Crimson Tide leadoff man Mikey White. In the process, he protected a 2-0 lead UK built in the top half of the frame on a sacrifice fly by Matt Reida and run-scoring fielder's choice off the bat of Austin Cousino.

The following inning, Alabama seemed to have a beat on Reed. Georgie Salem singled to right and Wade Wass scored him two batters later with a double into the gap in left-center. Two groundball outs with a walk sandwiched in between ended the threat.

"The key was those two innings right there because they had guys left on all over the place when it's all said and done they got one run in," Henderson said.

In the fourth, Reed allowed back-to-back one-out singles before coaxing an inning-ending double play.

"I think it was just going out there and making pitches," Reed said. "They got some runners on, but just keep the ball down and keep attacking hitters and making a pitch when you need to."

Reed's numbers at the dish -- 1-for-3 with and two walks -- weren't eye-popping considering he's the nation's home-run leader, but he did smash two balls deep into right-center in cavernous Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. The first was caught and the second bounced off the wall for a double.

"A.J.'s the best player in the country and that's pretty well-established," Henderson said.

When Henderson lifted Reed before the sixth inning, he called on first-year junior-college transfer Andrew Nelson. The junior responded and picked up his first save, tossing four shutout innings and allowing two hits and no walks.

"I think I was effective today because I did a good job of getting on top of the ball, on top of the fastball and throwing it down," Nelson said. "I did a good job of letting the ball sink."

By doing so, Nelson positioned his team ideally for the rest of the week. UK advances to face top-seeded Florida in the double-elimination portion of the tournament on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. ET with a stable of arms as fresh as Henderson could have hoped for.

"Anytime you can split a game up, you get five out of the starter and you can finish it with one guy out of the pen, it's a tremendous lift," Henderson said. "But we'll have to wait and see just how much it helps us tomorrow."


Video: Kendra Harrison on SEC hurdles sweep

| No TrackBacks | Add a Comment
A special two weeks are ahead for the Kentucky volleyball team.

Before sunrise on Monday morning, UK student-athletes and coaches began the first leg of a journey to China for a cultural exchange trip. After a long day of travel, the Wildcats will arrive in Shanghai around 2 p.m. local time on Tuesday.

From there, the team has a packed schedule, combining learning, competition and sightseeing.

The Cats will study at Shanghai University, learning about Chinese culture and sharing some of their own as well. They will also play six matches over the course of two weeks against some of the top volleyball teams in the world. And when they aren't in the classroom or on the court, the Cats will be taking in some of China's most famous landmarks, from the Great Wall to Tiananmen Square.

Traveling with the team is UK's Andrew Maske,  an art history professor who specializes in the arts of Asia. Professor Maske spent time with the team for the week leading up to the trip, teaching the team some basics about Chinese philosophy. The team also practiced tai chi and brush calligraphy to prepare to head to the Far East.

Throughout the trip, the Cats will be chronicling their experience through a series of blogs. We will be sharing them here -- as well as other social-media, photo and video content -- on Cat Scratches. We've also created a special URL -- UKVBtoChina.com -- so you can find all of the entries in one place.

To get it started, here are some tweets from right before the team departed and the week of preparation for the trip.




BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Southeastern Conference on Monday announced a 12-year rotation of non-division opponents for SEC football schedules through 2025.

The athletic directors re-confirmed the rotation at their May meeting following the decision to continue playing an eight-game conference schedule, to include six games against division opponents and two games against non-division opponents.   One of the non-division opponents will be a permanent annual opponent and the other non-division opponent will rotate each season.

Monday's announcement pertains to the rotating non-division opponents.  The rotation begins with the 2014 season and concludes with the 2025 season.   Schools will play all permanent opponents on a home and away basis beginning in 2014.

Schools will not play their non-divisional rotating opponents in back-to-back seasons to allow for schools to play all conference members on a more frequent basis.  Also, the rotation of teams in the first six years of the 12-year cycle is not identical to the rotation in the second six years in order to maintain four home games and four road games per season for each school.

Following are the rotating opponents for SEC schools from 2014-25 ("vs." indicates a home game and "at" indicates an away game):

KENTUCKY - 2014 at LSU; 2015 vs. Auburn; 2016 at Alabama; 2017 vs. Ole Miss; 2018 at Texas A&M; 2019 vs. Arkansas; 2020 at Auburn; 2021 vs. LSU; 2022 at Ole Miss; 2023 vs. Alabama; 2024 at Arkansas; 2025 vs. Texas A&M.
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Georgia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State; Away - Florida, Missouri, Tennessee.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

ALABAMA - 2014 vs. Florida; 2015 at Georgia; 2016 vs. Kentucky; 2017 at Vanderbilt; 2018 vs. Missouri; 2019 at South Carolina; 2020 vs. Georgia; 2021 at Florida; 2022 vs. Vanderbilt; 2023 at Kentucky; 2024 vs. South Carolina; 2025 at Missouri.
(Permanent opponents in 2014: Home - Auburn, Mississippi State, Texas A&M; Away - Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

ARKANSAS
- 2014 vs. Georgia; 2015 at Tennessee; 2016 vs. Florida; 2017 at South Carolina; 2018 vs. Vanderbilt; 2019 at Kentucky; 2020 vs. Tennessee; 2021 at Georgia; 2022 vs. South Carolina; 2023 at Florida; 2024 vs. Kentucky, 2025 at Vanderbilt.
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss; Away - Auburn, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Missouri.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

AUBURN - 2014 vs. South Carolina; 2015 at Kentucky; 2016 vs. Vanderbilt; 2017 at Missouri; 2018 vs. Tennessee; 2019 at Florida; 2020 vs. Kentucky; 2021 at South Carolina; 2022 vs. Missouri; 2023 at Vanderbilt; 2024 vs. Florida; 2025 at Tennessee.
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M; Away - Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Georgia.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

FLORIDA
- 2014 at Alabama; 2015 vs. Ole Miss; 2016 at Arkansas; 2017 vs. Texas A&M; 2018 at Mississippi State; 2019 vs. Auburn; 2020 at Ole Miss; 2021 vs. Alabama; 2022 at Texas A&M; 2023 vs. Arkansas; 2024 at Auburn; 2025 vs. Mississippi State.
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, LSU; Away - Georgia, Tennessee, Vanderbilt.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

GEORGIA - 2014 at Arkansas; 2015 vs. Alabama; 2016 at Ole Miss; 2017 vs. Mississippi State; 2018 at LSU; 2019 vs. Texas A&M; 2020 at Alabama; 2021 vs. Arkansas; 2022 at Mississippi State; 2023 vs. Ole Miss; 2024 at Texas A&M; 2025 vs. LSU.
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Auburn; Away - Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

LSU - 2014 vs. Kentucky; 2015 at South Carolina; 2016 vs. Missouri; 2017 at Tennessee; 2018 vs. Georgia; 2019 at Vanderbilt; 2020 vs. South Carolina; 2021 at Kentucky; 2022 vs. Tennessee; 2023 at Missouri; 2024 vs. Vanderbilt; 2025 at Georgia.
(Permanent opponents in 2014: Home - Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State; Away - Arkansas, Auburn, Texas A&M, Florida.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

OLE MISS - 2014 vs. Tennessee; 2015 at Florida; 2016 vs. Georgia; 2017 at Kentucky; 2018 vs. South Carolina; 2019 at Missouri; 2020 vs. Florida; 2021 at Tennessee; 2022 vs. Kentucky; 2023 at Georgia; 2024 vs. Missouri; 2025 at South Carolina.
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State; Away - Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

MISSISSIPPI STATE - 2014 vs. Vanderbilt; 2015 at Missouri; 2016 vs. South Carolina; 2017 at Georgia; 2018 vs. Florida; 2019 at Tennessee; 2020 vs. Missouri; 2021 at Vanderbilt; 2022 vs. Georgia; 2023 at South Carolina; 2024 vs. Tennessee; 2025 at Florida.
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Arkansas, Auburn, Texas A&M; Away - Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Kentucky.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

MISSOURI - 2014 at Texas A&M; 2015 vs. Mississippi State; 2016 at LSU; 2017 vs. Auburn; 2018 at Alabama; 2019 vs. Ole Miss; 2020 at Mississippi State; 2021 vs. Texas A&M; 2022 at Auburn; 2023 vs. LSU; 2024 at Ole Miss; 2025 vs. Alabama. 
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Georgia, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Arkansas; Away - Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

SOUTH CAROLINA
- 2014 at Auburn; 2015 vs. LSU; 2016 at Mississippi State; 2017 vs. Arkansas; 2018 at Ole Miss; 2019 vs. Alabama; 2020 at LSU; 2021 vs. Auburn; 2022 at Arkansas; 2023 vs. Mississippi State; 2024 at Alabama; 2025 vs. Ole Miss.
(Permanent opponents in 2014: Home - Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas A&M; Away - Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

TEXAS A&M - 2014 vs. Missouri; 2015 at Vanderbilt; 2016 vs. Tennessee; 2017 at Florida; 2018 vs. Kentucky; 2019 at Georgia; 2020 vs. Vanderbilt; 2021 at Missouri; 2022 vs. Florida; 2023 at Tennessee; 2024 vs. Georgia; 2025 at Kentucky. 
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss; Away - Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, South Carolina.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

TENNESSEE
- 2014 at Ole Miss; 2015 vs. Arkansas; 2016 at Texas A&M; 2017 vs. LSU; 2018 at Auburn; 2019 vs. Mississippi State; 2020 at Arkansas; 2021 vs. Ole Miss; 2022 at LSU; 2023 vs. Texas A&M; 2024 at Mississippi State; 2025 vs. Auburn. 
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama; Away - Georgia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

VANDERBILT - 2014 at Mississippi State; 2015 vs. Texas A&M; 2016 at Auburn; 2017 vs. Alabama; 2018 at Arkansas; 2019 vs. LSU; 2020 at Texas A&M; 2021 vs. Mississippi State; 2022 at Alabama; 2023 vs. Auburn; 2024 at LSU; 2025 vs. Arkansas.
(Permanent opponents in 2014:  Home - Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ole Miss; Away - Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri.  Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)

Kentucky baseball -- Weekend update (May 19)

| No TrackBacks | Add a Comment
Overall Record: 32-22, 14-16 SEC
Record Last Week: 2-2, 2-1 SEC

Recent Results

Tuesday, May 13 - lost at Murray State, 3-4 (12 innings)
Thursday, May 15 - won at Georgia, 13-0
Friday, May 16 - won at Georgia, 10-0
Saturday, May 17 - lost at Georgia 10-11

Upcoming Schedule (times Eastern)
Tuesday, May 20 * vs. No. 19 [No. 8 seed] Alabama (SEC Tournament; Hoover, Ala.) * 5:30 p.m.

Player of the week nominee
Max Kuhn
6-1 - Jr. - 3B - Zionsville, Ind.
Week Stats: .526 (10-for-19), 6 R, 3 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 1.000 SLG, .591 OB%, 1.000 FLD%

Notes: Junior third baseman Max Kuhn had a prolific week in leading Kentucky to a series win at Georgia to conclude the regular season, batting .526 (10-for-19), with two homers and 10 RBI ... Kuhn added six runs, three doubles, a 1.000 slugging and a .591 on-base percentage ... Kuhn came to the plate 22 times during the week and he reached base safely in 13 appearances ... In the series at Georgia, Kuhn hit .643 (9-for-14) with three doubles, a homer and seven RBI, scoring five runs ... Kuhn started off the week by belting a three-run, two-out, game-tying homer in the seventh inning at Murray State on Tuesday ... In the series opener at UGA, Kuhn went a career-high 4-for-5 with four RBI and a pair of doubles, scoring three runs ... He followed that with a 3-for-4 game with a homer, double, walk and two RBI ... In the series finale on Saturday, Kuhn was 2-for-5 with a RBI ... On the year, Kuhn has hit .327 with 16 doubles, seven homers and 50 RBI, drawing 38 walks with a .441 on-base percentage.

Pitcher of the week nominee
A.J. Reed
6-4 - Jr. - LHP/1B - Terre Haute, Ind.
Week Stats: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 GS, 8 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 3 SO, .120 opp. avg.
Week Stats: .444 (8-for-18), 2 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 BB, 5 SO, .889 SLG, .500 OB%

Notes: Junior two-way star A.J. Reed continued to engrave his name on the national player of the year awards, concluding his regular season as the SEC leader in wins, homers, RBI, slugging and OPS and falling .0002 percentage points shy of the lead in average, narrowly missing the triple crown ... He worked eight shutout, three-hit innings on Thursday at Georgia to clinch a SEC Tournament berth for the Wildcats, their third consecutive trip to Hoover ... Reed also went 4-for-5 at the plate in the pitching performance, driving in three runs ... A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Reed allowed just a two-out walk in the second and eighth innings, and one-out singles in the third and fourth innings, also working around a two-out single in the sixth ... Reed retired 14 of the final 16 hitters he faced, starting the game by retiring five consecutive hitters ... With 10 wins, Reed became the fifth player in school history to reach double-digit wins and the first since Greg Dombrowski went 10-2 during UK's 2006 SEC Championship season ... Reed is now tied with Dombrowski and Matthew Coleman (1987) for third in UK single-season history in wins ... On the year, Reed leads the SEC with his 10-2 mark, owning a 2.11 ERA in 14 innings, working 98 innings and striking out 66 ... In his three-year career, Reed has 17 wins and a 2.88 ERA - the fourth-best in UK history - working 234 innings and striking out 169.

Team notes

The Kentucky baseball team completed its regular season with a four-game road swing, traveling to Murray State on Tuesday, before concluding the stretch at Georgia. UK suffered a 4-3 loss at Murray State in Paducah in 12 innings on Tuesday, before posting a 13-0 win at UGA in the opener and a 10-0 win on Friday to clinch the series, with Georgia avoiding UK's first sweep in Athens in 38 years with a 11-10 win on Saturday.

Kentucky (32-22, 14-16 Southeastern Conference) will return to action in the SEC Tournament, facing No. 19 Alabama, the No. 8 seed, with UK earning the No. 9 seed in its third consecutive berth in the league tourney. First pitch on Tuesday in Hoover, Ala., and the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium is slated for 5:30 p.m. ET. It marks UK's first trip to three consecutive SEC Tournaments since 1991-94, a school-record four straight berths.

The Wildcats suffered a 4-3 loss in 12 innings on Tuesday at Murray State, as the Breds jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Max Kuhn tied up the game with a two-out, three-run homer in the seventh inning. The two teams then traded shutout innings, with UK's Chandler Shepherd, Andrew Nelson and Spencer Jack shining in relief, before the Breds got a two-out walk-off single under the diving glove of UK's rightfielder Storm Wilson.

Kentucky then traveled to Athens and rode another dominating performance on the mound from A.J. Reed in a 13-0 win in the series opener, clinching an SEC Tournament berth. UK got four-hit games from Reed and Kuhn, with Reed working eight shutout, three-hit innings to improve his league-leading wins total to 10. On Friday, UK posted another shutout win (10-0), getting a combined shutout from Kyle Cody and Nelson, with Nelson earning his first career SEC win with the final 4.2 innings. Reed hit another homer in a three-hit game, also adding to his SEC walk total. The series clinching win marked the fourth consecutive series win over Georgia for the Wildcats, with UK's back-to-back shutouts markings its first in two straight league games since 1976. Georgia then jumped out to an 11-3 lead after the seventh inning in the finale, riding a strong start from power-armed freshman Robert Tyler. UK then stormed back with six runs in the eighth inning, including a leadoff homer from Reed and a grand slam from Matt Reida. The Wildcats rallied with a run in the ninth inning and got the tying run to second base with one out, but Reida's 11-pitch at-bat ended in a lineout to centerfield to salvage the series for the Bulldogs.

UK will be facing Alabama for the fourth time in 2014 on Tuesday, with UK suffering a series loss in Tuscaloosa, Ala., to open league play from March 14-16 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. UK suffered a quirky loss in the opener of the series, with the Tide getting a strong start from Spencer Turnbull. Reed, who suffered the hard luck loss on the mound, had his game-tying homer robbed by outfielder Ben Moore - his Cape Cod League teammate - before coming up with the bases loaded and no outs in the eighth inning of a 1-0 game. Reed lined into a triple play to end the threat, keeping the Tide in front for the series-opening win. In the middle game of the series, Chandler Shepherd pitched a gem as UK posted a 7-2 win, with Cousino and Micheal Thomas belting homers. In the rubber match, UK took a 3-1 lead into the ninth inning, getting two outs and owning a runner on first base, before Austen Smith belted a game-tying homer over the leftfield fence and Nelson was going for a complete game in his first career SEC start. UK worked into the 10th inning before shortstop Mikey White hit a walk-off homer to give the Tide a 5-3 win and the series victory.

Alabama leads the all-time series with Kentucky, 59-37, including a 4-2 mark in neutral site games.

In the last meeting, UK swept the Tide in Lexington in 2012. UK got a 4-2 win in the series opener, with two runs in the second and third innings and a strong outing from Taylor Rogers and Alex Phillips for the win and save, respectively. Thomas McCarthy led UK at the plate with a two-RBI double in the second inning. The Wildcats then swept a doubleheader on Saturday vs. Alabama, with UK posting a 7-6 comeback win in the first game, rallying from down 5-1 with a five-run bottom of the seventh inning. After Bama got the run back in the eighth, UK answered the winning run, with Austin Cousino getting hit by a leadoff pitch and scoring on a bases-loaded walk from Michael Williams. Jerad Grundy worked five innings and allowed just one run, with Trevor Gott getting the fin in relief. In the series finale, UK posted an 8-1 win to sweep the Tide, getting homers from Cousino, Williams and Brian Adams. Corey Littrell worked 6.2 innings for the win in the finale, with Sam Mahar getting a save - his second of that week - with 2.1 innings, allowing just two singles. In the 2011 meeting in Tuscaloosa, Alabama swept UK with a 4-0 win in the opener, a 6-5 win in the middle game and a 8-3 win in the finale that saw UK standout righty Alex Meyer take a line drive off the shin that forced him to miss several weeks.

The Wildcats have hit .304 as a team in 2014, with a .457 slugging and a .402 on-base percentage. UK has belted 104 doubles, 10 triples, 47 homers and scored 430 runs, stealing 60 bases. On the mound, UK has a 4.04 team ERA in 54 games, owning nine saves in 481.2 innings, allowing 509 hits and 167 walks, striking out 335. Defensively, UK has a .968 fielding percentage, turning 51 double plays and allowing 60 steals.

Individually, UK has been led by A.J. Reed, who came up .0002 percentage points in batting average shy of winning the SEC triple crown in the 2014 regular season. Reed finished with a .359 mark in 54 games, with 14 doubles, one triple, 23 homers and 70 RBI, leading the nation in homers, slugging (.788) and (1.280) OPS. Leftfielder Ka'ai Tom has hit .339 with 11 doubles, two homers and 33 RBI, stealing 13 bases. Third baseman Max Kuhn has batted .327 with 16 doubles, seven homers and 50 RBI, with first baseman Thomas Bernal owning a .320 average with eight doubles, one homer and 26 RBI. Rightfielder Storm Wilson has a .316 average with six doubles, four homers and 19 RBI, with centerfielder Austin Cousino hitting .305 with 14 doubles, four triples, four homers, 33 RBI and 15 steals. Catcher Micheal Thomas owns a .303 average with eight doubles, one triple, seven homers and 43 RBI. Second baseman JaVon Shelby has a .259 average with six doubles, two triples, four homers and 21 RBI, with outfielder Kyle Barrett hitting .259 with five doubles, one homer, 18 RBI and 10 steals. Shortstop Matt Reida has a .235 average with seven doubles, four homers and 33 RBI, stealing five bases and sporting a .346 on-base percentage.

Last weekend, UK used the rotation of Reed (10-2, 2.11 ERA), Kyle Cody (3-0, 2.53 ERA) and Zack Brown (0-1, 5.85 ERA). Reed has worked 14 series openers, tossing 98 innings, allowing 27 walks and 66 strikeouts. Cody owns 16 games and four starts, tossing 32 innings with five saves, striking out 15. Brown made his first career SEC start on Saturday and has appeared in 17 games with three starts, tossing 20 innings. Junior Chandler Shepherd (5-3, 3.55 ERA) has worked in 13 games with nine starts, with Dylan Dwyer (5-3, 5.46 ERA) appearing in 14 games with 10 starts.

In relief, UK has been paced by Spencer Jack (3-1, 1.34 ERA) who has three saves in a staff-high 24 relief outings. He has worked 33.2 innings, allowing 24 hits and seven walks, striking out 28. Zach Strecker (0-1, 4.11 ERA), Logan Salow (2-3, 5.16 ERA), Taylor Martin (0-0, 6.00 ERA), Ryne Combs (1-2, 6.55 ERA) and Sam Mahar (1-0, 7.53 ERA) have each appeared in double-digit games in relief.

Sylver Samuel's inside-the-park home run resulted in UK's first run of a 10-1 win that clinched a Super Regional berth. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics) Sylver Samuel's inside-the-park home run resulted in UK's first run of a 10-1 win that clinched a Super Regional berth. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics)
The Kentucky softball team's bats had been held at bay for much of the weekend at the NCAA Regional, including in a 2-1 loss in the first game of Sunday's regional final.

That all changed in a win-or-go-home game two.


The Wildcats exploded for 10 runs in the first three innings, including six in the second to down DePaul, 10-1, and advance to their third NCAA Super Regional in the last four seasons.

DePaul had already lost once in the double-elimination tournament, so the Wildcats needed just one win Sunday in two chances. The Blue Demons prevailed in game one, 2-1 in 10 innings, to force a second game, and that's when the UK bats came up bigger than ever.

"Our hitters decided to put the team on their back and go out and score runs," UK head coach Rachel Lawson said. "In the other games, I think (Kelsey) Nunley did a good job of putting the team on her back and I thought we had good defensive play but I think that the mindset of the team offensively was we need to get this done."

UK advanced to the regional final with an unblemished 2-0 record, with a 2-0 win over Ohio on Friday and a 2-1 win over James Madison on Saturday. In the two victories, Kentucky rode Nunley's stellar pitching arm while scoring just enough runs to win.

After game one's 10-inning loss, the Wildcats had their backs against the wall and knew the offense had to come through in order to earn a ticket to Super Regionals.

"Coach just basically talked to us and said it was time to get it done," sophomore Christian Stokes said. "This is make-it-or-break-it, this is your opportunity right here, just go out here and have fun and take hard cuts."

In the bottom of the first inning of game two, Sylver Samuel got things going for the UK offense with an inside the park home run. The first homer of Samuel's career was a grounder up the middle through a drawn-in outfield that rolled all the way to the center field wall.

By the time the DePaul center fielder, who was playing in shallow left center, could get to the ball, Samuel was nearing third and thinking of home. Samuel circled the bases and a throw was never made to try and get her out at home plate.

"There were a lot of holes and a lot of people had shifted so I was just trying to get something started," Samuel said. "I was thinking more about making sure my timing was right and everything and finding a hole. I saw people still running when I was going to second. I saw that they hadn't gotten to the ball yet so I saw (Kristine) Himes running and I was like, 'Well, she's waving me,' so I just went for it." 

Samuel's home run was the only run of the first inning, but it sent momentum and confidence into Kentucky's dugout.

"That was huge for our team," Stokes said. "We needed something that would get our momentum going and I think that was a huge at-bat. We scored a run on one hit, so that is huge. I think that got it started and then hits were going all around."

Nunley retired the side in order in the top of the second inning, and it was time for the UK bats to get back to work in a big way.

With two outs and the bases empty, the big inning almost didn't happen, but senior Emily Jolly reached on an error. Krystal Smith followed with a single and sophomore Ansley Smith walked to set up Stokes with the bases loaded.

Stokes sent a ball deep to left field that bounced off the top of the wall for a double. Just a foot short of clearing the fence, the bases emptied and gave UK a 4-0 lead.

"I didn't feel too much pressure," Stokes said. "When I got up there and I was on deck I knew that we had to get it done right here because this was a huge opportunity for us. I came up in the first game and didn't get the job done so I knew I wanted to help out my team and get it done on the second chance."

The runs didn't stop, however, as Samuel tripled to score Stokes and, after sophomore Nikki Sagermann walked, junior Griffin Joiner doubled down the left field line to score two more.

After UK scored a total of five runs in the previous 24 innings, the offense had just rattled off seven in the span of two innings.

With the hits, five of them in the first two innings, came momentum for both the offense and Nunley in the circle.

"I think the momentum definitely shifted towards us once we started getting hits," Samuel said. "That picked us up a lot and I think it just got our offense rolling and I think it gave Kelsey (Nunley) confidence that she didn't have to put the team on her back as much."

Along with the Wildcats' ability to make adjustments at the plate in the second game, the key to their offensive success in the second game was the fact that they moved on quickly from the first game's loss.

A team with four sophomores in the starting lineup, including the first three in the order, was able to forget about game one and quickly shift its focus to getting key hits in game two.

"You just have to move on," Lawson said. "You have to bounce back if you want to keep going. The nice thing about our team is that they love softball. They are able to adapt, adjust and move on. What we lack in certain offensive numbers, I think we make up for in terms of mental toughness and sure grit."

That mental toughness and grit is what has helped UK to a school-record 47 wins in 2014, the program's first-ever trip to the SEC Tournament Championship game and now a second consecutive NCAA Super Regional appearance.

The Wildcats, seeded 14th in the 64-team NCAA Tournament field, head to Los Angeles next weekend to face third-seeded UCLA in a best-of-three series.

To advance to its first Women's College World Series in team history, Kentucky will need the hot bats that came to life in Sunday's second game. That, and more of the toughness and grit that got them there in the first place.

Recent Comments

  • lesley: good luck cats read more
  • Berdj J. Rassam: The Cats had a good season and went as far as they could. read more
  • Wildcat Jack: As proud as ALWAYS to be a Life Alum... Goooooooo, CATS! read more
  • charles nichols: Add points for BBN First for donating to the University on a consistent basis. read more
  • Larry: Good job UK and glad to see that Coach Cal will be here for the foreseeable future. Any chance you read more
  • Wachs89: This video does a excellent job of capturing the spirit of UK basketball from the team, the anouncer, the video read more
  • Dean Geary: Walt is a fantastic athletic trainer and a fantastic person. I learned a lot under Walt while at UK have read more
  • Mark Pope: GREAT YEAR !!! Missing my 4 talented seniors already.. Went to Knoxville & did OUR thing !! Best COACH the read more
  • Roger Hayes, Sr.: During the renovation process, could someone look into the possibility of creating a "pass through" in the original end wall read more
  • jacob: YAhoo. Getting SEC Network now...Charter better start carrying it or I am going to drop them. read more