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UK softball signee posts historic hit streak

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Garrett Wittels of Florida International has become a household name for college baseball enthusiasts because of a recent 56-game hitting streak, but a Kentucky softball signee posted a similar mark this year that nearly matched Wittels' streak.

In fact, in a sport that is dominated by pitching, the streak might be more impressive than Wittels' ongoing 56-gamer. 

Kentucky signee and London, Ky., product Emily Gaines hit safely in 52 straight games this past season for South Laurel High School, according to a story by Dave Krider of MaxPreps.com. The streak, which easily broke the Kentucky high school state record of 43 straight games, is the second-longest in high school history. 

Not just in Kentucky - in the all-time national record books.

The national record is 73 by Kayla Braud of Marist (Eugene, Ore.), who currently plays for Alabama and was named a first-team All-American this season. Will Gaines be destined for similar greatness when she arrives in Lexington next season?

"Now that her incredible season has come to an end, I am confident that Emily will take everything that she has learned and accomplished during her high school career and make the needed adjustments to the college game that will propel her to the same level of success while competing in the Southeastern Conference," UK head coach Rachel Lawson said.

Gaines' streak ended during an 8-2 playoff victory over Knox Central when she drew three walks and popped out to the second baseman in four trips to the plate. As the streak grew, teams repeatedly pitched around Gaines and sometimes gave her only one or two opportunities to extend her hit streak.

"It was kind of sad," Gaines said of the streak's end, according to the MaxPreps.com story. "But knowin that we were still going to the (region) championship game made it a little easier."

The 5-foot-10 high school star is projected to play infield or outfield at UK and make an immediate impact. She led the Cardinals to a 34-7 record this spring after five seasons at South Laurel. She owns six state records, which includes single-season marks for most hits (83), doubles (27) and home runs in five consecutive games, as well as career records for most doubles (104), hits (349) and, of course, longest hitting streak (52 games), according to MaxPreps.com.

"She's going to rank as the best player our school has ever had," South Laurel head coach Kaye Smith said, according to MaxPreps.com. "I hope young kids learned a lot just from watching her. She is a great role model. She loves the sport and her future is very bright."

In addition to her six state records, Gaines also ranks No. 4 in Kentucky with a .525 batting average, 200 RBI, 24 homes runs and 241.

Although she likely won't pitch for the Cats, she was the Cardinals' No. 1 pitcher the last couple of years. This spring she posted a 19-2 record with a 0.68 earned average. If Lawson needs to call upon her to relieve pitching stars Chanda Bell or Rachel Riley in the circle next year, Gaines owns a 66-9 career record in high school with 454 strikeouts and a 1.04 ERA.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Emily's senior season as a softball fan," Lawson said. "It is every athlete's dream to be able to compete at the level that Emily has enjoyed during 2010. I can confidently say that all of her successes have come to her because she is an incredibly hard worker, she is intelligent and she is one of the most humble individuals that I have had the pleasure of meeting."

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