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Complete effort gets softball back on winning track with convincing win over WKU

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Freshman Nikki Sagermann blasted her first career home run in the Wildcats' 7-1 victory over in state rival Western Kentucky. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Freshman Nikki Sagermann blasted her first career home run in the Wildcats' 7-1 victory over in state rival Western Kentucky. (UK Athletics)
Coming off a weekend during which the University of Kentucky softball team was swept by LSU, including the final two games of the series in which the Cats felt like they had in their grasp, UK got back on the winning side of things with a 7-1 victory over in-state rival Western Kentucky.

The Wildcats excelled all over the field Tuesday evening as the bats came out hot and the pitching was there to keep the Hilltoppers at bay. Kentucky outmatched a WKU team that came into the game sporting a 15-8 record but perhaps more impressively a 5-1 conference record including two wins over top-25 Louisiana-Lafayette.

Overall it was an all-around performance from the Cats and had head coach Rachel Lawson pleased about what she saw out of her team.

"I thought we had good performances on the mound by Lauren (Cumbess) and by (Kelsey) Nunley and then I thought our outfield played great and then offensively it was nice to generate some more offense," Lawson said.

UK wasted no time getting started early scoring three runs in the bottom of the second inning to put Western Kentucky on its heels.

Freshman Nikki Sagermann showed off some of the power Lawson has talked about by giving the Cats a 1-0 advantage with her first career home run. Sagermann has proven her ability to produce at the plate early in her career, coming into the game hitting at a .349 clip on the year, but Lawson has expressed how much more she can provide to UK once her power numbers begin to show.

And tonight she finally got the "monkey off her back" with her first blast of the year.

"Well when she crossed the plate she was like, 'Oh finally,' " Lawson said. "The reason she was recruited is because she is a strong girl and can hit the ball pretty hard. It was nice to see her get that one finally under her belt and hopefully she will be able to take that into tomorrow's game."

After Western Kentucky cut the Wildcats' deficit to 3-1 with a run in the top of the fourth, the Wildcats put the game out of reach in the bottom of the fifth with four runs to extend their lead to 7-1.

Kentucky had a plethora of key situational hits with runners in scoring position on the evening, which always puts a coach in a good mood when her team can step up to the dish and get the job done during the clutch moments of the game. Not to mention it helps give the offense confidence moving forward after a bit of a down three-game series in Baton Rouge, La., last weekend.

"One of our priorities today was to do a better job offensively," Lawson said. "We didn't score a lot of runs this past weekend so we wanted to make sure we were strong in the box and we are attacking good pitches. The fact that we could do that when the game was a little bit close said a lot about how feisty our team is and the ability to come back and learn and get better everyday."

Another positive note from the evening was the pitching performances of Cumbess and Nunley. These were great signs to see from the two Wildcat hurlers as they were both coming off heartbreaking defeats in the late innings to the hands of the LSU Tigers last weekend.

Cumbess gave up just one run through the first four frames before Nunley relieved her for the final three innings to secure her first career save.

Although they came back with loses from the LSU series, Lawson liked how the two pitched against the Tigers and was pleased to see them excel in the circle again tonight.

"It was great for them," Lawson said. "They pitched great this weekend. We didn't generate any offense to help them out and when you play a quality opponent like LSU you've got to score more than just a run or two."

Next up for the Cats is Iowa on Wednesday at the UK Softball Complex before UK returns to SEC play this weekend against Mississippi State.

The offense showed signs of returning to form and Lawson knows the unit has to keep working hard and improving everyday because they are going to need every bit of offensive production they can scratch across the board in league play.

"Our offense knows that and they continue to work hard and we got contributions from a number of people and we got some stolen bases so we did other things besides just hit the home run and that's what we are going to need to do to compete in the SEC," Lawson said.

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