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After tough weekend, softball responds with complete-game win over in-state rivals

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Kelsey Nunley pitched a complete-game shutout in UK's win over Louisville on Wednesday. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics) Kelsey Nunley pitched a complete-game shutout in UK's win over Louisville on Wednesday. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics)
The No. 12 Kentucky softball team used a complete performance in all facets of the game Wednesday night in its 5-0 win over Louisville.
 
After a 1-2 weekend against then-No. 21 Auburn, a complete, well-played game against their in-state rivals was just what the Wildcats needed.
 
Head coach Rachel Lawson got just the turnaround performance that she was hoping for.
 
"I thought it was big," Lawson said. "Auburn was a tough weekend. I know we took one from them, Auburn is a very good team, but I felt like we really didn't play our best game against Auburn. 
 
"Some things were exposed that we needed to work on, and the fact that we were able to work on them and turn around so quickly really shows that the girls have their minds in the right spot and they want to get it done and go deep in the postseason."
 
UK out-hit the Cardinals 7-3, and was able to take advantage of two errors that led to a pair of unearned runs. The first five batters in the Kentucky lineup all reached base at least once.
 
While the run production was a highlight, the well-rounded game started in the circle for the Wildcats. After Kelsey Nunley allowed one run and five hits in seven innings of work Sunday, she came back even better on Wednesday. The sophomore hurled a complete game shutout and allowed just three hits and two walks.
 
"I thought Nunley was incredible," Lawson said. "I thought she was great on Sunday. The fact that she was able to turn around four days later and do it again says a lot about how strong she is as a pitcher. The fact that she was able to change her game a little bit and keep them off balance, they're an awesome hitting team. The fact that she didn't let very many of them square up on the ball really says how much stuff she has and how she's able to put the team on her back and carry them."
 
Defense was a point of emphasis the last few days, and it showed Wednesday night. 
 
In the field, the Wildcats didn't commit a single error and turned several dazzling defensive plays to extinguish any Louisville scoring opportunities.
 
"We really worked on hustling," Nikki Sagermann said.. "Making every play, not giving up. Just keeping on running hard and competing on every play."
 
The team worked on it, and Lawson noticed.
 
"I was really impressed with them," Lawson said of the defensive effort. "Overall I'm really pleased with our defense, and I thought that was the difference early."
 
Without senior captain Lauren Cumbess, who is day-to-day with an ankle injury, the offense didn't miss a beat.
 
"I think the best part about it was the last few days we had really been working on our approach, getting more aggressive," Lawson said. "It was so nice to see the team step up. I think they knew because Lauren wasn't in the lineup, that each person was going to have to chip in a little extra, and I thought they really responded and we put up five runs against a really good Louisville team."
 
The win marked the first time UK had beaten U of L in back-to-back games in Lawson's seven-year tenure. The Wildcats will have a chance to go for three consecutive wins at the end of the month on April 30 in Louisville.
 
In the meantime, the Wildcats will look to build on Wednesday's win when they host SEC-foe and 18th-ranked Texas A&M at John Cropp Stadium this weekend. First pitch Friday and Saturday is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET, while Sunday's contest will commence at 1 p.m.

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