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Strong pitching fuels softball in series-evening win over No. 8 UT

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A strong pitching performance by both senior Lauren Cumbess and freshman Meagan Prince led the way for the ninth-ranked UK softball team in a 5-2 win over No. 8 Tennessee Saturday.

Four innings from Cumbess, in which she allowed two runs on five hits and left with the score tied at 2-2, were followed by three scoreless innings from Prince. 

Cumbess was pitching well, but head coach Rachel Lawson made the decision to bring in Prince was made before the game started. 

"Lauren was doing a good job, but we thought the change of speed was needed because they were coming up a third time in the order," Lawson said. "We just thought, because Tennessee is such an awesome hitting team, that it made sense to give them a change in pace and speed. That was actually planned from the get-go."

The pitching change paid off in a big way. Prince came in and allowed just three hits in the final three innings. The freshman struck out four and walked no one.

It was a strong sixth inning, striking out the side, which gave Lawson the confidence to send Prince out to finish the game in the seventh.

"When Meagan came out in the sixth inning she was just awesome," Lawson said. "She was throwing the ball hard and it was breaking. They even knew what pitch was coming and they had trouble squaring up on the ball. It didn't make a lot of sense to take her out in the seventh. I felt like today was her day. She came out and capitalized against the top of the order, which is very good, in the top of the seventh."

Prince's outing gave her her second win in SEC play, both against ranked opponents. The win came after she struggled Sunday in a loss to Arkansas and Tuesday at Western Kentucky.

The Martin, Tenn., native rebounded in a big way.

"I just felt like all my work had paid off," Prince said. "I had a list of things I had to get better on and work on in practice. I got a few of those things accomplished, and I felt like it paid off."

The pitching staff is a close-knit group, and Cumbess couldn't have been happier to see the freshman come in and finish the game on a strong note and get the win.

"She and I always talk about how the pitching staff always has each other's backs," Cumbess said. "Whenever she comes in, we are always so confident that they are going to get the job done. She goes out there and throws hard, trusts her pitches and she just did great today. We're so happy for her."

The two-run performance by the pitching duo marked just the seventh time in 47 games the Lady Volunteers had been limited to two or fewer runs. Only two other SEC teams have held UT to two or fewer runs.

After a tough loss in the series-opener on Friday, in which the pitching staff allowed one earned run, Saturday was a nice bounce-back on all accounts.

A home run from Cumbess in the fifth, her eighth of the season, certainly helped.

"Our goal today was to play solid defense, hit the ball well and have a great performance on the mound," Cumbess said. "Meagan did great coming in. Defensively, I think we were also very solid. We met our goal today."

The win kept the Wildcats tied for second in the SEC with a 13-7 record. Sunday, the two teams will square off for the series win and to help break the tie in the league standings.

First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET at John Cropp Stadium.

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