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Get to know UK softball's Griffin Joiner

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Grffin Joiner.jpg Over the last two weeks, Cat Scratches has given fans an inside look at UK softball's 2015 roster with 20 fun questions and a quick outlook of every player. Senior catcher Griffin Joiner is the finale player to be previewed prior to UK's season opener at 4 p.m. ET today against Florida A&M.

Starting her second year as one of the team's captains, senior catcher Griffin Joiner is the leader of the team in all aspects entering 2015. Joiner, who has started 184 consecutive games at catcher, ranks high in several all-time records at UK, including doubles, home runs and RBI.

The native of Hopkinsville, Ky., has a .304 career batting average with 33 doubles, one triple, 100 RBI, a .501 slugging percentage and a .426 on-base percentage. Last year, Joiner hit .309 with 11 doubles, 10 homers and 39 RBI. The catcher had a hot stretch to start the season and was named national player of the week, becoming only the fourth player in school history to claim a national player of the week honor.

During her time at UK, Joiner has been named an All-Southeastern Conference performer every year, SEC Freshman and Player of the Week, CoSIDA Academic All-District, third-team NFCA All-Southeast Region honoree and three-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

Come see Griffin and the rest of the Kentucky Wildcats this spring at John Cropp Stadium. UK's home opener is March 11 vs. EKU at 5 p.m. ET. Season tickets can be purchased by calling the UK Ticket Office at 1-800-928-2287, in person at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office or online at www.ukathletics.com/tickets.  

To help you get to know Griffin better, it's time to play a game called 20 questions.

What is your nickname? Griff

Why did you choose to play softball at Kentucky?
It was my dream to be able to wear the Kentucky jersey and play in the SEC. Also, a lot of coaches put players on a pedestal when they are being recruited, but here it was different. Our coaches made me aware of the things I needed to keep working on to be able to play at this level  and that honesty made me want to be a part of Kentucky Softball even more.

If you could trade places with Coach Lawson for one day, what would you do?
I would wear the furry crocs and hit people with the ponytail.

What is your biggest accomplishment to date? Being on the first team from Kentucky to make it to the World Series was a big accomplishment. It was the first time I could truly say that I was a part of a team that set a goal and accomplished it.

Can you solve a rubix cube? Only if I can go hide and move some stickers around ...

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be? Surf and braid my own hair ...

After softball, what would be your dream job? I would be a spy for the government or live on the beach and write motivational books.

Name three things you like? Passionate people, laughing and deep conversations ...

What is your favorite dessert? I haven't found many that I don't like.

What is your most memorable moment as a softball player so far? I will never forget celebrating our super regional wins, or the love our fans gave us when we walked onto the field for the first time in OKC.

Funniest players on the team and why? If you just sit and watch Nikki you'll be entertained because she will probably be doing something goofy without even knowing. I always laugh at Kelsey because she has no filter and her comments can be so shockingly honest that you just laugh.

Best dancer on the team is... Maisie

What is your worst fear? I hate knives.

What did you do growing up that always got you into trouble?
I always got in trouble for having a bad attitude, especially anytime something involved losing (softball, cards, games at birthday parties, gym) or shopping. It must have been pretty bad, because Santa left me a serious note about it one Christmas.

Favorite saying or quote you like to live by:
Control what you can control.

How do you like your eggs? Cheesy with ketchup and the way everyone else on the team hates them ... runny.

Have you ever starred in a school play and if so, what was the name of the play and your character?
In preschool, I was one of the trolls in the Three Billy Goats Gruff. I guess my mean face was noticeable at a young age.

What three things do you think of most each day?
Softball, my family and my next meal

How did you get your name?
My parents gave it to me.

Do you have any weird superstitions?
I have to wear eye black and I have to take a shower ever morning there is a game, even if I just had one the night before.

Video: Coach Cal previews Cats' trip to Florida

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As last Friday's showdown with No. 6 Alabama drew closer with each passing day, the No. 24 Kentucky gymnastics team spent the week preparing for the biggest meet of the season.

However, nobody was talking about the competition.

"We've been talking about #CompeteForKylie," said head coach Tim Garrison. "A young lady is 32 months old, and she has stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma."

In what was already scheduled to be UK's second annual DanceBlue Meet, supporting the on-campus organization's fight against pediatric cancer, Garrison's Wildcats decided to further dedicate Friday to a girl whose story had personally impacted the entire gymnastics program.

"It's just something that was special to me," Garrison said. "I brought it to the team and really put it to them. I said, 'Listen, I would really like to do this. Is this something you guys would be interested in?' They all said, 'Yes. Absolutely.' They were touched by it."

If history tells us anything, it's safe to assume that Garrison knew he was barking up the right tree when he approached his team with the idea of dedicating Friday's meet and every meet for the rest of the season to Kylie Rowand, who was diagnosed a year ago. She is the daughter of a gymnast Garrison coached in California.

"We went over to the cancer unit at UK hospital and visited a little earlier in the year, read The Polar Express to them," Garrison said. "So, (the team) is very aware of it, they've been touched by it personally. It's extremely important to our team."

With a little inspiration from Kylie, Kentucky catapulted itself to a team score of 195.625 -- a new season-high -- versus the Crimson Tide. However, Alabama bested the Wildcats with a score of 196.700.

"Competing against strong competition is always good," said Garrison. "It sharpens you, it challenges you every week. That's one thing we pride ourselves on, that we challenge ourselves."

But once each meet is over, his student-athletes are reminded of more important matters than bars and floor mats.

"Once they get out on the floor, I think their focus is purely on competition, which is exactly where it should be," Garrison said. "But, when they go in the locker room, they see #CompeteForKylie on the wall. On the door when they walk in, they see her picture. It definitely comes back to mind."

Kentucky will next travel to Columbia, Mo., to face the Missouri Tigers Friday, February 6 at 7:30 p.m. EST.

This season, the Wildcats will #CompeteForKylie in each meet, and encourage their opponents to join the fight as well. More information on Kylie can be found on Facebook.



Riding the momentum of a recovered onside kick that kept his team's NFC Championship aspirations alive, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Chris Matthews entered Super Bowl XLIX with zero career receptions. However, through the first half of Sunday's loss to the New England Patriots, Matthews was arguably the frontrunner for MVP honors, pending a Seattle victory.

Cat in the Spotlight

Chris Matthews | #13 WR | Seattle Seahawks (12-4)

Not only had Matthews never recorded a single catch going into Super Bowl Sunday, but the 6-foot-5 former Wildcat had only played in 26 offensive snaps all season. Nevertheless, Matthews was targeted early in his first career Super Bowl appearance, coming up big in the process. The former Canadian Football League Rookie of the Year caught a 44-yard bomb for his first official NFL reception, followed by an 11-yard touchdown catch less than seven minutes later. Matthews concluded the evening with four receptions, 109 yards and one touchdown. In the end, the Seahawks failed to defend their world championship, falling to New England, 28-24.

2014 NFL Regular Season Statistics:


Offense
2014 offense.jpg Defense
2014 defense.jpg
Special teams
2014 ST.jpg





Big finish paves way for another solid Stoops class

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UK's 2015 signing class is rated 35th nationally according to Rivals.com. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK's 2015 signing class is rated 35th nationally according to Rivals.com. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Everyone from the media in attendance to the diehard fans watching live online at home and at work knew exactly what Mark Stoops was talking about.

"As you all know and have been following, it's been a little bit of a grind," Stoops said.

Stoops had just put a bow on his third recruiting class as Kentucky head coach. After reeling in a record haul the first time around and doing it again in 2014 with a group remarkable for its lack of turnover, the 2015 ride had, in his words, some "ups and downs."

The downs were very public, with a handful of longtime pledges opting to de-commit and go elsewhere in January. For the first time since his arrival in late 2012, momentum seemed to trend in the wrong direction.

But not for long.

By securing a number of late commitments, Stoops and his staff put together a 23-member class - the exact number they set out to hit - that ranked 35th nationally as of Wednesday afternoon according to Rivals.com. Outside of Stoops' first two classes - rated 29th and 17th, respectively - it's the best in the history of the ranking service and the ranking doesn't take into account Nebraska transfers Courtney Love and Greg Hart.

"There are some very good football players that are going to be joining us and very excited to have them," Stoops said. "So just overall very pleased, very happy. I really appreciate our staff. I feel like this group of coaches worked extremely hard. They work relentlessly, around the clock, did an awful lot of traveling, and really worked hard to hold this class together."

They did more than hold the class together; they filled needs.

Thirteen of the 23 members of the class are defensive players, headlined by unanimous four-star linebacker and Bowling Green, Ky., native Eli Brown. Brown joins Love and Jordan Jones - both of whom enrolled in January and will practice this spring - and Josh Allen in adding depth at linebacker, while the likes of Kengera Daniel, Courtney Miggins, JaVon Provitt and Alvonte Bell - a Signing Day surprise and UK commitment out of high school - give the Wildcats some much-needed size along the defensive line.

But Stoops, with his background as a defensive backs coach, is most excited about the infusion of talent his secondary will get. That talent, by the way, is tall, too. Derrick Baity, Will Jackson and Chris Westry all stand 6-foot-3 or taller.

"Y'all know, you've listened to me enough after each game, we had some bad matchup problems at times," Stoops said. "We play against some guys in this league that have great size and great skill at the receiver position, and I felt like we really needed to upgrade and get some quality guys in the secondary, and I feel very good about this group."

Baity, Jackson and Westry figure to have some good battles on their hands with the wide receivers joining them in this class. Therell Gosier, Jabari Greenwood and Tavin Richardson are 6-6, 6-3 and 6-3, respectively.

"When you're talking about physical in length, you're talking about all levels of your team," Stoops said. "So I really felt like we needed to continue to improve that size and that physicality in the secondary and in the wide receiver position and linebackers and so on and certainly tight ends."

At tight end, UK added two 6-5 targets in Hart and C.J. Conrad, both of whom are on campus this spring. Four offensive linemen - all standing 6-5 or taller (surprise, surprise) - also join the class. The trend of Stoops and his staff transforming Kentucky's roster continues.

"I think we're much closer to where we want to be," Stoops said. "... So it's very exciting to wrap up this class.  Everybody asks me all the time, what do I feel about this?  We put a lot of hard work, and it's good to get it wrapped up. It's good to introduce them to our fan base and to the media and talk about these guys publicly, which is nice."

Now that the class is public and Letters of Intent are signed, the risk of further de-commitments evaporates. With that in mind, Stoops spoke Wednesday on behalf of a rule change that would create a new early signing period.

"I think it's a situation that probably needs to be addressed on a national level, but, again, I'm not concerned about the guys we did not get," Stoops said. "I'm very excited about the players we got."

He has reason to be.

"Overall, I feel very good about this group," Stoops said. "I felt like it was key for us this last week, these last couple days, into last night and into this morning to close on a few guys. As you know, it gets very delicate when you try to hit that number perfectly. Heading into this recruiting class, we had 23 spots available. ... That's what we signed. I feel very good about that."

Video: Marrow recaps Signing Day

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Video: Eliot on UK's Signing Day haul

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Video: Dawson's Signing Day press conference

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Video: On the way to Signing Day with Marrow

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Video: Stoops' Signing Day press conference

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