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.
Men's basketball - Kentucky earned the No. 1 seed in the National Invitation Tournament and will take on Robert Morris in the opening round on Tuesday. - The invitation to the NIT marks the 22nd-consecutive season UK will take part in postseason play. The Wildcats are 13-6 overall in the NIT and have twice won the title (1946, 1976). - UK fell 64-48 in the SEC Tournament to Vanderbilt, despite a 12-point effort from freshman Archie Goodwin. - Senior Julius Mays is six points shy of scoring 1,000 for his collegiate career. He current has 994 total points, with 301 of those tallies coming in a UK uniform. Gymnastics - Kentucky reached a new program best 196.775 on Saturday at Penn State. - The Wildcats extended their school-record streak of scores more than 196 to four. - Alexis Gross claimed event honors with collegiate-high scores on both uneven bars and balance beam. Gross notched a 9.9 on bars, and received a 9.95 on balance beam. Her 9.95 was third-highest on the event in school history. She received a 9.9 from judge one and a 10.0 from judge two as both averaged a 9.95. - Kentucky also smashed the program-record beam score with a 49.475.
Softball - The No. 17 Kentucky softball team earned an impressive midweek win against No. 24 North Carolina, taking down the Tar Heels 18-0 behind the ninth no-hitter in school history from freshman pitcher Katie Henderson. Henderson went all five innings in the win, striking out four with only one walk. The no-hitter was the first for UK since Chanda Bell threw a no-hitter against LSU in 2012. - The UK offense set many school records in the win as the 18 runs scored and four homers tied the most runs scored in a game in school annals, while UK's 18 runs batted in was the most ever in a single game in school history. Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner was the leader of the pack offensively in the win, posting a 4-for-4 night with career highs in home runs with two, runs scored with four and runs batted in with six. - The Wildcats could not keep up the momentum going over the weekend, falling in all three games to No. 13 LSU. The Wildcats dropped the first game 7-1 before dropping the next two games in LSU's last at bat.
Baseball - Kentucky posted its first series win in Gainesville in 14 years over the weekend and just the fifth in the history of the series that dates back to 1953. - The Wildcats fell in the opener after a three-error seventh inning in a 1-1 game and rebounded with an 11-5 win over the Gators on Saturday. In the rubber match, UK turned to Corey Littrell, who pitched UK to the series win in a 6-2 result at McKethan Stadium. - The Wildcats have hit .297 as a team, belting 31 doubles, five triples and 14 homers, scoring 149 runs and stealing 29 bases. On the mound, UK has a 2.45 team ERA, allowing 164 hits in 169 innings, walking 41 and striking out 138.
Men's tennis - No. 10 Kentucky completed the Mississippi swing this weekend, coming out of the weekend 2-0 with a 4-1 win over No. 4 Ole Miss and a 4-2 win over No. 13 Mississippi State. - Kentucky now sits at 16-4 overall and stands tied atop the SEC standings with a 4-1 in-conference record. - No. 31 Anthony Rossi picked up the clinching match on Sunday over No. 18 Romain Bogearts 7-6 (3), 6-3 of MSU. Rossi's doubles partner, Grant Roberts went 4-0 on the weekend as well. In Friday's 4-1 win at Ole Miss, freshman Kevin Lai clinched the match as he moved to 9-0 on the year, picking up his first-career SEC win.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team went 1-1 over the weekend, falling to Ole Miss 4-3 on Friday before defeating Mississippi State 7-0 on Sunday. - Freshman Nadia Ravita won two singles matches in the No. 1 singles slot, improving her record to 15-2. - Sophomore Stephanie Fox and freshman Kirsten Lewis both went 2-0 in singles over the weekend.
Track and field - Kentucky opened the outdoor season with seven event titles by either individual competitors or relay teams. - Andrew Evans won the discus behind a new personal record mark of 59.27m/194'05". - Kayla Parker won the 100-meter hurdles with a PR 13.51 performance. - Both the men's and women's teams won the 4x100-meter relays. - Keffri Neal won the 1,500 meters with a personal-record time of 3:51.60. Teammate Adam Kahleifeh also posted a PR time of 3:51.94 to finish in second-position. - Raymond Dykstra showed off his 2012 All-America credentials in the javelin with a meet-winning performance of 67.84m/222'07"
Men's golf - The Kentucky men's golf team wrapped up the week with two top-10 finishes, placing tied for fifth at the Tiger Invitational and tied for sixth at the Schenkel Invitational. - Junior Stephen Powers recorded his second straight top-10 finish at the Tiger Invite with a 6-over-par, 222, placing tied for sixth overall. Junior Ben Stow also was in the top-20, finishing tied for 14th at 8-over. - Stow continued his torrid play at the Schenkel Invite, posting his first career top-10 finish, placing tied for ninth at 1-under-par. The Salisbury, England native charted a career-low score of 215.
Women's golf - The UK women's golf team competed in their second tournament of the spring, finishing tied for ninth in the 18-team field at the Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate. - Senior Betsie Johnson was the low scorer for the Wildcats, recording her first top-20 finish of the year, placing tied for 19th at 9-over-par.
Swimming and diving - Greg Ferrucci, John Fox and Christa Cabot each earned berths to the 2013 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships with their performances at the Zone C Diving Championships in West Lafayette, Ind., this past weekend. - Ferrucci won both the 3-meter (888.05) and 1-meter (825.75) springboard events to advance to his third straight NCAA Championships, and broke the program record on the 3-meter for a six-dive score with a 434.85. Fox earned fourth place on the 3-meter (761.95) to advance to his first NCAA Championships. - Cabot earned her spot on the first day of competition on the 3-meter board, scoring 623.10 to earn a fourth place finish. It will be the sophomore's first career appearance at the NCAA Championships.
Tuesday, March 19 Softball hosts Western Kentucky - 6:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Western Kentucky - 6:30 p.m. Men's basketball at Robert Morris - 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, March 20 Softball hosts Iowa - 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 21 Swimming and diving at Women's NCAA Championships (Indianapolis, Ind.) Track and field at Florida State Relays (Tallahassee, Fla.)
Friday, March 22 Track and field at Alabama Relays - 12:00 p.m. (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) Men's tennis hosts Tennessee - 2:00 p.m. Women's tennis at Tennessee - 5:00 p.m. Softball hosts Mississippi State - 6:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Mississippi State - 6:30 p.m. Women's golf at LSU Golf Classic (Baton Rouge, La.) Swimming and diving at Women's NCAA Championships (Indianapolis, Ind.) Track and field at Florida State Relays (Tallahassee, Fla.)
Saturday, March 23 Baseball hosts Mississippi State - 12:00 p.m. Softball hosts Mississippi State - 1:00 p.m. Track and field at Alabama Relays - 3:00 p.m. Tuscaloosa, Ala.) Gymnastics at SEC Championships (North Little Rock, Ark.) Track and field at Florida State Relays (Tallahassee, Fla.) Women's golf at LSU Golf Classic (Baton Rouge, La.) Swimming and diving at Women's NCAA Championships (Statesboro, Ga.)
Sunday, March 24 Women's tennis at Georgia - 1:00 p.m. Softball hosts Mississippi State - 1:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Mississippi State - 1:00 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Georgia - 1:00 p.m. Men's basketball at SEC Finals - 3:30 p.m. (Nashville) Men's golf at Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate (Awendaw, S.C.) Women's golf at LSU Golf Classic (Baton, Rouge, La.)
With No. 24 North Carolina coming to town, the Kentucky softball team likely thought it was in store for yet another close game.
Entering Tuesday's game, the Wildcats had already won nine games by two runs or less. UK had won all four of its extra-inning games to boot.
It turns out the game didn't last a regulation seven innings after all, but not because of a tie game. No. 17 UK jumped all over the visiting Tar Heels to the tune of 12 first-inning runs and didn't look back from there en route to an 18-0 victory in just five innings during which the school record books underwent quite the facelift.
Freshman starter Katie Henderson completed the ninth no-hitter in program history, allowing just a single walk in five innings. She struck out four and needed just 58 pitches in facing just two batters over the minimum. Henderson is now 2-0 on the season with 12 strikeouts and zero runs allowed in 10.0 innings.
At the plate, the day was just as memorable.
Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner had hits in all four of her at-bats, including two first-inning singles and home runs in the second and fourth innings to give her six on the season. She had six runs batted in on the day to become the fourth player in school history to accomplish the feat and a game-high four runs scored, the sixth time in school history a player scored that many times.
Three other Wildcats had multi-hit days, including junior Lauren Cumbess with a home run and three runs scored. Freshman Christian Stokes added a grand slam in the first inning.
All told, UK's 18 runs and 18 RBI are school records, The Cats' four home runs tie a record mark and the 18-run margin of victory is the largest ever. UK moves to 19-4 on the season, tying the school-best start through 23 games set in 2011.
Don't take my word for it though. Here are video highlights from from.
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, March 10:
Men's basketball: Archie Goodwin
Freshman Archie Goodwin led the Wildcats to a marquee victory over visiting No. 9/11 Florida on Saturday, after earning a 20-point scoring effort at Georgia on Thursday. For the week, the Little Rock, Ark., native averaged a team-high 18.0 points per game. He ranked second on the team with a .429 shooting clip. He was the only guard to log double-figure rebounds for the week and his six steals topped the squad. Against the Bulldogs, Goodwin turned in his fifth 20-point effort and second against conference competition. He sunk a career-high three 3-pointers and hauled in six rebounds. In the upset of the season for UK, Goodwin led the team with 16 points including nine in the second half. His steal and dunk tied the game at 57 and he then hit one free throw for UK's final lead en route to the win. In the second stanza he also notched a trio of steals to push his career-high total for swipes in a game to four. Furthermore, Goodwin has scored in double-figures a team-leading 23 times this season including in six-straight contests.
Baseball: Corey Littrell
Junior left-handed All-America starter Corey Littrell turned in his best start of the year in leading UK to a series win over Michigan State during a Sunday afternoon rubber match ... Littrell worked seven strong innings allowing only one run on four hits, walking one batter and striking out a career-high nine batters ... He carried a shutout into the seventh inning, only surrendering a single hit through his first six shutout innings ... Battled through the seventh after three consecutive hits plated the first run of the game for the Spartans, getting the final two outs to set up the UK bullpen for the save in the 3-1 game ... He fired 100 pitches in the start, with 69 going for strikes ... After an All-Southeastern Conference season in 2012 as the Sunday starter, Littrell reasserted himself as the series-winning starter in rubber matches, making his eighth rubber-match start in the last two years vs. Michigan ... In those eight series-deciding games, Littrell has led UK to eight wins and owned a 6-0 record with a 2.8 ERA ... On the year, Littrell had made four starts with a 2-0 record and a 3.42 ERA, tossing 23.2 innings, allowing 22 hits and eight walks, striking out 24 ... With his 17th career win on Sunday, Littrell had now moved into a five-way tie for 10th in UK career history, seven wins shy of the program mark.
Baseball: Paul McConkey
Junior Paul McConkey paced the Wildcats in multiple offensive categories during a four-game week, batting .444 (4-for-9) in three games ... The third baseman led UK to a series win over 2012 NCAA Tournament team Michigan State, a 37-win club in 2012 ... McConkey had three RBI and belted a homer during the week, reaching base at a .500 clip ...Hit the game-winning, two-run double in a 3-1 win on Sunday vs. Michigan State, good for his second game-winning RBI of the year ... On the year, McConkey has hit .324 (11-for-34) with three doubles, one triple, one homer and 11 RBI.
Softball: Christian Stokes
Christian Stokes had the best weekend of her young collegiate career against Ole Miss, hitting .833 (5-for-6) with her first collegiate home run and two multi-hit games. Stokes started all three games at second base against the Rebels, earning a hit in each game, while posting a .889 on-base percentage for the weekend. The native of Chesterfield, S.C., went 2-for-3 in the series opener, including launching a solo homer in the seventh inning - the first homer of her career. In game two, Stokes scored a run after going 1-for-1 with a single and two walks, helping UK tie the series at a game apiece. Stokes finished the series off in style with a 2-for-2 effort in the finale, including two RBI. She is currently riding a season-best three-game hitting streak whiles hitting .279 (12-for-43) with one double, one homer, 12 RBI and four runs scored this season.
Men's basketball - Kentucky went 1-1 on the week which included a critical upset of No. 9/11 Florida on Saturday. - Freshman Archie Goodwin was sensational in leading the Cats with an average of 18.0 points, five rebounds and three steals in two games this week. Goodwin snatched a career-high four steals in the upset of the Gators and had a team-high 16 points. - With the win over Florida, UK improves to 10-0 at home in Rupp Arena against ranked foes in the John Calipari era. - The win also helped seal the No. 2 overall seed in the SEC Tournament. UK has won the tournament twice in Calipari's tenure.
Women's basketball - Kentucky advanced to the SEC Championship game for the third time in four seasons before falling to Texas A&M. - UK logged wins against Vanderbilt and No. 12 Georgia en route to making its title game appearance. - UK outscored the Lady Dawgs 41-14 in the second half, holding them scoreless for the final 6:08 of the game, and 22.2 percent (14-of-63) shooting for the game. - Senior All-America candidate A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) added 11 points and grabbed two steals which set a new UK career steals record with 310. The previous record was 309 set by Stacey Reed from 1991-95.
Rifle - The Kentucky rifle team placed second at the NCAA Championships, shooting a 4670 to place runner-up for a second consecutive year. - Senior Henri Junghänel placed second in individual smallbore, falling by .5 points to claim the silver medal. - Freshman Connor Davis finished fourth individually in air rifle. - Kentucky had six members named All-America, including Connor Davis, Heather Greathouse, Emily Holsopple, Ed Ryznar, Elijah Ellis and Stacy Wheatley. Henri Junghanel would have been selected but was not eligible because he is currently in graduate school.
Gymnastics - The 20th-ranked Kentucky Gymnastics team topped 196 for the third consecutive meet in a 196.375-192.7 win over Bowling Green on Friday. - Kayla Hartley clinched the second-highest team score in school history with a 9.9 floor exercise routine. The performance gave Hartley the event title for the second week in a row. It was also her first 9.9 since the season-opener. The junior has three event crowns from the past two meets. - The Wildcats scored 49.125 on floor, which tied the season high. - Kenzie Hedges took the event honors on vault as she stuck her landing for a career-best 9.875.
Softball - The No. 15 UK softball team started its Southeastern Conference schedule in style by winning its series with the Ole Miss Rebels. UK dropped the first game of the series 3-1, before winning the final two games 5-2. The series win is the sixth consecutive over Ole Miss and marks the second time in three years UK has won the opening series of conference play. The series vs. Ole Miss was the first ever games played in the new UK Softball Complex. - Freshman infielder Christian Stokes led the way for Kentucky, hitting .833 (5-for-6) for the weekend with three RBI and her first collegiate home run. Junior Lauren Cumbess went 3-for-9 over the weekend with a double, while junior Emily Gaines was 2-for-6 with two RBI. - Freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley suffered her first loss of the season in game one before earning wins Saturday and Sunday in a relief effort. Nunley is 12-1 on the year with a 2.02 ERA, striking out a team-best 67 batters. Baseball - Seventh-ranked Kentucky completed a 3-1 week with a series win over Michigan State during the weekend, also picking up a midweek win over Xavier on Wednesday. - UK opened the series with the Spartans with a 2-1 win on Friday night. Sophomore left-hander A.J. Reed worked seven shutout innings, allowing only five hits and two walks. All-American centerfielder Austin Cousino got UK on the board with a first-inning homer, before Max Kuhn slugged his first career homer in the bottom of the eighth as the game-winning bomb. - Kentucky won the series on Sunday in another rubber-match win from junior southpaw Corey Littrell, making his eighth series-deciding start in the last two years. The All-America starter worked seven innings and allowed just one run, striking out a career-high nine.
Men's tennis - The UK men's tennis team fell twice this weekend, to No. 38 Baylor and No. 14 Texas A&M. - Kentucky's road trip continues next weekend traveling to Ole Miss for a Friday showdown in Oxford before continuing the weekend in Starkville against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Women's tennis - No. 44 Kentucky went 1-1 over the weekend, defeating No. 57 Missouri 5-2 on Friday, before falling to No. 4 Texas A&M 5-2 on Sunday. - Freshman Nadia Ravita knocked off sixth-ranked Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar on Sunday 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. The win was Ravita's 13th singles win and fourth win over a ranked opponent this year. - In Kentucky's win over Missouri, the Wildcats received singles wins in slots one through four, with Nadia Ravita, Jessica Stiles, Edmee Morin-Kougoucheff and Caitlin McGraw winning in straight sets.
Track and field - The No. 20 Kentucky women's track and field team finished the NCAA Indoor Championships tied for 20th-place. The Wildcats earned the program's highest team finish since 1994 when they also finished tied for 20th. The Wildcats' 10 team points was the highest total at the National Championship Meet since 1990. - Cally Macumber won the bronze medal in the women's 3,000 meters final to add six points to the Kentucky cause. She also contributed four on Friday night as the anchor in the distance medley relay. - Morganne Phillips, Allison Peare and Chelsea Oswald were the other members of that squad. - Keith Hayes scored two points for the men with a seventh-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles. Hayes lowered his school-record time to 7.69 in the event prelims to reach the final.
Men's golf - The Kentucky men's golf team finished seventh out of the 17-team field at the USF Invitational, shooting 20 strokes over par for the tournament. - Junior Stephen Powers recorded his second top-10 finish of the year, placing tied for sixth at 2-under-par. The Naperville, Ill., native was tied for the lead after the first round, posting a 4-under-par day and concluded his impressive tournament with an even par round two and two-over-par round three. - Junior Ben Stow also finished in the top-20, tying for 14th overall at 1-over-par.
Monday, March 11 Men's golf at Tiger Invitational (Auburn, Ala.)
Tuesday, March 12 Baseball hosts Ohio - 4:00 p.m. Softball hosts North Carolina - 5:00 p.m. Men's golf at Tiger Invitational (Auburn, Ala.) Wednesday, March 13 Softball hosts Southern Illinois • 3:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Cincinnati • 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, March 14 Swimming and diving at NCAA Zones - 10:00 a.m. (West Lafayette, Ind.) Track and field at Bulls Invitational (Tampa, Fla.)
Friday, March 15 Men's tennis at Ole Miss - 2:00 p.m. Women's tennis hosts Ole Miss - 4:00 p.m. Softball at LSU - 7:00 p.m. Baseball at Florida - 7:30 p.m. Men's basketball vs. Arkansas/Vanderbilt - 7:30 p.m. (Nashville) Swimming and diving at NCAA Zones - 10:00 a.m. (West Lafayette, Ind.) Women's golf at Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate (Augusta, Ga.) Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)
Saturday, March 16 Baseball at Florida - Noon Softball at LSU - 5:00 p.m. Gymnastics at Penn State - 7:00 p.m. Men's basketball at SEC Semifinals - 3:30 p.m. (Nashville) Swimming and diving at NCAA Zones - 10:00 a.m. (West Lafayette, Ind.) Women's golf at Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate (Augusta, Ga.) Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)
Sunday, March 17 Women's tennis hosts Mississippi State - Noon Softball at LSU - 1:00 p.m. Baseball at Florida - 1:00 p.m. Men's tennis at Mississippi State - 1:00 p.m. Men's basketball at SEC Finals - 3:30 p.m. (Nashville) Women's golf at Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate (Augusta, Ga.) Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)
As the northernmost school in the Southeastern Conference, Kentucky is supposed to be at some sort of a competitive disadvantage in outdoor spring sports. Don't tell that to UK's baseball and softball teams.
As they prepare for their final non-conference weekend series vs. Michigan State, the baseball Wildcats sit at 11-1 and are in the midst of an eight-game winning streak. UK is hitting .325 as a team and is outscoring opponents by more than 6.5 runs per game.
Softball, meanwhile, is off to a school-record 16-3 start and is in the midst of an eight-game winning streak of its own. The Cats have already won four games against ranked opponents and two against teams that reached last year's Women's College World Series.
Pollsters have taken notice of the strong starts by both teams. Baseball is ranked No. 7 according to Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, No. 10 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, No. 11 by Baseball America and No. 11 in the USA Today Coaches poll. Softball checks in at No. 17 in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll and No. 15 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll - UK's highest ranking in the history of the poll.
Those rankings put the Wildcats in a select group. UK is one of just five schools nationally to rank in the top 17 of every major baseball and softball poll. The other universities on that list are Oklahoma, LSU, UCLA and Oregon.
Baseball and softball aren't alone in their success either.
Men's and women's basketball are heading for postseason play. Third-ranked rifle bids for a second national championship in three seasons on Saturday. Men's tennis is 14-2 and is ranked higher that at any point since 2004. Women's tennis is on the rise and ranked No. 44. Edrick Floreal is ushering in a new era of UK track and field and has the women's team ranked No. 20 in indoors. The football team is on the cusp of spring practice and tickets to the Blue/White Spring Game are being snapped up at an unprecedented rate.
To put it another way, UK Athletics could be primed for a memorable spring.
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, March 3:
Softball: Lauren Cumbess
Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess had an outstanding week in the circle, going 2-0 with a 0.58 ERA. Cumbess pitched against USF, which is receiving votes and went to the 2012 Women's College World Series, and Central Michigan. The native of Normal, Ill., came on in the fifth inning against USF and threw five hitless innings, striking out four and retiring 15 of the 16 batters she faced. She was also impressive against CMU, allowing an earned run in the first inning on two hits, but only one hit the remainder of the game. After giving up the run against CMU, Cumbess retired 18 of the next 20 batters she faced, including six by strikeout. For the season, Cumbess is 4-1 with a 2.39 ERA, throwing 38 innings with 36 strikeouts and only 13 earned runs allowed. The two-way player has also hit well this season, leading the team with a .373 average on top of 22 hits, four doubles, two homers and a team-high 18 RBI.
Softball: Kara Dill
Senior Kara Dill ended the tournament on a three-game hitting streak after her impressive 3-for-3 performance in UK's win over Western Michigan. Dill had two singles and a triple against the Broncos, while scoring three runs and stealing base. The native of LaGrange, Ohio, played solid defense on the weekend as well, making several nice plays in the field. Dill has hit leadoff in every game but one this season, leading UK in hits and runs scored with a strong on-base percentage of .403. Dill is hitting .358 for the season with four stolen bases and six multi-hit games.
Baseball: Greg Fettes
Freshman catcher Greg Fettes made a pair of starts during the week behind the plate, batting 4-for-6 with a double and three RBI ... In his first career home start in the 2013 home opener, Fettes collected a single and a sacrifice fly ... Earned his third career start vs. Akron on Saturday, catching a dynamic pitching outing from Jerad Grundy, with the senior southpaw tossing eight shutout, two-hit innings with Fettes behind the dish ... Went a career-high 3-for-4 with two RBI and a double in the win over Akron ... On the year, Fettes - a 43rd round pick of the Detroit Tigers out of high school - has hit .750 (6-for-8) with two doubles and three RBI.
Baseball: Jerad Grundy
Senior southpaw Jerad Grundy had the best start of his career in a win over Akron on Saturday ... Worked eight shutout, two-hit innings, not allowing a walk and striking out a career-best 12 ... Became the first UK pitcher to strike out 12 hitters since Alex Meyer fanned 13 in a start vs. Niagara in 2011 ... He allowed only a pair of singles with no base runners advancing past first base ... He retired the first eight hitters he faced before an infield single, including seven by strikeout ... Rated as the seventh-best senior in college baseball by Baseball America in the preseason, he retired 13 consecutive after allowing a third-inning single ... Tossed only 86 pitches, including a staggering 68 for strikes ... Through his first three starts of 2013, has a 3-0 record and a 0.43 ERA, allowing only one earned run in 21 innings, striking out 24 and holding opponents to a .125 average ... In his two-year UK career, has a 9-3 record and a 3.12 ERA in 19 starts, tossing 106.2 innings and striking out 87.
Women's basketball: A'dia Mathies
Senior guard A'dia Mathies led 10th-ranked Kentucky to wins over Ole Miss (90-65) and No. 8/8 Tennessee (78-65) last week.
Averaged a team-high 18.0 points per contest, along with 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.0 assists per game.
Scored 20 points at Ole Miss, marking her seventh 20-point game of the season, including second straight.
Scored 13 of her team-high 16 points in the decisive second half against Tennessee, including back-to-back 3-pointers to extend the Cats' lead to 17 with 12:06 remaining in the game.
Hit 5-of-9 from behind the arc in the two games for .556 percent. The five 3-pointers moved her up to No. 7 on UK's single season 3-point field goals list with 60.
Displayed her defensive abilities against the Lady Vols, tying season highs with four steals and two blocks in the contest.
Has now reached double figures in 27-of-29 games this season, including 20 in a row and every SEC game.
Ranks in the top 10 on 13 UK career lists, including No. 2 in scoring (1,899), No. 3 in steals (303), and fourth in field goals made (706) and 3-pointers made (164).
With four steals vs. Tennessee, she became just the third player in school history to have 300 or more in her career.
First player in UK history (men or women) to accumulate over 1,800 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 300 steals in her career.
The SEC's active career scoring and steals leader.
Leads the team in scoring (16.0 ppg), 3-pointers made (60) and is second in assists (2.4) and steals (2.4) per game this season.
Averaging a team-high 18.2 points per game in SEC play and is tied for the team-high with 1.8 steals per contest.
Softball: Kelsey Nunley
Kelsey Nunley did not have the best week statistically in the circle, but provided clutch innings for Kentucky and got key outs that should propel UK into SEC play. The freshman went 3-0 overall with a 1.94 ERA in 21.2 innings with 18 strikeouts. Nunley started the first game of the tournament against Illinois, allowing two earned runs, while striking out five and only walking one over eight innings of play. After giving up three runs on three hits and three walks in the first inning vs. LMU, Nunley settled down to throw six scoreless innings the rest of the way, retiring 14 straight to end the game. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., came on in relief against Western Michigan, getting the final two outs of the first inning with the bases loaded, keeping the game tied before going the final 6.2 innings against WMU, allowing four hits and one earned run while striking out eight - just one off her career high, Overall this season, Nunley is 10-0 - believed to be the only player in school history to start a season 10-0 in the circle - with a team-low 2.16 ERA, throwing 68.0 innings, allowing 21 earned runs with a team-best 55 strikeouts.
Baseball: A.J. Reed
Sophomore two-way star A.J. Reed had a historic week for the Wildcats, leading UK to five wins to extend its winning streak to seven games ... Drove in 15 RBI during the week, belting three homers and adding a double ... Hit .526 (10-for-19) during the week, with a 1.053 slugging and a .609 on-base percentage ... In UK's home opening win over Murray State, belted a three-run, first-inning homer to give UK an early lead, finishing with four RBI and a pair of hit by pitches ... On Wednesday, scored a run and collected a hit, before exploding in the series opener vs. Akron ... Went 4-for-5 in the opener vs. the Zips, with five RBI and his second homer of the week ... Also started the opener vs. Akron on the mound, tossing six innings and allowing only two runs on six hits and two walks, striking out four ... In the series-clincher on Saturday, belted a homer - his second consecutive game with a bomb - going 3-for-4 with three RBI and a walk ... In the sweep clincher on Sunday, Reed ripped a double off the centerfield wall to clear the bases, giving him three more RBI in a 1-for-3 game ... On the year, Reed leads UK with 22 RBI on four homers, a double and a triple, batting .409 (18-for-44) with 11 runs scored ... On the mound, as UK's Friday-night starter, Reed has a 2-1 record ... A preseason All-America honoree, Reed has hit .320 (78-for-244) in his two-year UK career with eight homers and 65 RBI, posting a 7-4 record with a 3.00 ERA on the mound.
Men's basketball - Kentucky went 1-1 on the week with a win over Mississippi State before falling at Arkansas on Saturday. - Freshman Willie Cauley-Stein continued his dynamic play by averaging 12.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 1.5 steals per game this week. - With the win over the Bulldogs, UK secured its 57th 20-win season in program history - Kentucky was led in scoring by Arkansas native Archie Goodwin with 14 points in the loss to the Razorbacks. Women's basketball - After earning its school-record tying 13th SEC win with a commanding 78-65 victory over No. 8 Tennessee on Senior Day, Kentucky earned the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament. - The Wildcats have had another remarkable season under the direction of head coach Matthew Mitchell. Mitchell, who became UK's all-time winningest coach with the win over Tennessee, has led the Cats to a school-record fourth straight 25-win season with a 25-4 overall record, including a 13-3 mark in SEC play. - A'dia Mathies had led the team in scoring (16.0), 3-point field goals made (60) and 3-point field goal percentage (.403), and has reached double figures in 27-of-29 games, including 20 in a row
Gymnastics - The Kentucky gymnastics team shattered the school record with a 196.5 team score in a win at Ball State on Sunday. - Kentucky has now posted team scores of more than 196 two weeks in a row for the first time in school history. - Audrey Harrison won her fifth consecutive individual all-around title with a huge career-high score of 39.425. - The Knoxville, Tenn., native now has a Southeastern Conference-leading seven AA titles this season. Softball - For the second consecutive weekend, the No. 17 Kentucky softball team went undefeated in a weekend tournament, posting a 5-0 record in the 2013 Under Armour Invitational with wins against Illinois, USF, Loyola Marymount, Central Michigan and Western Michigan. - This is the first time in school history UK has gone undefeated in consecutive tournaments. - Senior Kara Dill led UK offensively over the weekend with a .353 (6-for-17) average, including six runs scored and her first triple of the season. - In the circle, Lauren Cumbess paced UK with a 2-0 record and 0.58 ERA in 12 innings pitched, including 11 strikeouts. True freshman Kelsey Nunley went 3-0 on the weekend with a 1.94 ERA, throwing 21.2 innings, allowing six earned runs with 18 strikeouts.
Baseball - The eighth-ranked Kentucky baseball team completed its first home week with five wins, including a series sweep over Akron during the weekend. UK picked up midweek wins over Murray State and Eastern Kentucky. - UK has been led individually by junior infielder J.T. Riddle, who has hit .447 (21-for-47) with three doubles, one triple, one homer and 11 RBI, stealing three bases and reaching base at a .527 clip. - On the mound, UK had a 2.57 ERA in 98 innings, walking only 27 and striking out 87, with opponents hitting .255, stealing only 3-of-7 bases and UKL picking off four runners. - During the five-game week, UK got a jaw-dropping hitting performance from Reed, who drove in 15 RBI with three homers and a double during the week, batting .526 (10-for-19).
Men's tennis - Kentucky opened the 2013 SEC season by collecting two wins over No. 49 Arkansas (5-2) on Friday and No. 39 LSU (4-0) on Sunday afternoon to move to 14-2 (2-0 SEC) on the season. - Senior No. 21 Anthony Rossi upped his record to 14-1 on the season, picking up wins number 95 and 96 in his career. Rossi has now won nine consecutive straight-set matches and has also won 18 of the last 19 sets he has played. - UK won the doubles point in both matches this weekend, as the Wildcats are now 11 for 13 this season in doubles competition.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team went 1-1 in the opening weekend of Southeastern Conference play. - After falling 4-3 at Arkansas on Friday, Kentucky traveled to Baton Rouge, La., and defeated the No. 63 Tigers 4-3. - Freshman Kirsten Lewis had a comeback win to clinch Kentucky's win over LSU, taking the No. 5 singles point 1-6, 7-5, 6-4. - Senior Jessica Stiles, sophomore Stephanie Fox and freshman Nadia Ravita all recorded singles wins in straight sets vs. LSU.
Track and field - Five Kentucky track and field athletes, four women and a man, are in position to qualify for this weekend's NCAA Indoor Championships as they own top-16 times. - The Women's Distance Medley Relay Team of Cally Macumber, Morganne Phillips, Allison Peare and Chelsea Oswald broke the school record with a time of 11:00.33 on Friday. - That time ranks No. 6 in the nation. - Keith Hayes broke the school 60-meter hurdles record with a time of 7.73 on Saturday. - That time ranks No. 9 n the nation.
Swimming and diving - The Kentucky swimming team sent several swimmers to the Bulldog Last Chance Meet this past weekend in Athens, Ga., attempting to earn qualifying times for the 2013 NCAA Championships. - Sophomore Christina Bechtel improved her time in the 100-butterfly with a 52.62, second best in program history in that event. The time likely will earn her a ticket to the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis, Ind., March 21-23. - Junior Lucas Gerotto also improved his time in the 100-backstroke while breaking his own program record in the event, finishing with a 47.19 to increase the likelihood that he is asked back for his second consecutive NCAA appearance.
Monday, March 4 Men's golf at USF Invitational (Tampa, Fla.)
Tuesday, March 5 Baseball hosts Cincinnati - 4:00 p.m. Men's golf at USF Invitational (Tampa, Fla.)
Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner leads the Wildcats with three home runs on the year. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Another week means more wins and a different storyline this season for Kentucky softball. The Wildcats traveled to Spartanburg, S.C., last weekend where they had the likes of Georgetown, Howard and host team USC Upstate awaited their arrival.
After a grueling first two weeks of the season during which the Cats faced five nationally ranked teams in their first 11 games, they had an opportunity to work on some things offensively and defensively while allowing some players to see some live action.
The first two games of the weekend went as planned with Kentucky rolling over Georgetown and Howard. Junior hurler Ellen Weaver earned her second start of the season against the Hoyas, while head coach Rachel Lawson gave the ball to freshman pitcher Katie Henderson for her first career start against Howard.
The final game of the three game set came against USC Upstate, which sported a 10-0 record coming into the game. UK had yet to its their top two pitching performers in junior Lauren Cumbess and freshman Kelsey Nunley and Rachel Lawson elected to give the nod to the veteran Cumbess.
Lawson describes the game as a "boxing match" as both teams traded blows in an 11-inning affair in which the Cats prevailed 12-8. Kentucky fell behind in the game 4-0 after a first-inning grand slam by Upstate and Cumbess was knocked out of the game after just two frames.
"When they started off the first inning and they hit the grand slam, very easily we could have packed in," Lawson said. "Their stadium was packed and it was a really small environment so it was pretty loud. A young team a lot of times when they are in that situation sometimes gets a little nervous and they don't do well but in our case the cool thing was we kept chipping away and fighting back."
The sixth-year head coach then turned to her dynamic freshman right hander. Nunley pitched the final nine innings and the Wildcats fought back to finish 3-0 on the weekend.
Lawson said the game was probably one of the best her team has played all season because it was a total team effort. Offensively, Alice O'Brien and Griffin Joiner each connected for a round tripper, while Sylver Samuel and Ginny Carroll contributed late in the game with some clutch performances. Defense doesn't show up in the box score, but senior Kara Dill played tremendous at shortstop making play after play and O'Brien made a catch in right field in the later innings to keep the Cats' hopes alive.
According to Lawson, Upstate was one of the best hitting teams UK has faced this season and Nunley kept the Cats in the game shutting down the Spartans through the final nine innings, giving up just two earned runs.
Although Nunley is a freshman, she never feels alone in the circle because she has her counterpart in Cumbess playing defense right beside her and encouraging her every pitch.
"Shes always encouraging me telling me, 'You got this, you can do it," between every batter and that's really helped me along the way," Nunley said.
Lawson always prides her teams' mental toughness and Sunday's game was an epitome of what she instills in her players. Not only did Kentucky have to battle back from a 4-0 deficit, but the Cats also responded after Upstate tied the score in the seventh and ninth innings to extend the game.
It's tough for Lawson to say if this is the most mentally tough team she has ever coached because the season is so young and Southeastern Conference play is still ahead, but the Cats definitely are stacking up well so far.
"If we can continue to exhibit this mentality throughout I would argue this is probably our toughest team from game one all the way through the end," Lawson said. "I do believe right now this team is exhibiting as much mental toughness as I have seen out of any softball team."
The Wildcats are now 14 games into the season and Kentucky's eight freshmen have had a chance to get their feet wet at the collegiate level. That experience is manifesting itself in increased confidence, particularly in Maisie Steed, who had a home run and three RBIs against the Spartans.
Steed and Nunley were huge for the Cats over the weekend but the rest of the freshmen are starting to get more comfortable in their surroundings and finding their roles on the team.
"There was a lot of unknown when they went out to play Washington and Stanford and Cal. They had never seen anything like that," Lawson said. "I think they are just a lot more confident in the box, they understand they belong here now as opposed to wondering where they fit in. I think as they continue to get more opportunities and more at bats you are going to see them get better and better as the season progresses."
Kentucky returns to action this weekend when the Cats travel to Tampa, Fla., to play five games in three days. UK will face better overall competition than they did last weekend, including 2012 Women's College World Series participant South Florida.
Although the competition gets tougher, Lawson believes no team this weekend will be as good as what they faced against USC Upstate. If her team can play with that same intensity and mental edge as the Cats did versus the Spartans and are more aggressive at the dish, the weekend will be a success.
"I'm hoping they just pick right off where they left off with the Upstate game except for maybe a little better job in the circle so we don't give up as many hits," Lawson said. "I would like us to get back into a more aggressive-type mindset offensively instead of sitting. There is nothing wrong and I like us taking pitches but you can't be taking strike three especially when people are on base so that was something that we did poorly this weekend and I would like to see that turn around coming into Florida."