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UK freshman Kelsey Nunley stifled Missouri's bats on Saturday as the Wildcats evened the series with an 8-2 victory. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) UK freshman Kelsey Nunley stifled Missouri's bats on Saturday as the Wildcats evened the series with an 8-2 victory. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Different day, different pitcher and different result.

The 19th-ranked Kentucky softball team defeated No. 11 Missouri on Saturday, 8-2, to even the three-game series with the rubber match to be played on Sunday. The Wildcats fell to the Tigers in the opening game on Friday, 2-1, in a game they let get away and as two-time All-American pitcher Chelsea Thomas dominated.

Saturday was a different story as UK freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley was the one in the circle controlling the game. She gave up just one earned run in a complete-game effort, while striking out four UM hitters. The Soddy Daisy, Tenn., native did what she has been doing all season, working the corners and keeping hitters guessing at the plate.

Nunley lived on the inside corner, jamming several Missouri batters while painting the outside corner from time to time leaving the Tigers with little chance to connect the barrel of the bat with the ball. Location has been key for Nunley, who leads the Wildcats with a 22-7 record on the season. She lives and dies by painting the black of the plate and knows just where the zone is by figuring out the umpire early in the game.

"She's been doing that her whole life," head coach Rachel Lawson said. "The one thing she does exceptionally well is she has great command and she locates it well. Once she figures out an umpire's zone she's pretty good at attacking it and locating the ball where she wants to and that's really the name of her game is being able to locate and attack batters and giving the umpire what they want."

After Missouri tied the game in the top of the fourth at 1-all, the Tigers filled the bases with two outs in the inning. Nunley threw a pitch on the inside corner that UM's Rachel Hay could do nothing with but fly out to left to end the threat. That pitch looked to be the turning point in the game as Kentucky plated two runs in the bottom half of the inning to stretch its lead to 3-1, taking command the rest of the way.

Nunley hurled 120 pitches in the game and has now thrown over 200 pitches in less than 24 hours after tallying 91 in four innings on Friday. That's a lot of pitches for anyone but to ask out of a freshman is saying a lot. The right hander has been huge for UK all season and is a large reason for its success this year.

"She's a very strong girl and she's been exceptional for us, especially for a freshman to be able to throw as many pitches as she does a game and as many games as she has," Lawson said. "We have been really lucky this year but she has been able to step up and act like a real veteran."

The Cats' offense came alive on Saturday after recording just five hits and one run in nine innings against Thomas on Friday. Senior Alice O'Brien regained the lead for UK, connecting on a long homerun to right center in the bottom of the fourth inning. Junior Ginny Carroll and freshman Christian Stokes charted two RBI each as the Wildcats had nine hits and eight runs on Saturday.

UK is going to need that same offensive-minded attack on Sunday as they will most likely see Thomas in the opposing circle again on Sunday. Having already faced the two-time Big 12 Pitcher of the Year once, Lawson feels the Cats can make some adjustments the second time around.

"I think yesterday we made contact with some balls but we didn't hit them square and stay behind them," Lawson said. "We hit a lot of balls but they were just ground balls in the infield and we swung around a lot of pitches. We are going to have to do a better job hitting the higher dropball that she brings and second when she does bring it a little  bit lower we have to do a better job of staying behind it and driving through it as opposed to moving it around and trying to run."

Sunday is meaningful because the winner of the game will take the series and have the tiebreaker when it comes to seeding for the SEC Tournament. However, Sunday also marks Senior Day for two Wildcats. Kara Dill and O'Brien have been key components for Kentucky over their four years.

Dill, who is a former all-league performer, broke her hand earlier in the year and has been limited. That hasn't stopped her from competing as she will enter the game as a pinch runner and is willing to help out the team in any way possible. O'Brien has had a great year at the plate for UK, hitting in the cleanup position for the majority of the season.

"Senior day is always a big day," Lawson said. "This year is a little bit different because it won't be our last game on this field for them. With that said, Kara and Alice have meant so much to the program. They have been starters for four years, they're awesome contributors on offense but more importantly they are great people. They are great students, they do exceptionally well in the classroom, they do well in the community and they have been an asset to Kentucky."


UK celebrates after its walk-off, 2-1 victory over Louisville on Wednesday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) UK celebrates after its walk-off victory over Louisville on Wednesday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Kentucky and Missouri's first softball matchup as conference mates is set to be a big one.

With just one Southeastern Conference series left after the Tigers come to town, the Wildcats will look to strengthen their position for the postseason against a quality opponent. If the regular-season ended today, the Wildcats (35-14, 10-8 SEC) would be the No. 7 seed in the SEC Tournament, while Missouri (27-8, 11-6 SEC) would be the five seed.

It's obvious on paper how much this means for the winner of this series, and with a trip to No. 4 Alabama up next for the Cats, there is an opportunity for UK to climb in the SEC standings by finishing the season out strong.

"Right now everybody is bottle-necked basically three through 10 so we want to have a good seed for the SEC Tournament," head coach Rachel Lawson said. "Well first you have to make it and second you want to have a good seed. If we can do something pretty cool against Missouri that would really help our standing and move up."

This is obviously a big weekend for UK and with Missouri ranked 11th in the country, it magnifies the matchup. However, even though wins and losses will likely determine Kentucky's seeding in the postseason, junior Lauren Cumbess knows the right way to approach the series.

"It's nothing different than any other SEC team we have played because they are ranked," Cumbess said. "Our conference is really tough but it's fun so when you do come away with a win it's huge for our team and gets us ready for postseason."

Kentucky will be riding a momentum swing after a walk-off 2-1 victory over rival Louisville on Wednesday at John Cropp Stadium. The win was a team effort as UK had great performances offensively and defensively as well as a gem from freshman hurler Kelsey Nunley.

Louisville defeated UK three times last season, including 3-2 in the regionals to end the Wildcats' 2012 season. This year, the Cardinals won the first meeting between the schools by knocking off the Cats 5-1 in Louisville.

U of L has had UK's number over the last few matchups but the Wildcats were finally able to get over the hump on Wednesday to pick up a momentum-building win heading into the final weekends of the season.

"It's very exciting because last year we didn't beat them and they beat us this year the first time we played them, so we were really looking forward to this game," Cumbess said. "To finally get a win over Louisville, that's huge for us. We evened it up for the year, until postseason anyway."

With just six games left in the season the Wildcats are approaching postseason play where they will need to take their game to the next level to compete with the best teams in the country. Cumbess believes the team is peaking at the right time and is playing their best ball of the year.

"I feel like our team is coming together and finding that chemistry and we are moving up and almost at our peak to play our best," Cumbess said.

Missouri is one of the top teams in the country and features two-time First-Team All-American and Big 12 Pitcher of the Year in Chelsea Thomas. Thomas is a pitcher that relies heavily on the dropball and that's exactly what UK saw when facing Louisville hurler Rachel LeCoq.

The Tigers are no strangers to big games as they appeared in the 2012 Super Regionals before falling to LSU in three games. The Cats are hoping the emotional win over Louisville will motivate them and boost their confidence the rest of the way.

"I hope it's going to carry on big," Lawson said. "Missouri is an awesome team, they have an incredible pitcher and they hit the ball well. The confidence and knowledge that we gain from (Louisville) is great and plus she is a drop ball pitcher in Chelsea Thomas and while she has a lot of other pitches the drop is a huge pitch for her. To be able to work on that against Louisville a little bit is good coming into this weekend."

Junior Lauren Cumbess' walk-off RBI single gave UK a 2-1 victory over Louisville Wednesday evening. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Junior Lauren Cumbess' walk-off RBI single gave UK a 2-1 victory over Louisville Wednesday evening. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
After taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth on a wild pitch that scored Kentucky sophomore Sarah Frazer, the Louisville Cardinals came to bat with UK three outs away from defeating it's in-state rival. Freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley toed the rubber looking to finish off her complete game shutout.

However, the leadoff hitter in the inning for the Cards, Taner Fowler, had other ideas. The junior took Nunley's 2-1 offering down the left-field line over the fence to tie the game at 1-all. Instead of getting down on herself, Nunley stepped right back in the circle and got the Wildcats back in the dugout without further damage.

The UK offense had Nunley's back and took care of the rest as the Wildcats loaded the bases with Lauren Cumbess stepping to the dish. The junior got a pitch she liked over the plate and ripped an infield single to the left side hole that was too much for Louisville shortstop Whitney Arion to handle and driving in the game-winner to give the Wildcats a 2-1 victory over the eighth-ranked team in the country.

Following the game-timing home run, Nunlely admitted she was a little rattled but quickly regrouped to give the Cats a chance to win in the bottom half.

"Right after she hit that homer I was a little shaky but you kind of always get shaky after that happens," Nunley said. "You just have to regain your confidence and go back out there."

Cumbess and the rest of the Wildcats seemed to keep their cool after the home run by Fowler. She kept reminding herself the advantage of playing at home and having the last at-bat. As Kentucky filled the bases in the seventh, Cumbess stepped in the box in the most pressure situation of the game.

The Normal, Ill., native may have been one of the coolest members in the ballpark. She was seeing the ball well all game and felt extremely confident when it was her time to deliver.

"I was actually pretty comfortable surprisingly," Cumbess said. "I feel like I had been seeing the ball pretty well all game even though I had only had one hit before. I was pretty comfortable and it was exciting. I always love being in those kinds of positions."

Head coach Rachel Lawson also felt good seeing Cumbess at the plate in the pressure situation. Lawson has coached the junior for close to three years now and knows just how smart and how good of a hitter Cumbess is.

In fact, if the sixth-year head coach could have chosen anyone on her roster to get the job done, it would have been Cumbess.

"I have a ton of confidence in Cumbess," Lawson said. "She's a strong woman and she's both physically and mentally strong. She loves softball and she knows the game really well so if I was going to have anybody up to bat I would want it to be Lauren."

The win was big for UK, who evened the season series after falling to U of L back on April 3, by a score of 5-1 in Louisville. The Cards have controlled the series between the two schools for a few years so the win was extra sweet for UK.

"Oh its huge. They have had our number for quite some time so to be able to come in and play it was actually a very fun game," Lawson said. "It was a fast game I thought both pitchers did a nice job. To be able to come out on the winning end is pretty exciting."

Time and time again The Wildcats has shown toughness to will themselves to wins. UK showed it again tonight by collecting themselves after the Louisville home run and producing in the seventh to get the win.

It was an all-around win for the Wildcats, who got production from the entire lineup, both offensively and defensively along with a great effort in the circle from Nunley.

"To get production in the entire batting lineup is big for us," Lawson said. "We were able to do that on Sunday against Arkansas and that has been a big thing for us. The fact that we showed toughness on defense, throughout the order and on the mound was big for us."

Rachel Lawson



Lauren Cumbess



Kelsey Nunley



Kentucky Sports Report (week of April 22)

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Baseball
- Kentucky continued a grueling stretch with 14-of-16 ranked opponents with a four-game week, with No. 8 Louisville earning a midweek win and No. 14 South Carolina sweeping the Wildcats in Columbia over the weekend.
- Sophomore two-way standout A.J. Reed smashed his team-high 10th homer of the year on Saturday, as a part of a 4-12 weekend at the plate.
- Junior lefty Corey Litrell tossed his seventh quality start of the year and 21st of his illustrious career on Sunday, allowing three earned runs in 7.2 innings.
- Freshman catcher George Fettes belted his first homer of his career on Saturday afternoon over the left-field wall that helped UK rally to take the lead before falling to the Gamecocks.

Softball
- The Kentucky softball team is coming off a 3-2 week where it swept a doubleheader at Middle Tennessee State before earning a win at Arkansas in a three-game set. UK defeated MTSU 7-4 in game one before a 13-1 triumph in game two.
- Home runs led UK in game two over MTSU as the Wildcats blasted five home runs to break the school record for most homers in a game. Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner started the home run assault, blasting a leadoff shot in the second inning before junior infielder Krystal Smith hit a two-run homer later that inning. Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess hit a two-run home run in the third inning before freshman infielder Ansley Smith hit consecutive two-run round trippers in the third and fourth innings to tie and break the school record. In all, the Wildcats posted 15 hits in the game, including three doubles and 12 RBI.
- Cumbess has been the offensive leader for UK, hitting safely in 13 of her last 14 games with an extra-base hit in nine of those 14 games. For the season, Cumbess leads the team with a .359 (56-for-156) average, including 12 doubles, 11 homers and 37 RBI. Freshman Kelsey Nunley is 20-6 on the year in the circle with a 2.08 ERA. Cumbess is second
on the team with a 3.52 ERA and a 10-5 record.

Men's tennis
- Kentucky advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2013 SEC Tournament, knocking off No. 9 Mississippi State in the second round, 4-2.
- The Wildcats bowed out in the quarterfinals after dropping a tight match with number one overall seed, and No. 2 Georgia, 4-3. Anthony Rossi defeated No. 6 KU Singh 7-6, 6-3 in his second win of the year over a top-10 player.
- The NCAA Selection Show is Tuesday, April 30 at 5:00 p.m. ET on NCAAsports.com.
Women's tennis
- The Kentucky women's tennis team lost 4-2 in its opening round match vs. LSU at the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
- Junior Caitlin McGraw and freshman Nadia Ravita won the No. 1 doubles match 8-0.
- Ranked 22nd, Ravita recorded another singles win, defeating Kaitlin Burns 7-5, 6-3 in the No. 1 singles slot.
- McGraw also recorded a singles win for UK, taking court four 7-5, 7-6 (3).

Women's golf
- The women's golf team recorded its best finish at the SEC Championships in 20 years as it placed tied for fifth, shooting 58-over-par for the tournament at the Greystone Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, Ala.
- Freshman Sarah Harris was the highlight of the tournament for the Wildcats, finishing a career-best second place at 9-over-par for the event. Harris, who was tied for the individual lead after day one, was tied for fifth coming into Sunday before a 4-over-par, 76 catapulted her into second overall. The second place individual finish was also the highest this season for Kentucky.
- Junior Liz Breed, who was nearly as impressive as Harris over the weekend, recorded a career-high finish tying for sixth overall at 11-over-par. The Waynesboro, Pa., native came into Sunday tied for fifth before falling just one slot after a 6-over-par, 78 final round.

Men's golf
- The UK men's golf team finished in 13th place at the SEC Championships last weekend, shooting 50-over-par for the tournament at the Seaside Course in St. Simmons Island, Ga.
- Junior Ben Stow was the high finisher for the Wildcats, placing tied for 12th at 5-over-par. The Salisbury, England native was even par through the first round before posting 2-over in round two and 3-over in the final 18.

Track and field
- Kentucky opened the new UK Outdoor Track and Field Facility with the inaugural collegiate Heart of the Bluegrass Classic on Saturday.
- UK won all but one of the 29 events the team entered at the inaugural collegiate Heart of the Bluegrass Classic on Saturday.
- Cally Macumber and Michelle Canterna set the school records in their respective events.
- Macumber's mile time of 4:37.75 also set the facility record.
- Canterna cleared the new outdoor school record vault height at 3.87 meter /12'08.25".
- Keith Hayes won all four of the events he entered, including two relays.
- Rebecca Famurewa won three throws events, including a PR in the hammer throw.

Upcoming schedule

Tuesday, April 23
Baseball at Western Kentucky - 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, April 24
Softball hosts Louisville - 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, April 25
Track and field at Penn Relays - 10:00 a.m. (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Baseball at Ole Miss - 7:30 p.m.

Friday, April 26
Track and field at Penn Relays - 9:00 a.m. (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Track and field at Triton Invitational - 1:00 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.)
Softball hosts Missouri - 5:00 p.m.
Baseball at Ole Miss - 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 27
Track and field at Penn Relays - 12:55 p.m. (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Track and field at Triton Invitational - 1:00 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.)
Softball hosts Missouri- 1:00 p.m.
Baseball at Ole Miss - 3:15 p.m.
Track and field at Miami University RedHawk Invitational (Miami, Ohio)

Sunday, April 28
Softball hosts Missouri - 1:00 p.m.
Track and field at Payton Jordan Invitational - 4:00 p.m.
(Palo Alto, Calif.)

April 14 Performances of the Week

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Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, April 14:

Softball: Lauren Cumbess

Went 3-0 on the week to become the first player in school history to win 20 games in a single season, surpassing former stars Chanda Bell and Keary Camunas ... Started the week with seven strong innings against Marshall before a win against EKU where she allowed only one earned run ... Best outing of the week came against No. 3 Florida, where she threw a complete game Saturday, allowing only three hits and two earned runs behind eight strikeouts ... The win over UF moved her record to 20-4 ... Followed that performance with 4.2 strong innings in relief on Sunday, allowing only two hits with one run with two strikeouts ... Her 15 strikeouts this week moved her into eighth all-time on UK single-season strikeout list ... Leads UK in nearly every pitching category.

Softball: Kelsey Nunley

Went 3-0 on the week to become the first player in school history to win 20 games in a single season, surpassing former stars Chanda Bell and Keary Camunas ... Started the week with seven strong innings against Marshall before a win against EKU where she allowed only one earned run ... Best outing of the week came against No. 3 Florida, where she threw a complete game Saturday, allowing only three hits and two earned runs behind eight strikeouts ... The win over UF moved her record to 20-4 ... Followed that performance with 4.2 strong innings in relief on Sunday, allowing only two hits with one run with two strikeouts ... Her 15 strikeouts this week moved her into eighth all-time on UK single-season strikeout list ... Leads UK in nearly every pitching category.

Kentucky Sports Report (week of April 15)

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Baseball
- Kentucky baseball picked up a 6-3 win over Austin Peay on Tuesday, behind five strong innings from freshman righthander Kyle Cody and a two-hit performance from freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett.
- Kyle Barrett shined once again on Friday going 3-5 and plating the game-tying RBI in the series-opening comeback win over Tennessee.
- After a quality start that led the Wildcats to victory on Friday night, A.J. Reed crushed his team-leading ninth homer of the year in UK's heartbreaking 10-9 loss to Tennessee on Saturday afternoon.
- Junior closer Trevor Gott added two more saves during the week, improving his total to nine on the year and program-record 20 in his career. Gott's ERA is now an impressive 0.95 with a 4-0 record, while fanning 24 in 19.0 IP.

Softball
- The Kentucky softball team wrapped up one of its most historic weeks in school history last week with several records broken. The first was sixth-year head coach Rachel Lawson becoming the winningest head coach in school history with her 182nd career win. That honor came a few days before UK upset No. 3 Florida on the same day it named its new $9.5 million stadium after longtime administrator John Cropp. Overall, UK went 4-2 on the week with wins over Florida, Marshall and two against EKU.
- Freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley earned the win in the upset over UF, becoming the first player in school history to win 20 games in a season, surpassing former stars Chanda Bell and Keary Camunas. Nunley went 3-0 on the week with a 1.64 ERA, while junior Lauren Cumbess also earned a win in the circle.
- Cumbess was the star for UK at the plate, going 10-for-22 throughout the week with four doubles, three homers and seven RBI. Cumbess is riding a nine-game hitting streak - a career long - posting an extra-base hit in eight of those nine games. Senior Alice O'Brien went 8-for-19 on the week with a double, home run and four RBI, while freshmen Maisie Steed and Nikki Sagermann also had home runs.

Men's tennis
- The University of Kentucky men's tennis team has earned the No. 8 overall seed in this week's Southeastern Conference Tournament, it was announced on Sunday night.
- UK will face the No. 9 overall seed, Mississippi State on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. CT. The Wildcats and Mississippi State have faced off two times this season already, with UK winning both prior matches.
- The first match saw Kentucky sweep MSU 4-0 at the ITA National Indoor Championships in Seattle, Wash., in the Sweet 16. Kentucky lost the doubles point and rallied to win four of six singles matches in the second meeting of the season in Starkville.

Women's tennis

- The Kentucky women's tennis team upset No. 27 South Carolina 4-3 on Sunday at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex.
- Junior Caitlin McGraw clinched the match for Kentucky with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win on court five.
- Kentucky won the doubles point, winning two of three doubles matches as Khristina Blajkevitch and Jessica Stiles clinched the point by winning three consecutive games to win the No. 3 doubles match 9-7.
- Freshman Nadia Ravita defeated another ranked opponent, taking down No. 77 Jaklin Alawi 7-5, 0-6, 6-4.

Track and field
- The Kentucky track and field teams enjoyed one of the best total team performances of the season at the "Kentuckiana" Border Battle on Saturday.
- The Wildcats' men's and women's teams combined with Louisville to defeat the aggregate scores of Indiana and Notre Dame.
- Fifteen - 10 men's and five women's - Wildcat individuals or relay teams claimed event titles on Saturday.
- Rebecca Famurewa increased her UK freshman record discus throw to 57.09 meters / 187'04", which gives her the No. 2 ranking in school history.
- The mark also is the third-farthest discus throw in the nation this season.
- UK competitors won four of the seven throws events they entered.
- Tamyah Pipkin became the third fastest Wildcat ever at 200 meters as she won race with a time of 23.67.
- Kadeem Kushimo enjoyed a career-afternoon winning both the 100 and 200 meters.

Men's golf
- The UK men's golf team placed eighth in the 14-team field at the Gary Koch Invitational last week, finishing at 22-over-par. The Wildcats recorded top-10 team finishes in all six of their spring tournaments.
- Juniors Cody Martin and Ben Stow led the way for the Cats, shooting 5-over-par for the invitational and finished tied for 29th.
- UK wrapped up its regular season schedule and now look toward the post season as the Wildcats travel to St. Simmons Island, Ga., this weekend for the Southeastern Conference Championships, April 19-21.

Upcoming schedule

Tuesday, April 16
Baseball hosts Louisville - 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, April 17
Softball at Middle Tennessee State (DH) - 4:00 p.m.
Women's tennis vs. LSU - 3:00 p.m. (Starkville, Miss.)

Thursday, April 18
Men's tennis vs. Mississippi State - 7:00 p.m. (Oxford, Miss.)
Women's tennis at SEC Tournament (Starkville, Miss.)

Friday, April 19
Softball at Arkansas - 7:00 p.m.
Baseball at South Carolina - 7:00 p.m.
Men's golf at SEC Championship (St. Simon's, Ga.)
Women's golf at SEC Championship (Birmingham, Ala.)
Men's tennis at SEC Tournament (Oxford, Miss.)
Women's tennis at SEC Tournament (Starkville, Miss.)

Saturday, April 20
Track and field hosts Heart of the Bluegrass Classic - 10:00 a.m.
Softball at Arkansas - 1:00 p.m.
Baseball at South Carolina - 3:00 p.m.
Men's golf at SEC Championship (St.Simon's, Ga.)
Women's golf at SEC Championship (Birmingham, Ala.)
Men's tennis at SEC Tournament (Oxford, Miss.)
Women's tennis at SEC Tournament (Starkville, Miss.)

Sunday, April 21
Baseball at South Carolina - 1:30 p.m.
Softball at Arkansas - 2:00 p.m.
Men's golf at SEC Championship (St.Simon's, Ga.)
Women's golf at SEC Championship (Birmingham, Ala.)
Men's tennis at SEC Tournament (Oxford, Miss.)
Women's tennis at SEC Tournament (Starkville, Miss.)

The Grand Opening ceremony of John Cropp Stadium was held pregame on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) The Grand Opening Ceremony of John Cropp Stadium was held pregame on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
"Let's go give this stadium and ESPN a show it deserves."

That was the direct quote from head coach Rachel Lawson while wrapping up her pregame ceremonial speech before the UK softball team went out and bested the third-ranked Florida Gators, 4-2 in front of a season-high 1,206 fans.

The ribbons have been cut and the banners have been dropped as the UK Softball Complex was reintroduced as the new John Cropp Stadium on Saturday on a day that will never be forgotten for the UK softball program.

The Wildcats gave exactly what ESPN deserved alright and showed the nation what UK softball is all about.

"The atmosphere was great," Lawson said. "The fans were into the game they loved it. I thought both teams played really hard and there were a lot of really exciting plays. I don't think we could have asked for a better game from us. I thought the whole thing was an incredible day for us."

Kelsey Nunley starred on the mound, tossing a complete game as she set the school single-season wins record with 20. It was Krystal Smith who a bulk of UK's damage at the plate two hits and three runs batted in, including a go-ahead two-run single in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Before the upset win, Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart, Lawson and stadium namesake Associate Athletics Director John Cropp all spoke at the podium. The day has come where UK softball boasts one of the top facilities in all of college softball. There was a time where some thought it might never happen. That includes Cropp, who has been a large part of the program since its existence.

"I can remember our very first practice that took place in Woodland Park," Cropp said. "We didn't even have a field on this campus. Our first coach, she can remember well going over to Woodland Park and practicing softball. That was a long time ago but I don't think either one of us ever envisioned us being here today."

Lawson is in her sixth year as the head coach and what she has done since her time at UK has grabbed everyone's attention.

Barnhart noted that there are times when programs build a facility to increase performance and help gain a winning reputation and there are other times when teams are able to produce with what they have and are rewarded for their achievements.

That's exactly what Lawson has done in her tenure and she is now getting recognition for her accomplishments. Six years later, she owns the school's all-time wins record and has taken UK to unprecedented heights.

"We need to thank her for the five straight NCAA appearances and the college Super Regional that we hosted two years ago that gave us the ability to do these kinds of things and build this facility," Barnhart said. "To have 2,000 people in here on national television, gave our program the visibility we have not had."

Lawson's success has garnered attention from other schools during her time at UK. There was a point where she was interviewing elsewhere for jobs which, at the time, had better softball facilities than UK.

There was a day a few years back when Lawson remembers speaking to Barnhart on the phone about what this program needed to become among the best. Barnhart promised Lawson they would provide her with a new stadium and he stayed true to his word. Lawson decided to remain at UK and according to her, the stadium actually came a year before than expected.

"(Barnhart) actually did it a year earlier than he said he was going to do it," Lawson said. "To be around people who actually not only say things but actually come through with what they say they are going to do, that's exceptional and that's very special to me because we live in a world where not very many people come through with their promises. I will never forget that day so that's very special to me."

Lawson took time to thank multiple people, including Barnhart, Cropp, former UK president Lee Todd, current UK president Dr. Eli Capilouto and the rest of the athletic department. She also gave thanks to her associate head coach Kristine Himes and assistant coach Molly Johnson, who have both been with Lawson for every win at UK either as a coach or in Johnson's case as a player as well.

But Lawson gave special thanks to the Big Blue Nation, because without the fans, alumni and current players, Saturday's celebration would have never taken place.

"You can build an incredible stadium and I can't be more thankful for this stadium, but this stadium is only worth the people that are in it and work for it every single day," Lawson said. "The Big Blue Nation is awesome. We are one of the few softball programs in the country in that we had a large fan base prior to the new stadium.

"I think that's great that they are going to have some place where they can sit and see a game because each year we are putting up temporary bleachers. Not only do we fill those seats up but we have had to build more and more and more until we had 2,000 people at Super Regionals. So I have to thank the Big Blue Nation because without you we would not have this stadium."

The stadium is going to do some great things for the softball program. The obvious thing is it will enhance the recruiting and will give players and fans an atmosphere that they deserve for SEC softball.

However, what the new facilities bring is the ability for the players to become complete student-athletes and give them a home away from home where they can feel comfortable. Not only did the program get a new stadium, but a new locker room and hitting practice area is being constructed down the third-base foul area.

Lawson takes pride in her student-athletes' work on the field and just as importantly in the classroom. She wants the Cats to become great off the field when they leave UK. Lawson says the new locker room will give her players a place for them to go after class to study, practice, eat and then go home to get a good night's rest.

Barnhart appreciates the efforts Lawson has had on the made but he notices what she does in the community and the example she sets for the players for them to become the best human beings as possible.

"She has given a lot of young women in this community the dream that they can play in a place like this in a league like this," Barnhart said. "Maybe just maybe you get to the College World Series in Oklahoma City. On the way she has done an amazing job that her kids do a great job in the classroom."

This entire project took a lot of hard work from several different people. It's been a long process but it's now time to take the next step in UK softball history.

Cropp capped off the opening ceremony with the last speech of the three and he emphasized UK softball would not be here today without the leadership of the two standing right there next to him: Barnhart and Lawson.

"Athletics is a team, and it took the whole team to put this together," Cropp said. "But what else you have to have in athletics and life is leadership and the real reason we are here today doing this is because of the two people here standing beside me. They are the ones to make this happen."
 

Recent Comments

  • Guy Ramsey: The song is "The Mighty Rio Grande" by the band This Will Destroy You. read more
  • Griffin: What's the name of the song that this video starts playing when describing Cal getting ejected and Aaron talking about read more
  • Quinn : It was an amazing run! I hope you all return and make another stab at it. read more
  • Sandy Spears: I completely with the person's comment above. So proud of all the young men and their accomplishments. They have everything read more
  • BJ Rassam: The Cats came so close to winning another NCAA basketball championship. read more
  • chattyone: Congratulations to our Wildcats! They are terrific. All of us just like these young men are disappointed in the loss, read more
  • clint bailes: Such a great season! You guys fought hard til the end. Loved watchin the season! Can't wait til next season. read more
  • Andrea Boyd: you guys are AMAZING! as individuals and as a team. thank you for your tremendous playing and work and attitudes. read more
  • laura n: What an honor and privledge to watch all of you grow into incredible young men. Never enjoyed a season more. read more
  • Amy Carnes: Very proud of you cats you have really grow as a team .You proved all the doubters wrong. And have read more