Schaper’s Big Day, Smith’s Strong Outing Get No. 13 UK Past Murray
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Freshman catcher Jenny Schaper had one of her strongest showings at the plate, going 2-for-3 on the day with a double and two RBI and junior pitcher Shannon Smith threw five scoreless innings, as the No. 12 Kentucky softball team used a five-run sixth inning to power past the Murray State Racers 6-1 on Wednesday afternoon at John Cropp Stadium.
With the win, Kentucky ups its best start in program history to 27-4 overall and remains 5-1 in Southeastern Conference play as SEC action gets back underway at Arkansas this weekend for a three-game series. Murray State falls to 10-14 on the year.
It was a pitchers’ duel from the outset, with starters S. Smith for UK and Mason Robinson for Murray each throwing five innings with minimal to no damage. Smith for UK had one of her strongest outings of the season, throwing 5.0 innings allowing no runs on two hits, striking out eight and only walking two. Senior captain Kelsey Nunley entered the game for UK in the top of the fifth, and picked up her 11th win of the season after shutting the door on the Racers in the sixth and seventh innings. Nunley moves to 11-2 on the season after giving up just one run.
Junior outfielder Breanne Ray clubbed a homer to rightcenter field in the bottom of the fifth inning to break open the scoring after almost five complete innings of shutout pitching by both sides. The homer for Ray was her second in as many games, after hitting a walk-off homer against Northern Kentucky on Tuesday night to cap off a 9-0 win over the Norse.
MSU would tie the game in the top of the sixth, but Kentucky would plate five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning as the Wildcats batted around in the inning to put the game out of reach for Murray, as Nunley got the final three outs with no problem in the top of the seventh.
Kentucky will return to action on Friday in Fayetteville, Ark., as it returns to SEC play with a 5-1 record in league competition. The three-game series kicks off on Friday at 1 p.m. ET against the Razorbacks. Saturday’s game will be televised nationally on the SEC Network with Troy Benders and Jenny Dalton-Hill calling the action at 2 p.m. ET before a 1 p.m. ET series finale on Sunday.
Five. Kentucky scored five runs in the top of the fifth, marking the 10th time this year that UK has scored five or more runs in a single frame this year. That almost doubles UK’s total from all of last year, which was five times in the entirety of 2015.
Nikki Sagermann came to the plate with one out and the bases loaded and walked on four pitches to plate the eventual game-winning run. It is Sagermann’s 18th RBI this season, and fourth in the last three games for the UK offense.
Jenny Schaper was the key player for Kentucky, having her best-career day at the plate, going 2-for-3 at the dish with a double, single and two RBI. The freshman catcher had a two-RBI double in the bottom of the sixth inning that was off the top of the wall and broke the game open. Schaper is now batting .255 on the season with 12 hits, four doubles and 10 RBI.
Junior outfielder Breanne Ray clubbed her second homer in as many days in the bottom of the fifth inning to open the scoring in the game. Ray took a first-pitch to rightcenter with two outs in the inning. UK 1, MSU 0
Murray State’s Jessica Twaddle led off the top of the sixth with a single, and came around to score on a one-out double to the wall in left by catcher Jocelyn Rodgers. UK 1, MSU 1
Kentucky scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth to put the game away. Katie Reed was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and was sacrificed to second on a bunt by Sylver Samuel that was executed perfectly. Abbey Cheek then walked and Brooklin Hinz reached on an unsuccessful attempt to get Reed going home on a grounder up the middle. With the bases loaded and one out, Sagermann walked on four pitches to force in the game-winning run and make it 2-1 Kentucky.
Christian Stokes then came to the plate and scored Cheek from third on an RBI single to left field. Sarah Rainwater, who was running for Hinz at second, was thrown out trying to score at the plate for the second out in the inning. After Ray reached on an E4, Schaper stepped to the plate and ripped a double off the top of the wall in left to plate two and make it five runs in the inning for Kentucky. FINAL – No. 12 Kentucky 6, Murray State 1
For the latest on the Kentucky softball team, follow @UKSoftball on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as on the web at UKathletics.com.