Prince's 11 Ks, Sagermann's Bomb Lead No. 6 Softball in Opener
LEXINGTON, Ky. - University of Kentucky sophomore pitcher Meagan Prince posted a career-high 11 strikeouts in the circle and junior third baseman Nikki Sagermann blasted UK's first home run of the season, lifting the sixth-ranked Wildcats to a 4-2 season-opening victory over Florida A&M on Thursday at the Lady Rattler Softball Complex in Tallahassee, Fla.
The victory moves Kentucky (1-0) to 7-1 all-time in season openers under eighth-year head coach Rachel Lawson. The Wildcats will return to action Friday when it travels just up the road to Florida State University for the Renegade Classic, featuring No. 5 Florida State and Georgia Southern. The event begins Friday at noon ET vs. the highly ranked Seminoles before a 2:30 p.m. ET battle vs. Georgia Southern. UK will play both teams again Sunday to conclude its opening weekend of action.
Prince was the story in the circle for Kentucky, throwing the second complete game of her career to move to 1-0 on the season. The native of Martin, Tenn., posted a career-high 11 strikeouts in the game, allowing just two runs - only one earned - with five hits and one walk allowed. The start for the sophomore was only the ninth of her career and 22nd career appearance.
Offensively, Kentucky was paced by Sagermann and fellow junior Sylver Samuel. Sagermann went 1-for-3 in the game, launching UK's first home run of the season. The blast came at a key time for the Wildcats as it pushed UK's lead to three runs in the top of the sixth. Sagermann's bomb was the 21st of her career, sitting her alone at eight place on UK's career home run listing.
Samuel went 1-for-3 in the game with a run scored and RBI, while four other Wildcats had hits in the game. Sophomore Breanne Ray came off the bench in the third inning to deliver a clutch pinch-hit single to score a run, while senior catcher Griffin Joiner went 1-for-3 with a sacrifice fly and infield single. Junior infielders Christian Stokes and Ansley Smith had the other two hits in the game, both singling to leftfield. Dating back to last season, Joiner is now on an eight-game hitting streak, while Samuel has a hit in each of her last three games.
FAMU (0-1) had a strong pitching performance by Kenya Pereira, who pitched all four games in the 2014 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament to lead the Lady Rattlers to the tournament championship and an appearance in a NCAA Regional. Pereira tossed all seven innings, allowing four runs - three earned - on six hits with five strikeouts and three walks allowed.
Five Lady Rattlers had hits in the game, paced by shortstop Jessica Nathan, who went 1-for-3 with an RBI, while third baseman Amber Fullwood had the other RBI, going 1-for-3 as well. Infielder Alyssa Weaver went 1-for-1 in the game, while second baseman Raven Moseley was 1-for-2 and outfielder Tashayla Irvis was 1-for-3 with a run scored.
The scoring started in the first inning for Kentucky as Samuel slapped a ball into left-centerfield that was misplayed, allowing the speedy centerfield to reach third base. Joiner cleared the bases a few pitches later by hitting a deep fly to leftfield that was tracked down by Irvis, but went for a sacrifice fly to allow Samuel to score.
FAMU tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the second inning after a one-out hit-by-pitch put a baserunner on for Amber Fullwood, who hit a high chopper up the middle that allowed the runner to score from second and tie the game.
Kentucky quickly took the lead back in the top of the third inning after Smith hit a single into leftfield, moving to second on a perfect sacrifice bunt by senior Kara Howard. After a fly out to centerfield by Stokes moved Smith to third, Samuel slapped an infield single to shortstop to put UK up 2-1.
The Wildcats scored another run in the fifth inning on when Ray followed walks to Smith and Stokes with a pinch-hit single to rightfield. Sagermann sealed the game with her home run to deep left-centerfield.
The Lady Rattlers closed the gap to 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning after Irvis reached second base on an error, eventually scoring when Nathan hit a double to centerfield.
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Kentucky - 1-0
Florida A&M - 0-1
Florida State - 0-0
Georgia Southern - 0-0
Kentucky - No. 7 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25; No. 6 in NFCA/USA Today Top 25
Florida A&M - not ranked
Florida State - No. 5 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25; No. 5 in NFCA/USA Today Top 25
Georgia Southern - not ranked
Thursday, Feb. 5
Kentucky def. Florida A&M 4-2
Saturday, Feb. 7
Kentucky at Florida State - Noon ET
Kentucky vs. Georgia Southern - 2:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, Feb. 8
Kentucky vs. Georgia Southern - 10 a.m. ET
Kentucky at Florida State - 12:30 p.m. ET