Key Hits, Strong Pitching Leads No. 17 UK to Wins Over LMU, CMU

March 2, 2013

UK-LMU Box Score | UK-LMU Box Score (PDF)

UK-CMU Box Score | UK-CMU Box Score (PDF)

TAMPA, Fla. – True freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley threw seven strong innings in game one, while junior pitcher Lauren Cumbess allowed only three hits and one run in the second game of the day, as the No. 17/19 University of Kentucky softball team extended its winning streak to a season-high seven games by defeating Loyola Marymount 4-3 and Central Michigan 3-1 on Saturday. Both games were played at the Eddie C. Moore Sports Complex in Tampa, Fla., as part of the Under Armour Invitational.

The seven-game winning streak takes UK’s overall record to 15-3 this season, tying the best 18-game start in school history after the 2011 squad began the year 15-3 as well. Head coach Rachel Lawson’s 2011 squad went on to a 19-4 record before the start of SEC play and ended the season by hosting the school’s first NCAA Super Regional before falling to highly ranked Cal.

The Wildcats have got off to the fast start against some of the best competition in the nation, facing off against nine teams that were either ranked or receiving votes. UK has wins over three ranked teams in then-No. 3 Cal, then-No. 16 Washington and then-No. 20 Stanford, while also defeating four teams that were/are receiving votes in Oregon State, San Diego State, USC Upstate and USF. UK’s three losses have come to No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 3 Arizona State and unranked Portland State.

Kentucky used come-from-behind performances in both games on Saturday, erasing a 3-0 deficit against LMU and a 1-0 hole against CMU. The wins moved UK’s winning streak to seven games – the highest of the season – while the Wildcats have won 12 of their last 13 games with the lone loss during that stretch coming to No. 1 Oklahoma.

UK has won all four games it has played in the 2103 Under Armour Invitational, defeating Illinois and 2012 Women’s College World Series participant USF on Friday before its two win Saturday. The Wildcats will conclude play in the event on Sunday at 9 a.m. against Western Michigan. The game will be played at the Eddie C. Moore Sports Complex field 9. UK and WMU have already met once this season with UK earning a 12-1 victory in game two of the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz.

Nunley’s impressive start in the circle in game one led UK to the victory over Loyola Marymount. After giving up three runs on three hits and three walks in the first inning, Nunley settled down to throw six scoreless innings the rest of the way. In her final six innings, Nunley allowed only two hits while not allowing another walk. Overall, Nunley struck out five, including retiring 14 straight to end the game.

For the season, Nunley is 9-0 with a 2.28 ERA. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., has 47 strikeouts in a team-high 61.1 innings pitched, allowing 24 runs to score. In her six games started this season, Nunley is 6-0 with a 1.23 ERA, throwing 40 innings with 37 strikeouts and only seven earned runs.

Offensively, UK recorded three hits against LMU, paced by sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner, who went 1-for-3 with a double and a RBI. Senior infielder Kara Dill went 1-for-3 with a run scored, while freshman Nikki Sagermann also went 1-for-3.

The scoring started in the first inning when LMU loaded the bases behind a single and two walks. After Nunley got a strikeout for the second out of the inning, Sterling Shuster singled to rightfield to score two runs and give the Lions an early lead. Nunley issued her third walk of the inning to the following batter to load the bases again, setting the stage for Nicole Clowdus, who singled up the middle to score the third and final run of the inning.

The Wildcats cut the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the first after Dill reached on a bunt single and advanced to second on a throwing error by the pitcher. Joiner took full advantage, doubling to leftfield to score Dill. After senior Alice O’Brien got hit by a pitch, Cumbess lined a ball to the third baseman, who made the catch and threw to first to double off O’Brien, leaving two outs and Joiner at second. UK scored the second run of the inning when true freshman Maisie Steed hit a roller to the shortstop, who threw wildly to first, allowing Joiner to score.

UK tied the game in the third inning behind two LMU errors. Joiner leadoff the inning and hit a sharp grounder to third that the third baseman couldn’t field cleanly, allowing Joiner to reach safely. Sarah Frazer, who was pinch running for Joiner, then stole second and advanced to third on the deep fly out by O’Brien. Frazer came home to tie the game on the next at bat when Cumbess reached on another error by the third baseman.

UK grabbed the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth inning on another LMU error. Steed started the inning by getting hit by a pitch, advancing to third on aggressive base running after Sagermann laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt. After the putout at first, the first baseman threw to third to try to catch Steed stealing the extra bag, but threw wildly down the line, allowing Steed to score and give UK the 4-3 lead.

Nunley slammed the door in the top off the seventh, getting a strikeout, groundout and pop up to seal the win.

Cumbess was the star in the second game of the day, going seven innings, allowing only three hits and one earned run while striking out seven CMU batters. The native of Normal, Ill., allowed two hits in the opening frame, but held the Chippewas to just one hit the final six innings. For the season, Cumbess is 3-1 with a 2.39 ERA in 38 innings pitched. The junior has allowed 13 earned runs in the circle this season while striking out 36.

O’Brien paced UK offensively against CMU, going 1-for-2 with a two-RBI single. Dill also earned a hit, going 1-for-3 with a run scored, while Joiner grabbed an RBI on her seventh double of the season. Junior outfielder Ginny Carroll was the only other Wildcat with a hit, going 1-for-3.

CMU got on the board first with one run on two hits and two runners left on base. The inning started with a leadoff walk before Cumbess got a lineout to third for the first out of the inning. Summer Knoop then hit a single to leftfield, putting runners at first and second with one out. CarolAnn Sexauer then singled to load the bases for Chelsea Delamielleur, who grounded into a fielder’s choice with UK third baseman Krystal Smith making a smart play to get the runner out at home. Cumbess threw a wild pitch during the next at bat, allowing a runner to score and give the Chippewas an early lead.

UK got all three of its runs in the third inning. After junior Emily Jolly started the inning with a pop up, freshman Sylver Samuel singled to rightfield and later stole second, advancing to third on a throwing error by the catcher. Dill then hit a slow roller to the first baseman, who was in for the bunt. The CMU first baseman fielded the ball but whiffed at applying the tag to Dill, putting runners on the corners with one out. Dill got into scoring position on the next pitch, stealing second before Joiner doubled to centerfield, scoring Samuel. Both Dill and Joiner came home to score on the next at bat when O’Brien singled up the middle, giving UK a 3-1 lead it would not relinquish.

Kentucky will play host to the SEC Tournament this season for the first time in school history. The event, which is considered one of the most prestigious softball tournaments in the nation, will be May 8-11 in Lexington. The championship game will be featured on ESPN2, while all other games will be shown on ESPNU. Ticket information for the tournament can be found here:

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Under Armour Invitational – Tampa, Fla.
Friday, March 1 (USF Softball Stadium)
Kentucky def. Illinois 5-4 (8)
Kentucky def. USF 6-3 (9)

Saturday, March 2 (Eddie C. Moore Sports Complex Field 1)
Kentucky def. Loyola Marymount 4-3
Kentucky def. Central Michigan 3-1

Sunday, March 3 (Eddie C. Moore Sports Complex Field 9)
Kentucky vs. Western Michigan – 9 a.m. ET