No. 17 Softball Ends Road Trip with 8-4 Win Over Western Michigan

March 3, 2013

Box Score | UK-WMU Box Score (PDF)

TAMPA, Fla. – For the third time in as many games, the No. 17 University of Kentucky softball team used a come-from-behind effort to earn a win, defeating Western Michigan 8-4 in the final game of the 2013 Under Armour Invitational in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday. The game was played at the Eddie C. Moore Sports Complex.

Kentucky (16-3) finishes the tournament with a 5-0 record, defeating Illinois and 2012 Women’s College World Series participant USF on Friday before its two come-from-behind wins over Loyola Marymount and Central Michigan on Saturday. According to year-by-year records, this is the first time since the program started in 1997 that UK has gone undefeated in two consecutive tournaments.

That accomplishment leads UK to a season-best eight-game winning streak, including 13 of its last 14 games. During that stretch, the Wildcats have defeated two teams that are receiving votes in the polls in USF and USC Upstate, while their lone loss was to No. 1 Oklahoma.

Junior infielder Krystal Smith and freshman utility player Maisie Steed blasted solo homers in the top of the fifth inning to tie the game 4-4 after UK trialed 4-2 after four complete innings. Smith leadoff the inning with her first roundtripper of the season to cut the lead 4-3, while Steed followed two at bats later with her second homer of the year. UK grabbed the lead a few at bats later when senior Alice O’Brien grounded into a fielder’s choice. Steed finished the game 1-for-3 with two runs scored, while Smith was 1-for-2 with two runs scored.

Senior infielder Kara Dill led UK offensively in the win, going 3-for-3 with her first triple of the season and also scoring three runs. Dill led UK over the weekend, hitting .353 (6-for-17) with six runs scored and a .421 on-base percentage. For the season, Dill is hitting .358 with a team-high 24 hits, including one double, one triple and three RBI.

O’Brien posted three RBI in the game, driving in one on a single and the others on a sacrifice fly and a fielder’s choice. O’Brien was 1-for-3 for the day and finished the weekend with a .277 (13-for-47) overall average with three doubles, one homer and 15 RBI.

Junior Lauren Cumbess went 1-for-4 in the game with an RBI single in the first inning, upping her team-leading RBI total to 18 to go along with a team-best .373 (22-for-59) average and four doubles. Cumbess was also strong in the circle over the weekend, going 2-0 with a 0.58 ERA, throwing 12 innings with 11 strikeouts and only three hits allowed.

True freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley earned the win for Kentucky, moving to 10-0 on the season and 3-0 for the weekend. Nunley came into relief in the bottom of the first inning after junior Ellen Weaver started the game, allowing two runs. Nunley pitched the final 6.2 innings, allowing four hits, two runs – only one earned – with eight strikeouts, which is one off her career high.

For the weekend, Nunley posted a 1.94 ERA, pitching 21.2 innings, allowing six earned runs while striking out 18 batters. Overall this season, Nunley has a 2.16 ERA, throwing a team-high 68 innings allowing 26 runs – 21 earned – with a team-best 55 strikeouts. In her six starts, Nunley is 6-0 with a 1.23 ERA, throwing 40 innings with 37 strikeouts and only seven earned runs.

The Wildcats got on the board first with two runs in the first inning. After a leadoff out, Dill singled to center, advancing to second when sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner was hit by a pitch. Both Dill and Joiner then stole a bag, putting runners on second and third for O’Brien, who hit a sacrifice fly for the first run. Cumbess then gave UK a 2-0 lead with her RBI single up the middle.

Western Michigan tied the game 2-2 in the bottom of the frame. After a leadoff single, Weaver got a pop up bunt for the first out, but then walked two batters to load the bases and hit the next two batters with a pitch to tie the game 2-2. Head coach Rachel Lawson went to the bullpen and brought in Nunley, who got two strikeouts to end the inning.

The Broncos took the lead in the bottom of the second inning on a sacrifice fly by Sabrina Gamboa. After a leadoff single by Christina Pigozzi, who advanced to second on a throwing error by Steed, Melissa Palmer singled up the middle and advanced to second on the throw home, putting runners on second and third no outs. Nunley got a strikeout for the first out but Gamboa hit a deep fly to center to bring home a run and give WMU a 3-2 lead.

WMU increased its lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning on an RBI single by Gamboa, her second RBI of the game. After an out to start the inning, Nunley issued a walk with the runner advancing to second on a foul out. Gamboa then stepped up and singled to centerfield to score the run.

UK answered in the top of the fifth by taking a 5-4 lead. The inning started with the solo homer by Smith, who came into the game in the bottom of the fourth inning as a defensive replacement. After junior Emily Jolly flied out to deep centerfield, Steed tied the game 4-4 with a solo homer of her own, her second of the season. Dill then walked, advancing to second on a wild pitch and then to third on a passed ball before Joiner walked to put runners on the corners with one out. O’Brien then hit a grounder that the shortstop fielded and stepped on the bag at second for a force out, but O’Brien was called out for a circle violation at first base, ending the frame.

UK added three insurance runs in the top of the seventh inning after Smith reached on an error and moved to second on the sacrifice bunt by Jolly. Steed then drew a walk and came home to score along with Smith when Dill reached on an infield single that the pitcher threw wildly down the first base side. Dill advanced to third on the throwing error, later scoring when O’Brien singled up the middle.

The win ends a 19-game road trip for the Wildcats, who will now head back to Lexington for their home opener on Wednesday against Marshall at 5 p.m. ET. More information about the game will be available on in the next few days.

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:

For the latest on UK softball, follow “@UKSoftball” on Twitter or like Kentucky Softball on Facebook.

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 def. Western Michigan 8-4