Nunley's CG, Steed's 7th-Inning HR Powers UK Past No. 20 TAMU
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - University of Kentucky junior infielder/outfielder Maisie Steed launched a full-count pitch over the wall in leftfield for UK's third solo home run of the game and fellow junior Kelsey Nunley capped off a great outing in the circle with a scoreless seventh inning, leading No. 9 Kentucky to a 3-2 victory over No. 20 Texas A&M on a rainy Sunday afternoon in College Station, Texas.
The victory helps Kentucky (14-5, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) avoid a sweep in its opening SEC series of the season. The Wildcats dropped a closely contested 3-0 battle on Friday after a walk-off home run in extra innings, before Texas A&M (19-5, 2-1 SEC) grabbed a 6-3 victory to clinch the series on Saturday. The win was the third this season for Kentucky over a ranked foe.
Sunday's win was Kentucky's 500th as a program, with eight year head coach Rachel Lawson earning 258 of those victories. When Lawson took over the program to start the 2008 season, Kentucky had 242 all-time wins with Lawson helping UK eclipse the 500 mark in just under seven and half seasons.
Solo home runs by junior infielder Ansley Smith and sophomore outfielder Breanne Ray gave Kentucky a 2-0 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth inning when the Aggies rallied to tie the game. That set the scene for Steed to become the hero, working the count full before belting a leadoff home run to leftfield to put the Wildcats on top 3-2. Nunley made sure the home run held, slamming the door in the bottom of the frame to clinch UK's first SEC win of the season.
"I am very proud of my team for coming back and getting the win today and make it a happier flight back to Lexington," UK head coach Rachel Lawson said following the win. "This win completes a long road trip to start the season for us and we are really looking forward to playing in front of the Big Blue Nation on Wednesday at John Cropp Stadium."
Although only recording four hits the game, Kentucky made the most of all of them, launching three solo home runs to account for all three runs scored. Smith started the home run fest with a solo shot in the third inning. It was Smith's second home run of the weekend and third of the season. Ray followed with a laser shot in the fourth inning that easily cleared the wall in rightfield for her second home run of the season. Steed's homer in the seventh was her first of the season and 16th in her career. Junior Nikki Sagermann had UK's other hit on the day, doubling off the top of the wall in centerfield.
Nunley, who tossed 7.2 innings on Friday night, tossed all seven innings on Sunday, allowing just five hits and two earned runs with a season-high eight strikeouts. Nunley did walk six batters in the game and hit one TAMU batter. The win moves Nunley to 6-2 on the season with a 2.08 ERA in 57.1 innings pitched with 50 strikeouts.
The only rally the Aggies had off Nunley was in the sixth inning when TAMU got a leadoff single followed by a one-out walk and single to load the bases. Nunley then walked home the first Aggie run of the game before getting a fielder's choice for the second out. Texas A&M tied the game on a RBI hit-by-pitch of Brittany Clopton before a groundout ended the frame.
Texas A&M went with Katie Marks in the circle, who allowed three earned runs on four hits with three strikeouts and three walks allowed. The loss was Marks first of the season, sitting 6-1 on the year following Sunday's game.
After a 19-game road trip to start the season, Kentucky will open its 2015 home schedule on Wednesday against EKU. Season tickets for the 2015 season are on sale now for $35 per seat and are general admission tickets (no reserved seating). Season tickets include all regular-season home games, including four three-game home sets in SEC play against LSU, Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia
Tickets are available by calling the UK Ticket Office at 1-800-928-2287, in person at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office or online at www.ukathletics.com/tickets. Single-game tickets are on sale now and are $5 for adults, $2 for seniors (ages 65 or older) and youth (ages 6-18) while children ages five and under will be admitted free of charge.
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Texas A&M 19-5
Kentucky - No. 10 in NFCA/USA Today Top 25; No. 9 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
Texas A&M - No. 20 in NFCA/USA Today Top 25; No. 21 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
Friday, March 6
Texas A&M def. Kentucky 3-0 (8)
Saturday, March 7
Texas A&M def. Kentucky 6-3
Sunday, March 8
Kentucky def. Texas A&M 3-2