No. 17 Softball Drops Extra-Inning Nail-biter to No. 13 LSU

March 16, 2013

Box Score | UK-LSU Box Score (PDF)

BATON ROUGE, La. – The No. 17 University of Kentucky softball team got a gutsy performance from junior pitcher Lauren Cumbess, who threw every pitch of the game on top of a 2-for-4 night at the dish with a double, but No. 13 LSU earned two runs in the ninth inning on perfectly placed infield hits to grab a 4-3 extra-inning, walk-off win on Saturday at Tiger Park. The win clinches the series for LSU (22-5, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) after posting a victory in the series opener Friday night.

Kentucky (19-5, 2-3 SEC) trailed 2-0 heading into the sixth inning before true freshman infielder Christian Stokes tied the game with a two-run homer– her third homer of the season – to tie the game at 2-2.

The scored stayed 2-2 until the ninth inning when fellow true freshman infielder Ansley Smith sent a laser over the wall in leftfield, giving the Wildcats a 3-2 lead. The homer was the first of the season for Smith, who earned her second career start at second base in the game.

The Tigers answered, however, getting the bottom of the ninth started with a single by Tammy Wray, who was pinch ran for by Alex Boulet. Boulet advanced to second on a groundout and to third on a wild pitch and after a walk to Simone Heyward put runners on the corners, A.J. Andrews laid down a perfect bunt past the UK third baseman and out of the reach of Cumbess in the circle, scoring the tying run. LSU then put two runners in scoring position with a double steal, setting the stage for Jacee Blades, who slapped a single to the right side of the drawn in infield to win the game.

The loss for Kentucky was its first of the season in extra innings and the first one-run loss of the season. Entering Saturday, UK was 4-0 in extra-inning games and 5-0 in one-run affairs.

Cumbess received the tough-luck loss in the game after a strong performance. The native of Normal, Ill., went 8.1 innings Saturday, allowing seven hits – three infield singles – with four runs scored – three earned runs – with five strikeouts. Cumbess retired nine consecutive batters at one point in the game and had silenced the LSU bats until giving up a single to leftfield and two infield singles in the pivotal ninth inning.  

LSU gave the ball to Meghan Patterson to start the game, with the junior going 5.2 innings, allowing two runs – both earned – on three hits with five strikeouts. LSU All-American Rachele Fico picked up the win, moving to 14-3 on the year. Fico went 3.1 innings, giving up three hits and one earned run with two strikeouts. Fico has earned the winning decision in both games of the series.

Five Wildcats earned hits in the game, including the multi-hit night for Cumbess, who now has 11 multi-hit games on the year. Stokes paced UK with two RBI behind her third homer of the season – all have come in the last seven games – while Smith earned her first collegiate homer on a 1-for-2 night. Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner and junior infielder Krystal Smith each recorded hits.

The Tigers were led offensively by Rikki Alcaraz, who went 2-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored. Andrews was 1-for-4 with an RBI, while Blades’ ninth-inning, game-winning single was her only hit of the game.

The Wildcats were without senior co-captain Kara Dill in the game after the shortstop got hit on the hand with a pitch in Friday night’s game. Dill, who had started 157 consecutive games for UK before missing Saturday’s game, leads the Wildcats in hits and runs scored this season. Prior to Saturday, the last time Dill missed a start for UK was April 10, 2010 against Western Kentucky.

LSU scored first in the game in the third inning to take an early lead. The frame started with an infield single by Alcaraz, who hit a sharp grounder to short that Stokes stopped with a diving effort but couldn’t get the speedy batter at first. After Alcaraz stole second, Andrews hit a roller to first that freshman Maisie Steed would gather and try to apply a tag before the ball came lose allowing Andrews to reach. Andrews was hurt on the play and left the game but would reenter in the seventh. Katie Guillory pinch ran for Andrews and stole second. Blades then drew a walk to load the bases for Allison Falcon, who hit a sacrifice fly to rightfield to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

The Tigers got their second run of the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. Kellsi Kloss started the inning with a double to leftfield, advancing to third on the groundout by Sandra Simmons before coming home to score on the RBI triple by Alcaraz.

Kentucky tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the sixth inning on the Stokes homer. Steed drew a one-out walk to start the rally and after Joiner popped up for the second out, Stokes hammered a laser to centerfield to tie the game. Cumbess followed with a double to right-centerfield before LSU made a pitching change, bringing in Fico, who got O’Brien to fly out to center to end the inning.

LSU leads the all-time series against Kentucky 34-6, including a 20-3 mark in Baton Rouge. The Wildcats swept the Tigers last season in Lexington, getting great pitching and clutch hitting. Bell threw a no-hitter in the series finale to clinch the sweep – the first ever series win against LSU – while 2012 senior Brittany Cervantes hit .571 for the series with two homers, two doubles and four RBI to guide the offense. Five of UK’s six all-time wins vs. LSU have come in the Rachel Lawson Era. The two teams have met annually since 1998.

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.

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