Joiner, Nunley Lead Softball to Victory over No. 1 LSU
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Junior pitcher Kelsey Nunley tossed seven brilliant innings in the circle with three strikeouts and only one run allowed, while senior catcher Griffin Joiner provided the offense with a 3-for-3 night, including two runs batted in and a home run, powering No. 15 Kentucky to a 3-1 series-opening win over No. 1 LSU on Friday night at John Cropp Stadium. The victory for UK was it's first-ever win over a No. 1 ranked team in program history.
Kentucky (22-8, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) handed LSU (32-2, 5-2 SEC) its second loss of the season in the victory, marking the Wildcats fourth win this season over a ranked foe. The win over a ranked foe is the 59th for UK under eighth-year head coach Rachel Lawson, including the 33rd over a top-10 team and 17th over a top-five team. LSU is the highest ranked foe UK has defeated since taking down No. 2 Oklahoma last season. The Wildcats are now 6-0 at John Cropp Stadium this season and 40-17 all-time in the three-year old stadium.
"It means a lot, because the SEC is an incredible conference. So anytime you can beat a team the caliber of LSU, you feel pretty good about your win," Lawson said. "The team worked hard this week, so it just validated all of the work they put into practices, and film, and all of the things that they did to get ready for today."
Kentucky continues its series with LSU on Saturday afternoon at Noon ET. The game will be televised on the SEC Network with Cara Capuano and Olympic Gold Medalist Michele Smith calling the action. The series will conclude Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on the SEC Network+.
Tickets for both games 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 $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.
Saturday and Sunday are Family Fun Days at the park, featuring pregame and postgame youth activities, including face painting, hair bow making, inflatables, autographs and pictures with the team. After Sunday's game - weather permitting - all kids eighth grade and younger can run the bases.
Nunley was brilliant in the circle for Kentucky to complete her seventh game of the season, and with the win improved her record to 10-4, while also lowering her ERA to 1.82. Nunley allowed one run in the sixth inning, a sacrifice fly to LSU designated player Kellsi Kloss. Nunley finished with a line of six hits, one earned run, one walk and three strikeouts to go along with her complete game. LSU's one run scored tied a season low for the Tigers.
"Nunley was outstanding. She put the ball exactly where she wanted to. LSU is an incredible hitting team, and for her to be able to keep those hitters off balance really says a lot about how tough she is," Lawson said.
Kentucky was led offensively by Joiner, who her eighth multi-hit game of the year and a team-best 11th multi-RBI game of the season. Joiner singled in her first at-bat before grounding an RBI single through the leftside in the third inning to start the scoring for Kentucky. In her final at-bat of the night, Joiner launched her sixth home run of the season, increasing her team leading RBI total to 30. Joiner also contributed defensively, throwing out LSU senior centerfielder A.J. Andrews on a steal attempt in the fifth inning, the first time Andrews has been caught stealing all season.
"We just had a different focus at practice this week, we tried to relax and attack the ball, and that's what I was trying to do and it worked out," Joiner said.
Junior utility player Maisie Steed went 2-for-3 in the game, extending her hitting streak to five games and now has a hit in 19 of her last 24. Fellow junior Christian Stokes went 1-for-3 to extend her hitting streak to five games and tie a career best. Sophomore rightfielder Breanne Ray scored the game winning run in the third inning on a sacrifice fly, scoring centerfield Sylver Samuel.
LSU, suffering its second loss of the season, started freshmen pitcher Allie Walljasper in the circle for the series opener. Walljasper picked up her first loss of the season and finished with a line of six innings pitched with three runs allowed -- two earned -- on six hits with one walk and four strikeouts.
Andrews was the offensive leader, going 2-for-3, while Bailey Landry, Bianka Bell, Savhanna Jaquish and Constance Quinn each recorded singles in the game.
For more information on the Kentucky softball team, follow @UKSoftball on Twitter or Instagram or Kentucky Softball on Facebook.
Kentucky 22-8, 2-5 SEC
LSU 31-2, 5-2 SEC
Kentucky - No. 16 in NFCA/USA Today Top 25; No. 15 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
LSU - No. 1 in NFCA/USA Today Top 25; No. 1 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
Friday, March 27
Kentucky def. LSU 3-1
Saturday, March 28
LSU at Kentucky -- Noon ET -- Live Stats -- SEC Network
Sunday, March 29
LSU at Kentucky -- 1 p.m. ET -- Live Stats -- SEC Network+