Nunley Posts Season-High 9 Ks as No. 1 LSU Claims Series Finale
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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- University of Kentucky junior pitcher Kelsey Nunley recorded a season-best nine strikeouts against one of the nation's best offensive teams, but No. 1 LSU got seven shutout innings in the circle from sophomore pitcher Baylee Corbello, lifting the Tigers to a 2-0 win, avoiding the three-game Southeastern Conference series sweep at John Cropp Stadium on Sunday.
Kentucky (23-9, 3-6 SEC) claimed the series over highly ranked LSU (32-3, 6-3 SEC) with victories in the first two games. The Wildcats posted a 3-1 triumph Friday, marking its first-ever victory over a No. 1-ranked team, before a 5-2 come-from-behind win on Saturday to claim its first SEC series win of the season. UK is the only team in the SEC this season to face three ranked foes in its first three league series with two of those teams ranked top 10 nationally.
The Wildcats posted strong numbers offensively and as a pitching staff against LSU, which entered the series ranked second in the nation in lowest ERA at 1.30 and fifth nationally in highest team batting average at .365. The LSU pitching staff had allowed three-plus runs in seven games entering the series with UK achieving that both Friday and Saturday. UK also posted six hits Friday and eight hits Saturday, marking only the eighth and ninth times this season the LSU staff had allowed six-plus hits in a game. The only other team to score three or more runs against LSU this season in back-to-back games was No. 2 Florida, the defending national champions.
Senior catcher Griffin Joiner led Kentucky by going 4-for-10 in the game with a home run and two runs batted in, while junior centerfield Sylver Samuel was 3-for-8 with two runs scored, an RBI and stolen base. Junior shortstop Christian Stokes was 3-for-9 in the series and extend her hitting streak to a career-best seven games, while fellow junior infielder Nikki Sagermann hit her fifth home run of the season on Saturday.
The Kentucky pitching staff also was impressive this weekend, holding LSU's high-powered offense to two runs or less all three games. The Tigers entered the series having been held to two runs of fewer only once in 2015. UK's pitching staff posted nine strikeouts Saturday, while Nunley recorded a season-high nine Sunday, marking only the second and third times this season the Tigers have been struck out nine times in a game. Nunley is the only pitcher this season to earn nine strikeouts against the Tigers in a single game.
Nunley was the star on the weekend, tossing 13.2 brilliant innings against a powerful offense. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., allowed just two earned runs -- three total runs -- in 13.2 innings pitched with only one walk and 13 strikeouts. Nunley, who earned the win Friday, received the tough-luck loss on Sunday although she allowed just one earned run with nine strikeouts. Sophomore Meagan Prince tossed 4.1 innings in relief on Saturday and did not allow a run to score, giving up just two hits with five strikeouts. Freshman pitcher Erin Rethlake tossed three innings overall and allowed two earned runs on five hits with three strikeouts.
Kentucky will return to action Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET when it travels to in-state rival Louisville for the first of a home-and-home series against the Cardinals. The game comes in the middle of nine home games for the Wildcats, who will return from the midweek showdown and host No. 4 Alabama for a three-game series at John Cropp Stadium, before three midweek games the following week against FAU (DH) and Marshall.
Sunday's series finale was a pitching duel as Nunley tossed 6.1 innings with only one earned run allowed, while LSU's Corbello went the distance with no runs allowed on three hits and eight strikeouts. Rethlake entered the game in the seventh inning after a leadoff triple and got a fielder's choice and a groundout, before UK head coach Rachel Lawson gave the ball back to Nunley, who struck out LSU's Bianka Bell to end the threat.
Corbello earned the win to move to 8-0 on the season, while the loss took Nunley's record to 10-5.
Offensively, UK got singles from Stokes, Samuel and freshman outfielder Brooklin Hinz. LSU outfielder Emily Griggs posted a 3-for-3 night with a triple and one RBI, while Dylan Supak had a hit and an RBI.
For more information on the Kentucky softball team, follow @UKSoftball on Twitter or Instagram or Kentucky Softball on Facebook.
Kentucky 23-9, 3-6 SEC
LSU 32-3, 6-3 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
Kentucky def. LSU 5-2
Sunday, March 29
LSU def. Kentucky 2-0