Joiner, Sagermann Homer as Softball Drops Opener to USC
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Senior catcher Griffin Joiner hit her team-leading eighth home run of the season and junior infielder Nikki Sagermann launched a two-run roundtripper in the fifth inning, but No. 14 Kentucky allowed five runs in the opening frame, giving South Carolina a 6-4 series-opening win Friday night at John Cropp Stadium.
The series will continue Saturday with a 3 p.m. ET before a 1 p.m. ET series finale on Sunday. Both games will be available through WatchESPN on the SEC Network+, while live stats from all three games will be available online at UKathletics.com. Former UK outfielder Ginny Carroll will provide the color commentary both games, while Mark Buerger will have the call Saturday and Dave "Buzz" Baker on Sunday.
Single-game tickets are available 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. 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. Tickets will be sold -- cash only -- on game days at the ticket booths outside John Cropp Stadium with gates opening one hour prior to first pitch.
UK marketing is running several promotions throughout the weekend at John Cropp Stadium, including the first 100 UK fans into the stadium Saturday and Sunday receiving a set of 2015 Kentucky Softball Trading Cards. 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.
South Carolina (30-16, 5-11 Southeastern Conference) earned the victory after a five-run first inning off UK pitcher Kelsey Nunley. The frame started with a leadoff walk to junior Alaynie Page -- who went 2-for-3 in the game with a solo home run in the fourth inning -- before senior outfielder Kristen Struett hit a ground ball back to Nunley, who threw late to second base to put two runners on. After a lineout for the first out of the inning, sophomore Kaylea Snaer singled to leftfield to load the bases before sophomore Lauren Masters hit a slow rolling groundball to the leftside of the infield. The UK shortstop and third baseman both tried to make a play on the ball, allowing the ball to squirt loose for an RBI single. Junior infielder Jordan Bizzell followed with a ground ball to the UK second baseman, who tried to get the out at home, but the throw was late to score another run. Senior catcher Sarah Mooney cleared the bases a few pitches later, hitting a ground ball just out of Stokes' reach at shortstop to give the Gamecocks a 5-0 lead it would not relinquish.
Nunley received the loss for Kentucky (27-15, 4-12 SEC) in the circle, allowing six earned runs on six hits with three strikeouts and one walk. The loss moved Nunley to 11-10 on the season. Sophomore pitcher Shannon Smith tossed two scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth, allowing just one hit with two walks and three strikeouts.
Joiner and Sagermann were the offense leaders for Kentucky in the game with both hitting two-run home runs. Joiner's home run was the 32nd of her career, putting her in sole possession of third place in UK's career rankings behind Brittany Cervantes (48) and Molly Johnson-Belcher (35). Sagermann's towering shot in the fifth inning was the 26th of her career, tying her with Lauren Cumbess for sixth all-time in program history.
Junior infielder Christian Stokes was 1-for-4 in the game and has reached base safely in 22 of her last 23 games, while junior outfielder Sylver Samuel was 1-for-2 with two runs scored. Sophomore outfielder Breanne Ray was 1-for-3 in the game, while freshman utility player Rachael Metzger and junior infielder Ansley Smith each had singles.
South Carolina started sophomore pitcher Nickie Blue, who pitched a complete game for the Gamecocks, allowing two runs in the first inning and two more runs in the fifth inning. Blue allowed seven Kentucky hits in the game with six strikeouts and three walks. Blue moves to 15-7 on the season.
For the latest on UK softball, follow @UKSoftball on Twitter and Instagram or like Kentucky Softball on Facebook.
Kentucky 27-15, 4-12 SEC
South Carolina 30-16, 5-11 SEC
Kentucky -- No. 14 USA Today/NFCA Top 25; No. 16 ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
South Carolina -- RV in USA Today/NFCA Top 25; Not ranked in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
Friday, April 17
South Carolina def. Kentucky 6-4
Saturday, April 18
South Carolina at Kentucky -- 3 p.m. ET -- Live Stats -- SEC Network+
Sunday, April 19
South Carolina at Kentucky -- 1 p.m. ET -- Live Stats -- SEC Network+