Nunley Becomes School's Wins Leader as Softball Outlasts WKU 1-0
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- University of Kentucky junior pitcher Kelsey Nunley tossed nine scoreless innings in the circle to become the school's all-time leader in wins, while the Wildcats rallied for an unearned run in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving UK a 1-0 extra-inning victory over in-state rival WKU on Wednesday night at John Cropp Stadium.
After Nunley retired the side in order in the top of the ninth inning with two groundouts and a strikeout, Kentucky (29-17) got a one-out single from junior shortstop Christian Stokes, who moved to second on a groundout by senior catcher Griffin Joiner. That set the stage for junior utility player Maisie Steed, who reached on an infield single back to WKU senior pitcher Miranda Kramer. Kramer attempted to get Steed out at first but her throw went over the first baseman's head, allowing Stokes to score and end a pitching duel between two of the nation's best pitchers.
"I think that Kramer's an exceptional pitcher. I think she's one of the best in the country. I'd be hard-pressed to find anyone better. So before the game we knew it was going to be tough. We talked about taking each at-bat one at a time because we thought that we wouldn't be able to get on her until the third time through the order and they stuck with the game plan and they did it. And I think anytime a team can stick with the game plan they set out to do at the beginning of the game really says a lot about their toughness," UK head coach Rachel Lawson said postgame when asked about Kentucky's toughness in the game, which is something she questioned following UK's loss to Louisville on Tuesday.
Both pitchers were dominate in the game with Kramer posting 18 strikeouts over 8.2 innings pitched with only three hits allowed and Nunley recording nine strikeouts in nine innings pitched with six hits and no walks allowed. Kramer received the loss to move to 18-6 on the season, while her 18 strikeouts were the most by an opposing pitcher in UK history. The previous record was 17 strikeouts, which was held by Southern Miss All-American Courtney Blades and Tennessee All-American Monica Abbott.
Nunley received the win to move to 12-11 on the season and take her career record to 69-33, becoming the school's all-time wins leader. The win for Nunley was her first since tying the school record on April 1 against Louisville. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., passed former UK star Chanda Bell, who ended her career with a 68-44 record. On the season, Nunley has a 1.90 ERA in 151.1 innings pitched with 135 strikeouts and opponents hitting just .220 against her.
"Well I believe Kelsey is also one of the best pitchers in the country," Lawson said when asked about Nunley's performance in such a low-scoring, pitching dominated game. "I think they're (Nunley and Kramer) are different pitchers, but I don't think you're going to find anybody tougher than Kelsey, I don't think you're going to find anybody who can command the zone better than she does and I don't think you're going find anybody in the country who's more battle-tested than she is. She's been doing this for us for the last three years. She's pitched in a lot of tight games. She's pitched in the World Series. She's pitched in Super Regionals. She's carried us throughout her entire run. So I think a lot of our win today had a lot to do with how tough she is and how she's been over the years."
"Well, I'm happy," Nunley said when asked about becoming the school's all-time leader in wins. "I know Chanda Bell was a really good pitcher so it's a great accomplishment to be able to go ahead of her. I'm just proud."
Neither offense had much to hang their hats on in the game with the Hilltoppers outhitting the Wildcats 6-3. Senior outfielder Larissa Franklin and senior second baseman Kayti Hanson each had singles in the game, going 1-for-4, while the lone extra-base hit belonging to junior infielder Brooke Holloway, who was 2-for-3 with a double. Senior outfielder Shawna Sadler and freshman utility player Carleigh Chaumont each had singles.
Kentucky posted three hits in the game with only one leaving the infield. The Wildcats were held hitless for seven innings until freshman pinch hitter Brooklin Hinz singled to shortstop to start the eighth inning. Stokes went 1-for-4 in the game with a chopped single through the leftside of the infield to start the ninth inning before Steed's infield single to end the game.
It looked like WKU (27-9) had scored the game's first run in the fifth inning after a two-out double by Holloway, followed by a single from Franklin up the middle. Holloway took off from second when Franklin made contact and obstruction was called by the third base umpire on Stokes at shortstop, granting Holloway third base before she was thrown out at the plate on a great throw by centerfield Sylver Samuel. Initially, the third base umpire overturned the call at home, ruling that Holloway was safe due to obstruction, but after the umpires huddled together, it was determined the out call at home would stand, keeping the game scoreless.
Kentucky had a close scoring chance in the eighth inning after Hinz leadoff with a single and was replaced at first by Darington Richardson, who Hinz hit for to start the inning. Richardson moved to second on a perfect sacrifice bunt by Ansley Smith and to third on a groundout by Kara Howard. That brought up Sagermann, who hit a hard-hit chopper back up the middle that Kramer leaped and knocked down to rob Sagermann of the game-winning single and send the game to the ninth inning.
The Wildcats will look to continue their momentum from the win this weekend as they complete their home Southeastern Conference schedule against highly ranked Georgia at John Cropp Stadium. The series will get underway Friday at 6 p.m. ET before a 3 p.m. ET start Saturday and 1 p.m. ET first pitch Sunday. All three games will be available on the SEC Network+ through WatchESPN with Dave "Buzz" Baker and former Michigan assistant coach, Purdue head coach and Louisville associate head coach Carol Bruggeman on the call.
For more information on the Kentucky softball team, follow @UKSoftball on Twitter and Instagram of Kentucky Softball on Facebook.