Joiner Homers, Nunley Strong in Walk-off Loss to Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Senior catcher Griffin Joiner hit her 11th home run of the season in the first inning and junior pitcher Kelsey Nunley tossed four innings in the circle with only one run allowed on four hits with seven strikeouts, but No. 12 Tennessee hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to post a 4-1 victory Sunday in Kentucky's regular-season finale at Lee Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.
After Kentucky stranded two of its 10 total base runners left stranded in the top of the seventh inning, Tennessee (39-13, 15-9 Southeastern Conference) started its game-winning rally in the bottom of the seventh inning against sophomore pitcher Meagan Prince on a leadoff hit-by-pitch of Scarlet McSwain, who moved to second on an excuse-me swing groundout by Tory Lewis. Rainey Gaffin singled on a groundball to rightfield to put runners on the corners for Sheliyah Geathers, who launched her fourth home run of the season to left-centerfield to give the Lady Vols a 4-1 win.
The walk-off win was the second straight for Tennessee as it claimed a 6-5 victory in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday night after a two-run walk-off home run by sophomore Annie Aldrete. Tennessee sweeps the series with Kentucky, who ends the regular season with a 29-23 record, including a 5-19 mark in SEC play.
Kentucky will be the No. 12 seed in the SEC Tournament in Baton Rouge, La., next week and will play No. 5 seed Tennessee on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET. If the Wildcats advance past UT, they will face No. 4 seed and host LSU on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET.
UK scored first in the game, getting the 11th home run of the season from Joiner in the top of the first inning. The roundtripper was the 35th of Joiner's career, tying her with former UK All-American and current assistant coach Molly Johnson-Belcher for second all-time on UK's career home run list. Joiner's 11 homers this season are a season best for the native of Hopkinsville, Ky., who hit 10 home runs her sophomore and junior seasons.
The score stayed 1-0 in Kentucky's favor before Aldrete tied the game in the bottom of the fourth inning with a leadoff home run. The homer by Aldrete was one of four hits in the game for the Lady Vols, who got a 2-for-4 game by Gaffin with a run scored.
Gaffin also received the win in the circle, earning three wins over the weekend to move to 12-2 on the season. She tossed two innings in the game with one hit and one strikeout, while Erin Gabriel started the game and went three innings with one run allowed on two hits. Gretchen Aucoin faced one batter in the game and delivered a walk before senior Cheyanne Tarango tossed two scoreless innings and allowed one hit.
Kentucky was paced offensively by Joiner's homer and a two-hit game from junior centerfielder Sylver Samuel, who had her second triple of the season and a single. Junior infielder Nikki Sagermann went 1-for-3 in the game with a single.
Nunley started the game and went four strong innings to start the game with only two hits allowed and one earned run with seven strikeouts. She was replaced to start the fifth inning by Prince, who tossed 2.1 innings with three earned runs allowed on two this with one strikeout. Prince received the loss, moving to 12-8 on the season.
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