Nunley Dominant as Softball Moves to South Bend Regional Final
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Kentucky junior pitcher Kelsey Nunley tossed seven dominating innings in the circle, allowing just two hits with seven strikeouts, while true freshman Brooklin Hinz record three hits and fellow rookie Erin Rethlake hit a two-run double, pacing the Wildcats to a 5-0 victory over Ball State on Saturday in the winner's bracket game of the NCAA South Bend Regional at Melissa Cook Stadium.
The win for Kentucky keeps the Wildcats in the winner's bracket of the regional with UK playing either host and No. 16 national seed Notre Dame, Northwestern or Ball State in the regional final. Sunday's schedule will start at 1 p.m. ET with an if necessary game scheduled for 4 p.m. ET. Kentucky is the only team in the regional yet to lose and will have to drop both games Sunday to be eliminated.
Free live video feed of every game at the NCAA South Bend Regional will be available online at watchnd.tv, while live stats from every game will also be available. For complete information on the regional, visit the regional central page at und.com.
Nunley was the star for Kentucky in the game, limiting Ball State to just two hits with seven strikeouts and only one walk allowed. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., allowed an infield single in the second inning before retiring 10 straight batters to take control of the game. In all, Nunley allowed just three base runners to pick up her 13th win of the season and her fourth shutout. The junior is now 13-14 on the year with a 2.37 ERA and 181 strikeouts. The win was the 10th in NCAA Tournament play for Nunley, who is the school's all-time leader in that category.
Offensively, it was the Kentucky youngsters providing the run support with Hinz going a career-best 3-for-3, while Rethlake had two hits, including a two-RBI double. Hinz singled to start the second inning and came around to score on an error, while she also singled and scored in the fifth inning when Rethlake cleared the bases with a two-run double to put Kentucky up 5-0.
The top of the Kentucky order also produced Saturday as junior infielder Nikki Sagermann hit a double off the top of the wall in leftfield to extend her hitting streak to a career-best nine games. Fellow junior Sylver Samuel was 1-for-4 in the game with a single and run scored, moving her hitting streak to four games, which ties a season high. Samuel has 18 career hits in NCAA Tournament play, which is second most in school history. Junior utility player Maisie Steed went 1-for-3 in the game with an RBI on a squeeze bunt, while sophomore outfielder Breanne Ray had a single in the second inning.
Ball State (34-24) started Kelsey Schifferdecker in the circle, who went five innings, allowing five runs -- one earned -- on seven hits with one walk allowed and no strikeouts. Schifferdecker received the loss in the game, moving to 4-2 on the season. Nicole Steinbach tossed the final two innings, allowing two hits and two walks with one strikeout.
The win is the second straight for Kentucky, who entered the tournament having lost seven straight games. The Wildcats are now 19-15 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and will play in a regional final for the third straight season. With a win Sunday, Kentucky would advance to its third straight super regional, including four super regionals in the last five seasons.
Tickets for the remaining final day of the NCAA South Bend Regional are available and are $10/day for general admission chairbacks, $5/day for general admission adult bleacher seats and $3/day for general admission youth bleacher seats. Fans can purchase NCAA South Bend Regional tickets at the gate one hour prior to first pitch Saturday.
The winner of the NCAA South Bend Regional will advance to a NCAA Super Regional against the winner of the Gainesville Regional, which includes No. 1 seed Florida, Hofstra, Florida Atlantic and Florida A&M. The Super Regional, slated for May 21-24, is a best two-out-of-three format with the winner advancing to the eight-team Women's College World Series, scheduled for May 28-June 3 in Oklahoma City, Okla.
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South Bend Regional - May 15-17 - Melissa Cook Stadium - South Bend, Ind.
Notre Dame (41-14)
Ball State (34-24)
NCAA South Bend Regional Schedule
Friday, May 15
Game 1 -- Kentucky def. Northwestern 5-4
Game 2 -- Ball State def. Notre Dame 6-3
Saturday, May 16
Game 3 -- Kentucky def. Ball State 5-0
Game 4 -- Notre Dame def. Northwestern 14-5
Game 5 -- Notre Dame def. Ball State 15-4
Sunday, May 17
Game 6 -- Kentucky vs. Notre Dame -1 p.m. ET
Game 7 -- Kentucky vs. Notre Dame - 4 p.m. ET (if necessary)