No. 5 Softball Continues Road Stretch at Kennesaw State
LEXINGTON, Ky. – After a strong start to its 2015 season that included a win over a top-10 team for the seventh consecutive year, the No. 5 University of Kentucky softball team continues it season-opening road stretch by traveling to Kennesaw, Ga., for the 2015 Phyllis Rafter Memorial Invitational this weekend. The event will be hosted by Kennesaw State University at Baily Park.
The tournament, which was originally scheduled for three days has been shortened due to weather concerns. The Wildcats will now play three games instead of five with Sunday’s schedule being canceled. UK will only play one game Friday, squaring off against Southern Illinois at noon ET. Kentucky will still play two games Saturday, starting with IUPUI at 3 p.m. ET and host Kennesaw State at 5 p.m. ET.
Kentucky (4-1) is coming off an impressive opening weekend of action at the Renegade Classic in Tallahassee, Fla. The Wildcats started the season by playing at Florida A&M, defeating the Lady Rattlers, who won the 2014 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament, 4-2. UK went 3-1 in the Renegade Classic that ended with UK taking down No. 5 Florida State 3-1 on Sunday. The Wildcats also defeated Georgia Southern, the 2014 SoCon Regular Season Champions, 9-0 on Saturday and 10-0 on Sunday. UK’s lone loss last weekend came to the highly ranked Seminoles and 2014 USA Softball Player of the Year Lacey Waldrop, who tossed a complete game against the Wildcats, allowing just two runs.
Junior pitcher Kelsey Nunley was the star for Kentucky in the circle, going 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA to pick up Southeastern Conference Co-Pitcher of the Week honors. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., threw 13 innings in the circle, allowing no earned runs and only three hits with 10 strikeouts. Sophomore Meagan Prince and Shannon Smith also pitched well for the Wildcats with Prince going 2-1 with a 1.31 ERA in 16 innings pitched, allowing only three earned runs with 22 strikeouts, including a career-high 11 Ks against Florida A&M. Smith threw three hitless innings over the weekend with two strikeouts.
Offensively, senior catcher Griffin Joiner paced the Wildcats with a .438 average, adding two doubles, one triple, one home run and nine RBI. Joiner launched a three-run, bases-clearing double in the sixth inning against FSU to seal the Wildcats win. Junior third baseman Nikki Sagermann hit .357 with two doubles, a homer and two RBI, while freshman outfielder Brooklin Hinz hit .333 with four RBI.
The strong opening weekend inched Kentucky up one spot to No. 5 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25 and No. 6 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25. The No. 5 ranking ties the highest ranking ever for the Wildcats, who were also No. 5 last February.
Southern Illinois enters the weekend with a 1-3 record after playing four games last weekend in the Charleston Southern Tournament. SIU started the season with a 7-4 extra-inning loss to Ohio State before defeating UMBC 4-3. The Salukis lost to Ohio State and Charleston Southern to end play in the event. Freshman Savannah Fisher led the team offensively, going 3-for-5 with a home run and RBI, while nine different SIU players recorded a RBI over the weekend. In the circle, SIU was paced by sophomore Shaye Harre, who went 7.2 innings allowing four earned runs on nine hits with one strikeout. Freshman Savanna Dover threw 6.1 innings with a 6.63 ERA, while senior Katie Bertelsen tossed 11 innings with a 7.64 ERA.
The all-time series between Kentucky and Southern Illinois is even at 1-1 with the last meeting coming in 2011. Rachel Lawson is 1-0 all-time against SIU taking down the Salukis 9-5 in Carbondale in 2011. The other meeting in the series was in 1998 with SIU defeating the Wildcats 5-1 in Carbondale. This is the lone meeting between the two teams at a neutral site.
IUPUI enters the weekend with a 2-2 record, posting wins over Belmont and Georgetown last weekend. The Jaguars lost to Ball State and Lipscomb. Junior Brooke Boetjer paced the team with a .333 average with four hits, while junior Ali Mosier hit .273 with a double and three RBI. Senior Eryn Dillon and sophomore Taylor Chitwood each had homers during the opening weekend. In the circle, Boetjer tossed 21.2 innings with a 1.94 ERA, striking out 16 with only six earned runs allowed. Senior Emili Escamilla tossed six innings with a 3.50 ERA and five strikeouts.
Kentucky is 1-0 all-time against IUPUI in softball with the lone game coming in 2007. The Wildcats posted a 12-5 victory over the Jaguars in the lone meeting, which took place in Lexington.
Kennesaw State will host its second straight home tournament to start the season this weekend and enters the event with a 3-1 record. The Owls posted wins last weekend over Ohio, Dayton and Tennessee Tech, while their lone loss came to highly ranked Tennessee. The Lady Vols took down KSU 13-5 in five innings. Senior Natalie Rhodes led the team with a .500 average, adding three triples and two RBI, while junior Megan Veringa hit .455 with two doubles, a homer and four RBI. Juniors Hillary Kartman and Kara Chambers each recorded five RBI. In the circle, sophomore Logan Viers tossed six innings with a 1.17 ERA, while junior Morgan Sikes had one start and four appearances with a 2.33 ERA in six innings pitched. Senior Paige Mathews started three of the Owls’ four games and threw 11.2 innings with a 6.00 ERA. Saturday will mark the first ever meeting between Kentucky and Kennesaw State in softball.
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Kentucky – 4-1
Southern Illinois – 1-3
Kennesaw State – 3-1
IUPUI – 2-2
Kentucky – No. 5 in NFCA/USA Today Top 25; No. 6 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
Friday, Feb. 13
Kentucky vs. Southern Illinois – Noon ET – Live Stats
Saturday, Feb. 14
Kentucky vs. IUPUI – 3 p.m. ET – Live Stats
Kentucky vs. Kennesaw State – 5 p.m. ET – Live Stats