No. 9 Softball Begins SEC Schedule at No. 20 Texas A&M
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Winners of seven of its last eight games, including three wins against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the national rankings, the No. 9 University of Kentucky softball team puts its early season non-conference schedule behind it and begins Southeastern Conference play this weekend vs. No. 20 Texas A&M at the Aggie Softball Complex.
The three-game series in College Station, Texas, is set to begin Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET, followed by a 4 p.m. ET battle on Saturday and 1 p.m. ET series finale on Sunday. All three games will take place at the Aggie Softball Complex. Friday and Saturday's game will be available through WatchESPN on the SECNetwork+, while Sunday's game will be televised live on the SEC Network. Sunday's game is also available through WatchESPN.
Kentucky (13-3) is coming off a doubleheader sweep at Tennessee Tech last Saturday after its scheduled five-game, three-day trip to Chattanooga, Tenn., for the 2015 Frost Classic was canceled due to inclement weather. With the two-game sweep, UK has won seven of their last eight games, including taking down then-No. 10 Arizona and Oregon State and San Diego State, who both have received votes in the national rankings this season.
Senior catcher Griffin Joiner was the leader offensively against Tennessee Tech, going 3-for-4 with five RBI, while freshman catcher/infielder Rachael Metzger and senior outfielder Kara Howard each went 3-for-5 on the day with two RBI. Overall, Kentucky hit .373 as a team in the doubleheader with 15 runs scored on 19 hits, including 15 RBI and three stolen bases.
In the circle, UK tossed 12 total innings in the two games, not allowing an earned run on 11 hits with eight strikeouts, while TTU hit just .217 against UK pitching. Junior pitcher Kelsey Nunley and sophomore pitcher Meagan Prince each picked up wins on the day. Nunley went all seven innings in game one, allowing one unearned run on five hits with five strikeouts, while Prince pitched in UK's 10-0 five-inning victory, allowing just five hits with three strikeouts.
Kentucky is hitting .319 as a team this season with 102 runs scored and 29 stolen bases. Junior outfielder Sylver Samuel paces the team with a .404 average (21-for-52) with 18 runs scored, on triple, eight stolen bases and a .456 on-base percentage. Joiner is hitting .396 (19-for-48) with four doubles, one triple, four homers and 23 RBI, while sophomore Breanne Ray is hitting .355 (11-for-31) and junior Christian Stokes is hitting .340 (18-for-53) with two doubles, three homers and 14 RBI. Junior Nikki Sagermann has three homers and 13 RBI.
Nunley is the leader of the UK pitching staff, sitting 5-1 with a 1.97 ERA in 42.2 innings pitched. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., has earned both of UK's wins over ranked foes this season with opponents hitting just .220 against her with 35 strikeouts. Prince is 7-2 on the year with a 2.20 ERA in a team-best 47.2 innings pitched with 42 strikeouts. Fellow sophomore Shannon Smith is 1-0 with a 4.20 ERA in 8.1 innings pitched with 10 strikeouts, while freshman Erin Rethlake does not have a decision other than a save, posting a 1.17 ERA in six innings pitched.
Texas A&M enters the weekend on a 10-game winning streak, which is currently the third-longest in the SEC. The Aggies are 17-4 on the year, including a 9-2 record at home and 8-2 mark away from home, including a win over No. 6 UCLA the opening weekend of the year in LA. Last season, Texas A&M went to an NCAA Regional, finishing the season with a 37-22 record. The Aggies are currently ranked No. 20 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25 and No. 21 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25.
Offensively, senior outfielder Brittany Clopton leads the team with a .379 average, adding three doubles and nine RBI. Freshman infielder Tori Vidales paces the team with six homers and 20 RBI, while four other Aggies have two or more homers. As a team, Texas A&M is hitting .288 with 122 runs scored, 28 doubles, 19 homers and 27 stolen bases.
In the circle, junior pitcher Katie Marks is 6-0 with a 1.12 ERA in 43.2 innings pitched. Senior pitcher Rachel Fox has tossed the most innings for the Aggies with 81.1 innings pitched and a 10-3 record. Fox has a 1.98 ERA with 67 strikeouts.
The two teams held a three-game series last year in Lexington with the Wildcats claiming the series 2-1 after dropping the opening game of the set. Kentucky won the second game of the series on Saturday with a walk-off home run in the 10th inning by Emily Gaines and used that momentum to win 5-3 on Sunday and take the series. Sagermann led Kentucky at the plate, going 4-for-8 with a home run and four RBI, while Stokes was 3-for-9 with a home run and two RBI. Smith tossed 6.1 scoreless innings over the three games allowing only two hits to earn SEC Freshman of the Week honors. Prince threw 5.2 innings to get the win Sunday, while Kelsey Nunley earned the loss on Friday and the win on Saturday.
The three-game series last season in Lexington was the first-ever meeting between the two schools in softball. This will be Kentucky's first trip to College Station in softball, leading the all-time series 2-1.
Kentucky stayed put at No. 9 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 and No. 10 in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25. The rankings marked the 36th consecutive listing the Wildcats have been ranked in either top 25 poll. UK has a 2-2 record this season vs. currently ranked teams, and is schedule to play 27 more games against currently ranked foes, including three-game sets with No. 1/1 Florida, No. 4/5 Alabama, No. 5/4 LSU, No. 8/8 Georgia, No. 11/16 Tennessee, No. 14/18 Auburn, No. 20/21 Texas A&M and South Carolina, who is receiving votes in both polls. UK will also play a doubleheader vs. FAU, who is receiving votes in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25, and a single game vs. WKU, who is receiving votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25.
Kentucky will open its 2015 home schedule on March 11 against EKU. Season tickets for the 2015 season are on sale now for $35 per seat and are general admission tickets (no reserved seating). Season tickets include all regular-season home games, including four three-game home sets in SEC play against LSU, Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia
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. Single-game tickets go on sale Monday, Feb. 16 at 9 a.m. ET 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.
For the latest on UK softball, follow @UKSoftball on Twitter and Instagram, or like Kentucky Softball on Facebook.
Texas A&M 17-4
Kentucky - No. 10 in NFCA/USA Today Top 25; No. 9 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
Texas A&M - No. 20 in NFCA/USA Today Top 25; No. 21 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
Friday, March 6
Kentucky at Texas A&M - 7:30 p.m. ET - Live Stats - SEC Network+
Saturday, March 7
Kentucky at Texas A&M - 4 p.m. ET - Live Stats - SEC Network+
Sunday, March 8
Kentucky at Texas A&M - 1 p.m. ET - Live Stats - SEC Network