No. 12 Softball Hosts EKU for 2015 Home Opener at JCS

March 10, 2015

LEXINGTON, Ky. - After completing a 19-game road trip to start the season that included several wins over ranked opponents, the No. 12 University of Kentucky softball team is ready to start the home portion of its 2015 schedule when it plays host to in-state foe EKU on Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET at John Cropp Stadium.

The game can be seen live on the SEC Network+ with Dave Baker and former Purdue head coach, Louisville associate head coach and Michigan assistant coach Carol Bruggeman calling the action. Live stats will also be available on UKathletics.com.

Season tickets for 2015 are available 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. Single-game tickets are also available 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.

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. Tickets will be sold - cash only - on gamedays at the ticket booths outside John Cropp Stadium with gates opening one hour prior to first pitch. New for 2015 is the Family Fun Packs - available for Saturday and Sunday SEC games. Fan can purchase four tickets (two adult, two youth) and 4 food vouchers (each valid for a hotdog and small soda) for only $30. Family Fun Packs must be purchased in advance by calling the ticket office at (800) 928-2287.

The first 100 fans into John Cropp Stadium on Wednesday will receive a limited edition set of 2015 UK softball trading cards, featuring all 17 players on the squad.

Kentucky (14-5) opened up Southeastern Conference play last weekend at highly ranked Texas A&M, dropping the first two games of the series before earning a victory in the series finale. The win Sunday was Kentucky's third this season over a ranked foe and marked the 500th victory for the program, with eighth-year head coach Rachel Lawson earning a majority of those wins.

Junior infielder Ansley Smith led Kentucky last weekend at the plate, hitting .429 with two runs scored, one double, two homers and three RBI. Junior outfielder/infielder Maisie Steed hit .333, including the game-winning home run on Sunday in the seventh inning. Sophomore outfielder Breanne Ray also had a home run against the Aggies, while junior infielder Nikki Sagermann had an RBI.

Junior pitcher Kelsey Nunley went 1-1 against TAMU with a tough-luck loss in the series opener before picking up the victory on Sunday. In two games started, Nunley had a 2.39 ERA in 14.2 innings pitched and 15 strikeouts. Freshman Erin Rethlake started Saturday's game, picking up a no-decision in 5.1 innings pitched with only one earned run allowed and four strikeouts. Sophomore Meagan Prince picked up the loss on Saturday, allowing four runs.

Overall this season, junior outfielder Sylver Samuel is leading UK with a .349 average, adding 19 runs, one triple and a team-best nine stolen bases. Senior catcher Griffin Joiner is hitting .345 with four doubles, one triple, four homers and 23 RBI, while Ray is hitting .342 with two homers and 10 RBI. Steed and fellow junior Christian Stokes are both hitting over .300, while junior Nikki Sagermann has three homers and 14 RBI.

Nunley leads UK in the circle with a 6-2 record and 2.08 ERA in a team-high 57.1 innings pitched with 50 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting just .215 against Nunley, who has allowed only three home runs. Prince is 7-3 on the year with a 2.75 ERA in 48.1 innings pitched with 42 strikeouts, while Rethlake is 0-0 with a 1.24 ERA in 11.1 innings pitched. Sophomore Shannon Smith is 1-0 with a 4.20 ERA in 8.1 innings pitched.

The series loss to Texas A&M dropped UK a few spots in the national rankings, coming in at No. 12 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 and No. 14 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25. The Wildcats were ranked No. 9/10, respectively, last week. The rankings mark the 37th consecutive week UK has been ranked in either national poll, which is a program record.

The Wildcats have played seven games against ranked foes already with a 3-4 record, besting then-No. 5 Florida State, then-No. 10 Arizona and most recently No. 20 Texas A&M. UK has 24 games remaining this season against teams either ranked or receiving votes in either poll, including three-game sets with No. 1/1 Florida, No. 2/3 LSU, No. 5/5, No. 8/8 Georgia, No. 9/15 Tennessee, No. 12/14 Auburn, and South Carolina, who is receiving votes in both polls. UK will also play a DH 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.

EKU enters Wednesday's game with a 9-11 record and currently riding a five-game losing streak after playing several quality opponents in last week's 2015 UNLV Rebel Classic. The Colonels played one ranked foe out in Las Vegas, falling to No. 16 Cal 9-2. EKU had won four straight entering the event after sweeping competition at the 2015 Sand Dollar Snow Classic, taking down Alabama A&M (twice), Wright State and Bradley. The Colonels are 1-2 this season vs. ranked foes, defeating No. 23 South Alabama the opening weekend of the season. The only common opponent between UK and EKU this season has been Georgia Southern, which UK run-ruled twice and EKU defeated 6-3 in nine innings.

Junior Kayla Joyce paces the team with a .322 average, adding three doubles, one triple and three RBI, while freshman Paige Murphy is hitting .300 with three doubles, two homers and three RBI. Freshman Sarah Jackson leads the team with four homers and 17 RBI, hitting .228. The Colonels are hitting .237 as a team with 80 runs scored and 14 home runs.

In the circle, senior Shaylon Robb has a 3.10 ERA in 40.2 innings pitched with 26 strikeouts and 4-3 record, while senior Leanna Pittsenbarger has a 5.53 ERA in 44.1 innings pitched with 49 strikeouts. Junior Hayley Flynn is 1-4 this season with a 5.83 ERA.

Kentucky leads the all-time series with EKU 18-7, while Lawson holds a 6-0 record over the Colonels as the UK head coach. The Wildcats took down EKU 2-1 last season at John Cropp Stadium. In 2013, the two teams met in a doubleheader in Richmond, Ky., with UK winning both games.

For the latest on UK softball, follow @UKSoftball on Twitter and Instagram, or like Kentucky Softball on Facebook.

Records
Kentucky 14-5
EKU 9-11

Rankings
Kentucky - No. 14 in NFCA/USA Today Top 25; No. 12 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25

Schedule/Results
Wednesday, March 11
EKU at Kentucky - 5 p.m. ET - Live Stats - SEC Network+