Softball Faces Murray State, Indiana in Non-Conference Battles
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Currently riding a five-game winning streak for the second time this season, the No. 12 University of Kentucky softball team looks to continue its winning ways in midweek non-conference action, traveling to Murray State for a doubleheader Tuesday before hosting border-state rival Indiana on Wednesday.
Kentucky (18-5) will start its non-conference week Tuesday with a doubleheader at Murray State starting at 2 p.m. ET. The doubleheader was scheduled after Kentucky missed several games due to the 2015 Frost Classic being canceled due to inclement weather. UK will have a quick turnaround after the twinbill at MSU, traveling back to Lexington to host Indiana at 7 p.m. ET Wednesday at John Cropp Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on the SEC Network with Mark Neely and Jenny Dalton-Hill calling the action. The UK-Indiana game will also be available through WatchESPN on the SEC Network+. Live stats from all three games will be available online at UKathletics.com.
The three non-conference games are part of a current stretch where Kentucky will play nine games in nine days. That stretch started last weekend when Kentucky swept a three-game series with Ohio - the 2014 Mid-American Conference Tournament Champions. UK will conclude the grueling stretch with a three-game series at No. 12/14 Auburn, starting Friday at 7 p.m. ET.
Kentucky is coming off a 4-0 week that started when the Wildcats opened its home schedule with a 2-0 win over EKU before 7-2, 6-4 and 6-0 victories over Ohio. Overall, Kentucky hit .325 as a team in the Ohio series with 19 runs scored on 25 hits, including four doubles, one triple and five home runs. In the circle, UK only allowed six earned runs combined over 21 innings pitched with 25 strikeouts, limiting opponents to a .208 average.
The star offensively over the weekend was junior utility player Maisie Steed, who hit .556 (5-for-9) with two doubles, two homers and eight RBI, adding excellent defense with zero errors in the three-game series. Steed has been on a hot streak the past few weeks with a hit in 13 of her last 17 games, including a home run in three of her last five games. During that five-game stretch, Steed not only has three homers, but also has recorded seven total hits with nine RBI and five runs scored.
Fellow junior shortstop Christian Stokes hit .583 (7-for-12) over the weekend with a triple, home run and two RBI. Junior infielder Nikki Sagermann went 3-for-6 with a home run and a double, while senior catcher Griffin Joiner had a home run and three RBI.
Freshman pitcher Erin Rethlake was impressive Sunday, tossing five scoreless innings to start the game with only two hits allowed and four strikeouts. Rethlake picked up the win in the game, moving to 2-0 on the season with a 0.68 ERA in 20.2 innings pitched. Junior pitcher Kelsey Nunley picked up wins in both games Saturday and tossed nine scoreless innings over this weekend with 10 strikeouts. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., is 8-2 on the season with a 1.79 ERA in 66.1 innings pitched.
Steed leads Kentucky with a .365 average this season with three doubles, three homers and 12 RBI, while Stokes is hitting .351 with two doubles, one triple and a team-high tying five home runs. Joiner is hitting .333 and has five homers and a team-best 26 RBI, while junior outfielder Sylver Samuel is hitting .329 with 21 runs scored and a team-best 12 stolen bases. Sagermann is the only other Wildcat over .300 with the junior adding four homers and 15 RBI.
Nunley is the leader in the circle with an 8-2 record and 1.79 ERA in 66.1 innings pitched with 60 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting just .194 against Nunley this season. Sophomore Meagan Prince is 7-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 55.2 innings pitched with 49 strikeouts, while Rethlake is 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA in 20.2 innings pitched. Sophomore Shannon Smith is 1-0 with a 4.59 ERA in 10.2 innings pitched.
Murray State will carry a 13-7 record into the midweek doubleheader after going 1-2 against SIU-Edwardsville last weekend in a three-game road set. The Racers had won five consecutive games before the series. As a team, MSU is 2-4 on the road and 11-3 in neutral-site games, with Tuesday's doubleheader serving as its home opener. Offensively, Murray State is hitting .319 with 130 runs scored behind 24 home runs and 122 RBI.
The Racers are led offensively by sophomore infielder Jessica Twaddle, who is hitting .441 with six doubles, three homers and 19 RBI, while senior infielder Alexa Becker is hitting .355 with five doubles, five homers and 17 RBI. Sophomore infielder Maggie Glass leads the team with seven home runs and 20 RBI, adding four stolen bases and six doubles. In the circle, sophomore pitcher Mason Robinson is 7-1 with a 2.97 ERA in 61.1 innings pitched with 35 strikeouts, while senior pitcher CheyAnne Gaskey is 6-4 with a 3.02 ERA in 55.2 innings pitched with 50 strikeouts.
Tuesday will be the first all-time meeting between the two in-state schools. Rachel Lawson has never faced Murray State during her career.
With a home game left to play Monday night, Indiana currently holds a 9-18 record, including a 4-0 mark at home, 0-2 record on the road and 5-16 mark in neutral-site games. The Hoosiers have played three games against ranked foes this season, sitting 0-3 in those games. IU is currently riding a five-game winning streak after winning every game in last weekend's Hoosier Classic.
Sophomore utility player Erin Lehman leads the team with a .444 average, adding six doubles, one triple and eight RBI, while freshman outfielder Rebecca Blitz is hitting .360 with on triple, six RBI and nine stolen bases. Junior infielder Kelsey Dotson and senior outfielder Shannon Cawley each have six homers this season with Dotson adding 21 RBI and Cawley 18. Senior pitcher Lora Olsen leads the team with a 6-11 record and 4.57 ERA in 99.2 innings pitched with 64 strikeouts. Senior pitcher Miranda Tamayo is 3-6 with a 5.09 ERA in 67.1 innings pitched with 46 strikeouts, while freshman pitcher Emily Kirk is 0-1 with a 10.84 ERA in 10.1 innings pitched with five strikeouts.
Kentucky leads the all-time series with Indiana 9-8, taking the series lead after defeating the Hoosiers last year in Bloomington, Ind., 5-0. Lawson is 4-3 all-time against IU, including a 2-2 mark during her tenure at Kentucky. Last year, then-senior Lauren Cumbess tossed seven scoreless innings in the circle against the Hoosiers, allowing only two hits with five strikeouts. Offensively, Joiner blasted a three-run home run and had two hits and four RBI. Sylver Samuel, Ansley Smith, Sagermann and Cumbess each had multi-hit games. Indiana tossed Olsen in the circle, who went 4.2 innings with three runs allowed, while Meaghan Murphy went 2.1 innings with two runs allowed.
Tickets for Wednesday's game vs. Indiana 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 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. Gates open one hour prior to first pitch and all ticket sales at John Cropp Stadium on gamedays are cash only.
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Kentucky - No. 14 in NFCA/USA Today Top 25; No. 12 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
Tuesday, March 17
Kentucky at Murray State - 2 p.m. ET - Live Stats
Kentucky at Murray State - 4 p.m. ET - Live Stats
Wednesday, March 18
Indiana at Kentucky - 7 p.m. ET - Live Stats - SEC Network