Softball Starts Five Home Games in Four Day with No. 5 Alabama
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After two wins last weekend over the No. 1 ranked team in the nation and a 4-0 victory Wednesday over in-state rival Louisville, who is receiving votes in the national rankings, the No. 13 University of Kentucky softball team faces yet another quality test this weekend when it plays host to No. 5 Alabama for a three-game Southeastern Conference series at John Cropp Stadium.
The series starts Friday at 5 p.m. ET before a Noon ET battle on Saturday and 3:30 p.m. ET series finale on Easter Sunday. Friday's game will be available on the SEC Network+ through WatchESPN. Saturday and Sunday's games will be nationally televised with Mark Neely and Olympic Gold Medalist Michele Smith calling the action. Saturday's game will be on ESPNU, while Sunday's game will be on the SEC Network. Saturday and Sunday's games will also be available through WatchESPN, while live stats from all three games will be available online at UKathletics.com.
Single-game tickets are 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 game days 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, which are available for Saturday and Sunday SEC games. Fans can purchase four tickets (two adult, two youth) and four 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 1-800-928-2287.
UK marketing is running several promotions throughout the weekend at John Cropp Stadium, which are listed in detail below and online here.
The Wildcats had a busy day Wednesday, defeating in-state rival Louisville 4-0, while junior pitcher Kelsey Nunley tied the program record for career wins and senior catcher Griffin Joiner became the third player in school history to go in the National Pro Fastpitch College Draft when she was selected 19th overall to the Akron Racers.
Kentucky's win over the Cardinals was its fourth straight, which is the longest winning streak in the series for the Wildcats. Nunley was the star, throwing a complete-game shutout with only five hits allowed and six strikeouts to move to 68-27 for her career and tie UK great Chanda Bell for most career wins. The performance is even more impressive considering UofL entered the game ranked eighth in the nation in batting average and 24th nationally in scoring. The shutout was only the third time this season the Cardinals have been kept off the scoreboard.
Offensively, junior Christian Stokes went 2-for-3 to extend her hitting streak to a career-best eight games, while sophomore outfielder Breanne Ray belted her fifth home run of the season in the sixth inning to give the Wildcats a 4-0 lead.
Stokes leads Kentucky offensively this season with a .378 average, adding six doubles, one triple, six homers and 20 RBI, while Joiner is second on the team with a .333 average, adding five doubles, six homers and 30 RBI. Juniors Maisie Steed, Sylver Samuel and Nikki Sagermann rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively in average. Steed is hitting .329 this season with five homers and 16 RBI, while Samuel is hitting .310 with a team-best 15 stolen bases and Sagermann has five homers and 17 RBI.
Nunley has been UK's leader in the circle, sitting 11-5 with a 1.65 ERA in 102 innings pitched. The native of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., has 90 strikeouts this season with opponents hitting just .209 against her. Freshman Erin Rethlake is 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 36.2 innings pitched with 27 strikeouts and opponents hitting just .235 against her, while sophomore Meagan Prince is 9-4 with a 3.18 ERA in 66.0 innings pitched with 59 strikeouts. Sophomore Shannon Smith is 1-0 this season with a 4.02 ERA in 15.2 innings pitched with 24 strikeouts.
Alabama enters the weekend with a 27-8 record, including an 8-6 mark in SEC play. The Tide is 14-6 at home, 5-2 in true road games and 8-0 in neutral-site games this season. Alabama is 8-7 this season against ranked foes and has won seven of its last 10 games. The trip to Lexington breaks a 10-game road stretch for Alabama that included SEC series against No. 2 Florida and No. 23 Texas A&M. The Tide went 1-2 against the Gators, while taking two of three against the Aggies last weekend. Bama had two midweek home non-conference games earlier this week, defeating Mississippi Valley State and Southern Miss.
The Tide is hitting .332 as a team this season with 236 runs scored and 68 stolen bases. Junior outfielder Haylie McCleney leads the team with a .489 average, adding 10 doubles, three triples, one homer, 28 RBI and a team-best 24 stolen bases, while freshman infielder Demi Turner is hitting .468 with five doubles, four triples, two homers and 30 RBI. Sophomore infielder Marisa Runyon is hitting .313 with a team-best six homers and 34 RBI, while seniors Danae Hays and Chaunsey Bell, and junior Leona Lafaele each have three homers.
Sophomore pitcher Sydney Littlejohn is 11-1 on the year with a 1.29 ERA in 65.1 innings pitched with 54 strikeouts and four shutouts. Freshman Alexis Osorio is 11-4 with a 2.02 ERA in 93.1 innings pitched with 110 strikeouts, while senior Leslie Jury is 5-3 with a 2.42 ERA in 66.2 innings pitched with 70 strikeouts. As a team, the Alabama pitching staff has a 1.93 ERA and is limiting opponents to a .201 batting average.
Alabama leads the all-time series with Kentucky 41-4 with three of the Wildcats' four all-time wins coming under head coach Rachel Lawson's tenure. The two teams met last season in the WCWS with Alabama earning a 2-0 victory. The last three-game series against the two schools was in 2013 when the Wildcats claim two out of three games down in Tuscaloosa. The series win for Kentucky was its first ever against the Crimson Tide, including it's first-ever win against the Tide in Tuscaloosa.
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Kentucky 24-9, 3-6 SEC
Alabama 27-8, 8-4 SEC
Kentucky -- No. 13 in USA Today/NFCA Top 25; No. T14 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
Alabama -- No. 5 in USA Today/NFCA Top 25; No. 6 in ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
Friday, March 27
Alabama at Kentucky -- 5 p.m. ET -- Live Stats -- SEC Network+
Saturday, March 28
Alabama at Kentucky -- Noon ET -- Live Stats -- ESPNU
Sunday, March 29
Alabama at Kentucky -- 3:30 p.m. ET -- Live Stats -- SEC Network
Friday -- First 100 fans receive set of 2015 UK Softball trading cards; A pregame block party will be held for students and begin one hour before the game, featuring free food, giveaways, music, door prizes and more. A shuttle bus will run for students at the Wildcat Alumni Plaza (across from Memorial Coliseum) and The 90 at South Campus before and after the game.
Saturday -- Junior Wildcat Club Weekend -- JWC members receive free admission plus one when they present their ID. First 50 JWC members receive free charm; Family Fun Day at the park, featuring pregame and postgame youth activities, including face painting, hair bow making, inflatables, autographs and pictures with the team; Bounce house for the kids and corn hole boards for all available.
Sunday -- Junior Wildcat Club Weekend -- JWC members receive free admission plus one when they present their ID; First 100 fans receive set of 2015 UK Softball trading cards; Family Fun Day at the park, featuring pregame and postgame youth activities, including face painting, hair bow making, inflatables, autographs and pictures with the team; Kids run the bases day -- weather permitting -- all kids eighth grade and younger can run the bases; Scratch's Easter Egg hunt postgame -- All kids eighth grade and younger are invited to bring an Easter basket to John Cropp Stadium to decorate on Sunday. After the game, kids will be invited to participate in Scratch's egg hunt.