Softball Completes Home Stretch vs. Marshall Wednesday
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After sweeping a doubleheader with Florida Atlantic on Monday behind strong pitching and clutch hitting, the No. 13 University of Kentucky softball team looks to end a six-game home stand on a three-game winning streak when it plays host to Marshall on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET at John Cropp Stadium.
The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network+ with Dave "Buzz" Baker and former UK outfielder Ginny Carroll calling the action. The game can be seen through WatchESPN, while live stats will be available online at UKathletics.com.
The first 100 fans into John Cropp Stadium on Wednesday will receive a set of 2015 UK softball trading cards, featuring all 17 UK players. Wednesday is also Community Hero Night at the ballpark, honoring those who protect and defend our community, with free admission (two tickets per person) for all first responders that present valid identification.
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.
Kentucky (27-11) is coming off a doubleheader sweep of Florida Atlantic on Monday, taking game one, 3-1, before a 7-1 victory in the second game. The wins over FAU, who has been receiving votes in the national rankings a majority of the season and rank 38th nationally in the NCAA RPI, moved Kentucky's home record to 10-3 this season, including 7-0 in non-conference home games.
Sophomore pitcher Meagan Prince was impressive in the circle in game one, tossing a complete game with only one earned run allowed on five hits with five strikeouts. Prince received the win in the circle, moving to 11-4 on the year with a 2.86 earned run average. The outing continued an impressive run for Prince over the last nine games. Since having her worst outing of the year in late March at Auburn, Prince has earned a win in each of her last three appearances, tossing 16.2 innings during that stretch with only two earned runs allowed and 15 strikeouts, limiting opponents to a .172 average.
Fellow sophomore pitcher Shannon Smith started the second game and went 3.2 innings with one run allowed on three hits and two strikeouts in a no decision, while freshman pitcher Erin Rethlake got the final out of the fourth inning and tossed a clean fifth and sixth innings to get the win and move to 4-0 on the year. Junior pitcher Kelsey Nunley tossed the final inning of the day, allowing a hit and a walk before sealing the UK sweep.
Offensively, junior Nikki Sagermann paced Kentucky in both games, going 4-for-6 on the day with two runs scored and two walks, while sophomore outfielder Breanne Ray was 3-for-7 with a run scored. Senior outfielder Kara Howard had two doubles on the day with a run scored, while junior infielder Ansley Smith had two hits and two RBI. Junior utility player Maisie Steed had a two-run double, while juniors Christian Stokes and Sylver Samuel each had RBI. Junior outfielder Darington Richardson went 1-for-1 with a stolen base.
Stokes leads Kentucky in hitting this season at .358 with six doubles, one triple, six homers, 21 RBI and eight stolen baes, while Steed is at .323 with five doubles, five homers, 20 RBI and seven stolen bases. Senior catcher Griffin Joiner is hitting .314 with five doubles, one triple, six homers and 30 RBI, while Samuel is the only other Wildcat hitting over .300 with a .302 average and team-best 17 stolen bases. Sagermann and Ray each have five home runs this year with Sagermann adding 17 RBI and Ray 22 RBI.
Nunley is the leader in the circle with an 11-7 record and 1.87 ERA in 116.0 innings pitched with 102 strikeouts. Rethlake is 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA in 40 innings pitched with 28 strikeouts, while Prince is 11-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 78.1 innings pitched with 69 strikeouts. Shannon Smith is 1-0 with a 3.33 ERA in 21 innings pitched with 28 strikeouts.
Kentucky held on to its No. 13 national ranking in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25, while it dropped one spot to No. 15 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25. The rankings mark the 41st consecutive national ranking that included the Wildcats, which is a program record.
The Wildcats have played 16 games against ranked foes already with a 6-10 record, besting then-No. 5 Florida State, then-No. 10 Arizona, then-No. 20 Texas A&M and most recently two games vs. No. 1 LSU and one game vs. then-No. 5 Alabama. UK has 13 games remaining this season against teams either ranked or receiving votes in either poll, including three-game sets with No. 3/3 Florida, No. 12/12 Georgia, No. 11/14 Tennessee and South Carolina, who is receiving votes. UK is also scheduled to play a home games vs. WKU, who is receiving votes in both listings.
Kentucky has 16 regular-season games left in 2015 with 14 of those games coming against teams that rank top 50 in the most recent NCAA RPI that was released Monday. UK has nine games left vs. RPI Top 25 teams and six games vs. RPI Top 15 teams.
Currently riding a seven-game winning streak, Marshall enters Wednesday's game with a 25-10 record, including a 6-5 mark in Conference USA. The Thundering Herd are 6-2 at home this season, 9-5 in true road games and 10-3 in neutral-site games. Marshall started its winning streak with a three-game sweep at Furman the last weekend of March before taking both games of a home doubleheader vs. Wright State last week and a two-game sweep of North Texas last weekend.
The Thundering Herd are ranked 20th in the nation in batting average hitting .335 as a team, while they rank second nationally in stolen bases per game with 107 stolen bases on the year. Offensively, sophomore outfielder Morgan Zerkle leads the team with a .520 average with 65 hits, including seven doubles, three triples, two homers, 23 RBI and 37 stolen bases, while senior outfielder Emileigh Cooper is hitting .410 with two doubles, one homer, eight RBI and seven stolen bases. Junior catcher Katalin Lucas leads the team in home runs this season with four, while junior infielder Shaelynn Braxton has a team-best 38 RBI with three homers and seven doubles.
Sophomore pitcher Jordan Dixon is the leader in the circle for the Thundering Herd, sitting 23-10 with a 2.38 ERA in 194.1 innings pitched. Dixon has allowed 66 earned runs this season with 228 strikeouts and a .204 opponent batting average. Junior Brittanie Fowler is 2-0 with a 3.06 ERA in 34.1 innings with 15 strikeouts, while freshman Marissa Bethke is 0-0 with a 9.00 ERA in 2.1 innings pitched.
Kentucky and Marshall met once last year in Huntington, W.Va., with the Wildcats earning a 6-2 victory over the Thundering Herd behind a five-run first inning. The win moved Kentucky's record in the all-time series to 12-2. Kentucky and Marshall met twice in 2013 with UK claiming two one-run wins. The first came in regular-season action as UK used a come-from-behind effort in the bottom of the seventh inning to best Marshall, 4-3, before also claiming a walk-off win in the 2013 NCAA Lexington Regional, 2-1. Rachel Lawson is 6-0 all-time against Marshall with all six wins coming during her tenure at Kentucky.
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Kentucky -- No. 13 USA Today/NFCA Top 25; No. 15 ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
Marshall -- not ranked
Wednesday, April 8
Marshall at Kentucky -- 6 p.m. ET -- Live Stats -- SEC Network+