Softball Hosts Louisville Tuesday, WKU Wednesday at JCS
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Continuing an eight-game home stretch to wrap up its 2015 home schedule, the No. 14 University of Kentucky softball team hosts in-state rivals Louisville and WKU at John Cropp Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, for midweek non-conference games.
The midweek battles will start with a 6 p.m. ET showdown against Louisville on Tuesday, before a 6 p.m. ET first pitch with WKU, who is receiving votes in both national rankings, Wednesday. Both games will be available on the SEC Network+ through WatchESPN with Dave "Buzz" Baker handling the play-by-play for both games, while former UK outfielder Ginny Carroll will provide commentary for the Louisville game and former Michigan assistant coach, Purdue head coach and Louisville associate head coach Carol Bruggeman on the call for the WKU game.
Tuesday's game is "Paint the Crowd Blue" as fans are encouraged to arrive at John Cropp Stadium early, wearing UK blue. The first 500 UK fans in attendance will receive a free Kentucky softball t-shirt. Wednesday's game is the annual Staff Appreciation Day as UK Athletics staff and their families receive free admission and free food with the annual UK Staff Home Run Derby to follow the game.
Tickets for both games 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.
Students that present a valid UK ID will receive free admission to both games. A pregame block party will be held for students Tuesday 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.
Due to one of the most challenging schedules in the country as the only Southeastern Conference team to play three straight series against top-five ranked conference opponents, UK has lost seven of its last 10 games with all seven losses coming against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the national listings. UK dropped a best-of-three series last weekend to South Carolina at home.
Overall this season, UK has been led offensively by junior shortstop Christian Stokes, who is hitting .342 with nine doubles, one triple, seven homers and 24 RBI, while junior catcher Griffin Joiner is hitting .322 with six doubles, a team-best eight homers and 34 RBI. Junior outfielder Sylver Samuel is hitting .298 with a team-best 19 stolen bases, while fellow juniors Maisie Steed and Nikki Sagermann each have six home runs.
In the circle, sophomore pitcher Meagan Prince has a 12-5 record with a 3.03 ERA in 87.2 innings pitched, while Nunley is 11-11 with a 2.02 ERA in 142.1 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting .221 against Nunley, who leads UK with 126 strikeouts, while Prince has 73 strikeouts and is limiting opponents to a .255 average. Freshman pitcher Erin Rethlake is 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA in 45.1 innings pitched with 32 strikeouts. Sophomore Shannon Smith has tossed 23 innings with a 3.04 ERA in 31 strikeouts.
Louisville enters the game with a 24-14 record, including a 12-5 mark at home, 7-5 record in true road games and 5-4 listing in neutral-site games. The Cardinals are 12-5 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. Kentucky and Louisville met on April 1 in Louisville with the Wildcats earning a 4-0 victory. The loss for UofL snapped a six-game winning streak and the Cardinals have lost five of seven games played since then.
Offensively, the Cardinals are hitting .321 as a team with 220 runs scored and 33 home runs. Senior outfielder Kelsi Jones leads the team with a .386 average adding 15 doubles, one triple, three homers, 28 RBI and 12 stolen bases. Sophomore outfielder Jordan McNary is hitting .374 with a home run and 10 RBI, while sophomore pitcher/infielder Maryssa Becker is hitting .360 with 11 doubles, six homers and 31 RBI. Junior outfielder Brittany Sims has five homers and 15 RBI, while senior Whitney Arion has four homers and 27 RBI.
Becker is the leader in the circle, sitting 10-5 with a 2.59 ERA in 113.1 innings pitched with 100 strikeouts and opponents hitting .246 against her. Freshman Shelby McCombs is 8-4 with a 3.27 ERA in 87.2 innings pitched with 59 strikeouts and opponents hitting .278 against her. Freshman Madi Norman is 6-5 with a 4.14 ERA in 49.0 innings pitched with 25 strikeouts, while freshman Bridgette Flaherty has tossed three innings with a 4.67 ERA.
Louisville leads the all-time series between the two schools in softball 18-17, including an 11-5 record over the Wildcats during head coach Rachel Lawson's tenure. The Wildcats have won four straight games in the series, which is the longest streak in the series for UK. Last season, UK swept the two-game, home-and-home series with the Cardinals for the first time since 2003. The Wildcats defeated UofL 5-0 at John Cropp Stadium early in the season before a 7-3 victory at Louisville. UK claimed a 4-0 victory over UofL earlier this month.
WKU enters Wednesday's game receiving votes in both national listings with a 27-8 record, including a 12-3 mark in Conference USA. The Hilltoppers are 7-1 at home this season, 13-5 in true road games and 7-2 in neutral-site games. WKU has won 12 of its last 14 games entering the midweek battle. Back in early March, the Hilltoppers took down No. 14 Tennessee in Knoxville. WKU is hitting .295 at a team with 183 runs scored, 21 home runs and 32 stolen bases. Pitching has been the backbone of the Hilltoppers, who have a 1.95 team ERA with 337 strikeouts.
Senior transfer Miranda Kramer leads the pitching staff at 18-5 with a 0.94 ERA in 149.1 innings pitched with 287 strikeouts and only 20 earned runs allowed. Opponents are hitting just .139 against her as she has 21 complete games and 10 shutouts this season. Senior pitcher Janna Scheff is 4-2 this season with a 2.71 ERA in 31 innings pitched with 13 strikeouts and opponents hitting .285 against her. Freshman Hannah Parker is 5-1 with a 4.42 ERA in 44.1 innings pitched with 30 strikeouts, while freshman Kelsey Jernigan has thrown 4.2 innings with a 6.00 ERA.
Offensively, senior outfielder Larissa Franklin is hitting .427 with three doubles, one triple, one homer and 19 RBI, while senior infielder Kayti Hanson is hitting .356 with three doubles and 10 RBI. Senior catcher Dani Pugh has a team-best nine homers and 36 RBI, while senior infielder Preslie Cruce has four homers and 20 RBI.
Kentucky leads the all-time series against WKU, 13-7, including a 8-4 mark in games played in Lexington. Lawson, who was the head coach at WKU from 2005-07, is 6-0 in her eight-year tenure at Kentucky against the Hilltoppers. Kentucky and WKU played a wild game last season in Bowling Green, with UK winning 11-8. UK scored three runs in the second, third and fourth innings to take a 9-2 lead before WKU cut the lead to 9-8 heading into the seventh inning. UK rallied for two runs in the inning to grab the 11-8 lead behind a 4-for-4 night from Christian Stokes, including a double and home run. The two teams have met annually since 2000, with 2008 and 2011 being the lone exceptions.
For the latest on UK softball, follow @UKSoftball on Twitter and Instagram or like Kentucky Softball on Facebook.
Tuesday, April 21
Louisville vs. Kentucky -- 6 p.m. ET -- Live Stats -- SEC Network+
Wednesday, April 22
WKU vs. Kentucky -- 6 p.m. ET -- Live Stats -- SEC Network+