No. 21 Softball Ends Regular Season at No. 12 Tennessee
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The No. 21 University of Kentucky softball team will conclude its 2015 regular-season schedule this weekend at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., when it starts a three-game Southeastern Conference series with No. 12 Tennessee on Friday.
The two rivals will start the series Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET before a 7 p.m. ET first pitch on Saturday and 1 p.m. ET finale on Sunday. Saturday and Sunday's games will be televised nationally with Adam Amin and former Texas A&M All-American Amanda Scarborough calling the action. Saturday's game will be on ESPNU, while Sunday's finale will be on ESPN. Both games will also be available through WatchESPN. Live stats from all three games will be available online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky (29-20, 5-16 SEC) will look to erase a four-game SEC losing streak when it starts the series against Tennessee (36-13, 12-9 SEC), who has been tough to beat at home this season with a 17-4 record in Knoxville. The Wildcats are coming off a tough weekend against highly ranked Georgia, dropping all three games to the Bulldogs at John Cropp Stadium. The three-game series sweep continued a recent tough stretch for the Wildcats, who have lost nine of 11 games.
Part of the recent tough stretch is due to the Wildcats' challenging schedule, which ranks second in the nation in the latest NCAA RPI that was released Monday. After this weekend's series with Tennessee, Kentucky will have played 52 regular-season games with 25 of those games coming against top-25 RPI teams and 34 games against top-50 RPI teams. UK has played 22 games this season against ranked foes with a 6-16 record. The Wildcats are the only team in the conference to face three-straight top-five ranked national opponents in conference play.
UK enters the series ranked 21st nationally in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25 and ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25. The rankings mark the 44th consecutive listing UK has been ranked in, while it's the first time since April 2, 2013 that UK hasn't been ranked inside the top 20 in both polls. Kentucky fell to No. 22 in the NCAA RPI this week after sitting No. 14 last week.
Kentucky has been led this season offensively by junior shortstop Christian Stokes, who is hitting .329 with 32 runs scored, nine doubles, one triple, seven homers and 24 RBI. Senior catcher Griffin Joiner, who is coming off a two home run game in the series finale against Georgia, is hitting .315 with 10 homers and team-best 38 RBI, while junior infielder Nikki Sagermann has six homers and 20 RBI. Junior utility player Maisie Steed is hitting .286 with seven homers and 27 RBI, while outfielder Sylver Samuel has a .280 average and team-best 20 stolen bases.
Junior pitcher Kelsey Nunley is 12-13 in the circle this season with a 2.23 ERA in 163.1 innings pitched with 147 strikeouts. Nunley has pitched better than her win-loss record indicates as opponents are hitting just .227 against her with only 11 home runs this season. Sophomore Meagan Prince has pitched 96.2 innings with a 12-6 record and 3.26 ERA. Prince is limiting opponents to a .261 average with 83 strikeouts. Freshman Erin Rethlake is 4-0 with a 2.32 ERA in 48.1 innings pitched, while sophomore Shannon Smith is 1-1 with a 3.23 ERA in 26 innings pitched.
Tennessee enters the weekend with a 36-13 record, including a 12-9 mark in SEC play and 17-4 record at home. The Lady Vols hit .317 as a team with 351 runs scored and 88 home runs, while the pitching staff has a 3.14 ERA with 289 strikeouts and opponents hitting .232 against them. In SEC play, the Lady Vols have a .285 batting average with a 5.11 ERA.
Offensively, junior pitcher/infielder Gretchen Aucoin leads the team with a .340 average, adding three doubles, nine homers and 30 RBI, while sophomore outfielder Shaliyah Geathers is hitting .339 with eight doubles, two triples, three homers and 26 RBI. Freshman infielder Meghan Gregg is hitting .333 with 10 doubles, two triples, 10 homers and 40 RBI, while sophomore utility player Megan Geer has a .328 average with 10 stolen bases. Sophomore catcher Annie Aldrete is hitting .325 with 13 homers and 41 RBI, while sophomore infielder Taylor Koenig has a team-best 15 homers and 44 RBI with a .463 on-base percentage.
Junior outfielder/pitcher Rainey Gaffin is 9-2 in the circle with a 2.47 ERA in 85 innings pitched with 89 strikeouts and opponents hitting .250 against her, while junior Erin Gabriel is 14-6 with a 3.15 ERA in 97.2 innings pitched with opponents hitting .229. Aucoin is 9-2 with a 3.56 ERA in 78.2 innings pitched with 72 strikeouts, while senior infielder/pitcher Cheyanne Tarango is 4-3 with a 3.62 ERA in 48.1 innings pitched with 25 strikeouts.
Tennessee leads the all-time series against Kentucky 37-14, including a 17-5 record against UK in Knoxville. The Wildcats are 7-11 against UT under eight-year head coach Rachel Lawson. The two teams have met every year since UK started a program in 1997, except for 2002. Last year, UK and UT met in Lexington for a three-game series with the Lady Vols winning two of three games. Kentucky also faced Tennessee in the SEC Tournament and earned a 2-0 victory.
For more information on the Kentucky softball team, follow @UKSoftball on Twitter and Instagram of Kentucky Softball on Facebook.
Kentucky 29-20, 5-16 SEC
Tennessee 36-13, 12-9 SEC
Kentucky -- No. 21 USA Today/NFCA Top 25; No. 21 ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
Tennessee -- No. 12 USA Today/NFCA Top 25; No. 12 ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25
Friday, May 1
Kentucky at Tennessee -- 6:30 p.m. ET -- Live Stats
Saturday, May 2
Kentucky at Tennessee -- 7 p.m. ET -- Live Stats -- ESPNU
Sunday, May 3
Kentucky at Tennessee -- 1 p.m. ET -- Live Stats -- ESPN